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Local Farmers Inspire the Next Generation about Agriculture

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

Campers leading songs on a hay ride around the farm.

Teaching Agriculture from the Ground Up


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 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?

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  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




Judging Teams Grow Workforce Skills

Youth competing at the North Florida Fair Horticulture Judging Contest.  Photo credit: UF IFAS Leon County 4-H

Youth competing at the North Florida Fair Horticulture Judging Contest. Photo credit: UF IFAS Leon County 4-H

For parents who want their child to be prepared for the 21st century workforce, participating in a 4-H judging team may be the answer.  Several universities have recently published studies on the impacts 4-H judging teams have had on workforce readiness.  The University of Georgia surveyed over 1,300 4-H alumni who reported that judging programs helped them develop confidence and communication and decision making skills (McCann & McCann 1992).  A 2005 University of Idaho study found that 97% of alumni indicated that their 4-H judging experience positively influenced their personal success as adults (Nash & Sant, 2005).  Similar results were found in studies conducted by Rutgers and the University of Missouri.  The life skills attained through judging programs are not only sought-after by employers but are applicable to most professions.  In addition, these skills are not always taught in school or on the sports field but are intentionally integrated into the 4-H positive youth development program.

Florida 4-H Alumna (and national poultry and meats judging champion) Stacey Warden shared:  “I would not be the person I am today if I had not joined 4-H.  4-H [judging teams] helped me learn how to speak in front of others, build confidence and gave me so many opportunities I would not have had otherwise.”  One Missouri 4-H alumna shared: “I have had the chance to meet some of the greatest people in the world, visit many different states, and gain ever so vital experiences in public speaking.  Giving oral reasons has helped me sharpen my speaking abilities.  In today’s society, communication is the key to success (Sheppard 2005).”

Florida 4-H offers many opportunities for youth to be involved in a judging team.  While livestock judging may be the most recognized, we also offer judging programs in forestry,

Leon County Master Gardeners help youth practice for the Horticulture Judging Contest.

Leon County Master Gardeners help youth practice for the Horticulture Judging Contest.

poultry, land/soils, meats, horticulture, consumer choices, horse, dairy goat and marine ecology.  Mastering the subject matter content is only one aspect of the program.  Youth work as a team to correctly identify animals, plants, or parts.  They also have to learn to make close observations and think on their feet to evaluate the quality of an animal, plant, or product.  They master communication and presentation skills by defending their choices in front of a judge (this is called giving oral reasons).  The real goal of these programs is to help youth develop confidence, communication and decision making skills that will help them be successful adults in work and personal life later on.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will feature different judging opportunities that will be available this fall at the North Florida Fair.  This week, our feature is on the 4-H Horticulture Judging Program.  Do you know the difference between opposite, alternate, whorled and palmate leaves?  Can you tell the difference between poison ivy and Virginia creeper?  Do you know what to look for when purchasing shrubs for your landscape?  Youth involved in the 4-H Horticulture judging team do!  Horticulture judging is a great way to learn how to correctly identify plants and learn about Florida’s horticulture industry, which is ranked second in the nation and is a billion dollar industry for our state!

Getting started is easy!  First, download a copy of the rules and glossary.  Begin to familiarize yourself with plant terms so that you can become proficient at plant identification and use of keys.   Next, take a look at the online tutorial.  There are four modules:

Last but not least, quiz yourself- visit a local grocery store or nursery and see how many fruits, vegetables and plants you can correctly identify!  The next opportunity to participate in a horticulture judging contest will be Saturday, November 12th at the North Florida Fair.  The state contest is usually held in Gainesville in July in conjunction with 4-H University,

If you have a passion for plants or the horticulture industry, consider coaching or participating in a 4-H horticultural judging team.  Together, let’s grow 4-H to help the next generation develop 21st century workforce skills for Florida!  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office to sign up as a volunteer or member, or visit Next week, we will feature our consumer choices judging contest.


McCann, J. S., & McCann, M. A. (1992). Judging team members’ reflection on the value of livestock, horse, meats, and wool judging programs. The Professional Animal Scientist8, 7–13.

Nash, S. A., & Sant, S. L. (2005). Life-skill development found in 4-H animal judging. Journal of Extension [Online], 43(2) Article 2RIB5. Available at:

Sheppard, L. (2005). Where would I be without 4-H? Missouri Ruralist, October 2005.

Celebrate National Blueberry Month!

blueberry-monthDid you know that July is National Blueberry Month? Blueberries are in season now, and reasonably priced at grocery stores, fruit stands, and farmers’ markets.  Many growers also offer a “pick your own” service which can be a fun family outing.  The good news is that this delicious treat has many health benefits.  Blueberries are low in calories- only 80 calories per cup but are packed with nutrients.  A handful of blueberries satisfy the recommended intake of dietary fiber.  They are also high in vitamin C- one serving provides 25% of your daily requirement.  Blueberries are also high in manganese, which helps the body process cholesterol and nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein.

Blueberries are a native North American plant, and it was only within the last 100 years that we have been able to grow them commercially.  All thanks to Elizabeth White, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, teamed up with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to domesticate the blueberry.  They spent years identifying blueberry plants with desirable qualities for cultivation.  They harvested and sold the first cultivated crop of blueberries in 1916- exactly 100 years ago!  Until 20 years ago, blueberries could only be grown in northern climates like New Jersey, Maine, and Michigan.  Thanks to the University of Florida, southern blueberry cultivars were developed through research that don’t require as many chilling hours and bear more fruit.  Although Florida is not currently the leading producer of blueberries, we are quickly catching up with 25 million pounds produced annually!

Fun Facts about Blueberries:

  • Blueberries are relatives of the rhododendron family
  • The perfect blueberry should have a “dusty’ appearance
  • Don’t wash your blueberries until you are ready to eat them (washing speeds up the spoiling process).
  • To freeze blueberries, place them unwashed, on a cookie sheet and flash freeