Succulent garden at entry of NSA-PC Youth Center
In September 2018, Ms. Bettina started the 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC in Panama City, Florida. She had big plans for the garden and couldn’t wait to get started. These Navy youth, led by a caring adult staff member, started their 4-H journey. Then Hurricane Michael came, which devastated the area on October 10, 2018 and could have easily derailed all of their plans. Instead, the storm allowed youth to start with a clean slate and a renewed sense of vigor in rebuilding the garden at the NSA-PC Youth Center. The youth redesigned some of their beds using debris from the storm.
When the Youth Center reopened following the storm, most of the outdoor areas were off limits to the kids due to damage from the storm. That meant that the playground and other outdoor activities were not available. However, the 4-H Garden Club was allowed to function and allowed the youth itching to be outside and yearning for a way to cope with the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael to come together as a team and, along with Ms. Bettina, a garden to restore a sense of balance and ownership.
Whimsical garden bed designed by NSA-PC youth
The kids were eager to get started planning, implementing, and maintaining the new garden area. They created a plan for different types of gardens within their facility spaces. They researched which plants were best suited for the season and zone as well as which flowers would attract pollinators, because they hoped to see hummingbirds and butterflies. Ms. Bettina says that the kids came in every day asking if they were going to get to work in the garden. It created a healthy, active, and creative outlet for all involved. Soon the garden began to take shape with imaginative details and originality everywhere you looked.
All visitors to the Youth Center are welcomed by exquisitely maintained flower beds that surround the entrance to the building. The youth have created and maintained a beautiful area that enhances the building and greets visitors with beauty and color. These raised gardens are filled with hardy greenery as well as seasonal color and elevated containers that hold a cascade of many varieties of succulents.
NSA-PC youth recycled old materials to create a new space to hold their flowers.
The 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC is a perfect example of how sometimes a storm that seemingly derails plans actually presents an opportunity for growth, learning, and creating something more beautiful. Ms. Bettina’s 4-H Garden Club could not have come at a more perfect time. The gardening activities allow the youth to get outdoors while learning about different types of plants and how to care for them. Many students initially joined the Garden Club to get outside after the storm due to the playground closure. Youth participating in the 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC have learned about more than just the science of plants; they are learning to work as a team with improved communication skills in order to continue maintaining their garden as well as environmental awareness and recycling by taking used items to make new treasures for their flower beds.
4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interests while being guided by adult volunteers. If you would like to learn more about 4-H programming in your local area, or how to get involved as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.
For more tips and ideas to help build your personal garden, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ as there are many documents available to help build your personal gardens.
This article was written by Jennifer Sims and Paula Davis.
Wildflower seed bombs are a great indoor or outdoor project with unlimited potential for learning.
Wildflower seed bombs are the perfect project for kids itching to get outside. Even if you don’t have a green thumb or you don’t have outdoor space or the weather isn’t cooperating, you can make seed bombs that will help beautify roadsides, vacant areas and neighborhoods.
Give Them a Toss!
These little beauties don’t get their name from any explosive properties but from the fun you have “launching” them around your yard or neighborhood. As you toss them into places that aren’t frequently mowed, you beautify your neighborhood and provide an invaluable food sources for native Florida pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and more.
Even though you may be more fond of some pollinators than others, there’s no doubt we need them all. Their pollination services are critical to fruit development in many of our fruiting crops. So if you like squash, cucumbers, melons, almonds and so much more, here’s what you can do to help:
Gather Your Materials
- Air-dry clay
- Wildflower seeds
- Potting Soil
Make Your Seed Bombs
- Pinch off a small amount of air-dry clay – enough to make a ball about the size of a bouncy ball or about 1″ diameter.
- Work equal parts seeds and soil into the clay and form it into a ball.
Amounts really are up to you. More seeds = more flowers.
But, too much soil will keep the ball from holding it’s shape. If this happens, add more clay and either have a bigger bomb, or divide it into two smaller bombs.
- Store them in a cool dry place and let them dry out completely in an air-tight container until you’re ready to spread some wildflower cheer.
- Now for the fun part! Toss them where you want flowers to grow.
Things to Consider…
- The air-dry clay acts as a binder only. It’s natural, non-toxic, and when wet, it will soften and allow the seeds to grow.
- Before storing in an airtight container, allow your seed bombs out to dry completely. Even a little moisture will allow the seeds to sprout.
- Be careful when throwing your seed bombs.
- Don’t hit people, animals, or other anything else with them – just the ground.
- Throw them where areas don’t get mowed very much. Some people throw them out along roadways or in abandoned lots. If these places are mowed regularly, they won’t last long if they even get to bloom.
- Get permission if you’re throwing them in public places.
Gardening is just one of the many Florida 4-H programs. To see what programs are available in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office, or contact your 4-H Agent about starting a gardening program in your county.
4-H Judging Contests, like horticulture identification, teach essential life skills for work and personal success.
Horticulture is one of our state’s leading industries, and for decades, the 4-H Horticulture ID contest has helped youth learn about this industry and demonstrate mastery of horticultural identification skills. Even if a youth does not pursue a career in the horticultural industry, learning the material for this contest can benefit them in other ways. To learn more about how judging teams teach workforce skills, check out this previous blogpost.
This year, the State 4-H Horticulture Judging Contest received an extreme makeover, to expand the program to even more youth. The state contest was held this past Saturday, June 10th at the Hillsborough County Extension Office in Tampa, FL (previously, the contest was held in Gainesville during 4-H University and was only open to 4-H seniors). For the first time ever, the contest is now open to youth between the ages of 8 and 18 (juniors, intermediates, and seniors). Study materials were adapted and revised to be age appropriate, and a webinar for coaches was offered. The webinar was archived and can still be viewed by anyone interest in coaching a team.
There are five parts to the contest:
- Woody Ornamentals identification
- Flowers and Foliage identification
- Fruits and Nut identification
- Vegetable identification
- Judging classes (youth look at a group of four fruits, plants, vegetables or nuts and rank them from best quality to poorest quality).
The contest is organized by a group of University of Florida Extension Specialists and volunteers. In addition to the resources online, youth can contact their local Master Gardener Program through their local UF IFAS County Extension Office for support. Many master gardener volunteers are willing to help teach plant identification, and may be willing to serve as a coach for your club. In fact, Master Gardeners can earn bonus points towards their state contest for helping 4-H clubs and teams prepare!
If this program interests you, sign up for 4-H! 4-H is open to youth ages 5-18. Adults can join 4-H as volunteers. Florida 4-H offers a variety of volunteer roles to fit your specific interests, skills and schedule. For more info, visit http://florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.
Russell and Julie McMillian, Gulf County 4-H Alumnae and 4-H Leaders
Russell and Julie McMillian both grew up in Gulf County and together have established a thriving business based on their love of horses. They now own a small farm in Dalkeith, just south of Wewahitchka, and their business Rockin’ M Ranch, consists of horseback riding lessons for beginners and beach rides for tourists and locals alike along the beautiful beaches of Cape San Blas.
How did this all begin? Russell and Julie both grew up as Gulf County 4-H members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club. They both participated in a variety of 4-H programs; including Horse Camp, Camp Timpoochee, Congress (now known as 4-H University), District Events, North Florida Fair Ag Judging, Area A and State 4-H Horse Shows, etc. They both learned the values of 4-H through learning how to raise and compete with their animals, agricultural commodities, leadership skills, public speaking, community service, good decision making skills, and much more…
As adults, they both went in separate directions, but still maintained their love of horses and the farm life. Russell began his career in flooring and tile work, while Julie received her education degree and taught Kindergarten at Wewahitchka Elementary School. After reconnecting as adults, they married on September 25, 2010 and turned their passion for horses into a full-time love by creating their own business, Rockin’ M Ranch. Russell still does flooring, tile work on the side, and helps his grandparents with their hay business. Julie decided to leave the teaching field, and she manages their business full time. She began giving beach rides on the Cape at the age of 14 and still loves it as much today.
Julie and Russell McMillian pictured with Brooke (left) and Hayleigh (right).
Russell began his time with 4-H at the age of 12 and Julie was 8 years old. As members of the Big River Riders 4-H Club, they adored their 4-H leaders, Mr. Jesse Eubanks and Ms. Jean McMillian (Russell’s grandmother), and the Gulf County Extension Director, Roy L. Carter (now retired), whose passion for horses was contagious. Julie explained that she was a very shy child and that participating in public speaking for District Events really helped her come out of her shell. They both loved learning the values of the four H’s: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. They feel 4-H has helped them develop into productive adults with good decision-making skills and in-stilled in them the importance of giving back to their community. They have served as 4-H volunteers for the Big River Rider’s 4-H Club since Russell’s daughters joined 4-H years ago; Brooke (17) and Hayleigh (15) also ride horses and have competed in a variety of Gulf County 4-H programs throughout the years. Russell and Julie have also taught a variety of horse riding classes at multiple Gulf County 4-H day camps.
As 4-H and community leaders, their most important goal is to give back to the community that gave to them as 4-Hers growing up here. They really love introducing new riders to the love of horses and 4-H. On any day, Russell and Julie can be found throughout the county at various events supporting 4-H members and any youth for that matter.
When asked what advice she has for someone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer she said, “Do not have regrets…just do it. Do not be scared off by the fingerprinting and application process. It is quick and easy, and maintains the safety for you and the children. Get started! 4-H is a great opportunity for youth and adults.”
“As a 4-H extension agent, you can only hope to find 4-H volunteers as dedicated as Russell and Julie McMillian. Their passion and love of 4-H is infectious and draws in youth looking for a place to belong.” -Melanie Taylor, Gulf County 4-H Agent
For more information about Rockin’ M Ranch, please go to http://www.therockinmranch.com/. For more information about how to become involved in 4-H, either as a youth member or adult volunteer, visit florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office. 4-H offers a variety of roles for volunteers to share their passions, skills and interests.
Fred and Bobby teaching a group of 4-Hers about goats.
Fred and Bobbie Golden relocated to Jefferson County from Lakeland, Florida in 2000 to establish Golden Acres Ranch LLC. The sixty-three-acre ranch is home to one of the largest mayhaw ponds in the region, grass fed goat & sheep, free-range chickens, guineas, pet boarding, and a country store.
Bobbie and Fred have genuine love for Jefferson County 4-Hers. Can you tell the difference between a sheep and a goat? Jefferson County 4-H campers can! For the past six years, 5-8 year old youth visited their ranch during 4-H day camps for some hands-on learning about agriculture. The campers have opportunities to feed, pet and learn important facts about Tennessee Fainting Goats, sheep, Pyrenees and Maremma, chicken, guineas and other animals reared on the farm.
Abagail Loveless, day camp participant said, “the reasons I like to visit Golden Acers Ranch, you get to feed, pet, learn things about the farm animals and swing on the tire/rope. “London Skipworth indicated that she was afraid of chickens, but with help and support from teen counselors and 4-H Staff, she was able to overcome her fears. London now plans to participate in the 4-H Chick Chain Project this year.
After a day of farming, Abigail enjoys a tire swing
Bobbie Golden, said “I like inviting the campers to the ranch because I like teaching them interesting facts about our farm animals, but most importantly bringing the youth back in touch with agriculture.”
Bobbie is a member of the Jefferson County Extension Ag Advisory and Vice President of the Overall Extension Advisory Committee. Bobbie also chaired the Extension Office open house committee. Bobbie and Fred support Jefferson County Extension in every capacity.
Annually, Jefferson County Extension participates in the Millstone Farm Tour and the Mayhaw Festival; both held events at Golden Acers Ranch. Each Extension program area provides interactive displays and hands activities for the youth and adults. For more information about Golden Acres Ranch, please go to https://goldenacresranchflorida.com/.
Campers leading songs on a hay ride around the farm.
Youth learn about pollination and nutrition at the pumpkin station. The center grows several varieties to demonstrate the diversity of the plant family.
What has 1600 eyes, 1600 legs, can be male or female, and has enough energy collectively to send a rocket to the moon? The 3rd – 5th graders that participate in the multi-county 4-H Ag Adventures Program! This educational adventure is held annually during September at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida. This event helps youth understand where their food comes from, the importance of agricultural industry in Florida, and career opportunities in agriculture related fields. Students are introduced to field crops as they rotate through stations that cover peanuts, corn, cotton, pollination, pumpkins, and soils. At each station county extension agents and IFAS research faculty provide “hands on” presentations that are prepared to enhance the students learning experience.
In addition, this event is a platform for youth to learn the current trends, issues and challenges farmers face as they continue to try to feed our increasing population. Some of these trends and challenges include food safety and bio-security, farm labor, bio-security, land use, pest and disease control, and the use of technology in agriculture. This issues encompass all four of the “H’s” in 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.
While some youth still associate “agriculture” with increasing negativity (thinking of the hot sun, extreme fatigue, very hard work, minimal income), a recent poll shared on the website Worldbank.org/youthink/ states the top three reasons youth should consider a career in agriculture are the following:
1. Agriculture matters to the future of development,
2. Agriculture can be a gold mine for young entrepreneurs,
3. Agriculture research needs young brain power.
Regional 4-H Agent Heather Kent shares:
“Although this event is geared towards teaching youth about agriculture, the parents and teachers that attend learn just as much and often have more questions that the youth! The adults are just as curious and amazed at how much agriculture affects their daily lives- especially if they do not have an agricultural background. Most of them have no idea how many careers are related to agriculture or how much today’s farmers utilize technology. It’s a real eye-opener for them.”
Ag Agent Jed Dillard teaching youth about cotton. Do you know how many pairs of jeans you can make out of a bale of cotton?
This program is sponsored by UF/IFAS, it is also supported by both Florida Farm Bureau and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida. These organizations not only provide funding to help pay for the transportation for students to attend, but they also provide corporate volunteers to help make the event happen. If your child’s classroom missed out on this opportunity, it’s not too late. The North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy is hosting “Art in the Garden” festival Saturday, October 1st from 9AM -2PM. The event is FREE and open to the public. This event is a great way to learn about agriculture in a fun and family friendly way. There will be trolley tours, demonstrations, games, arts and crafts and food.
In the near future the students that pass through our stations will grow into the adults that will be making important decisions about our food systems. It is in that spirit that we must continue to teach them ….from the ground up. Visit http://faitc.org/kids for more information on careers in agriculture.
If you have a passion or agriculture, consider serving as a 4-H volunteer or advocate to help inspire the next generation. Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.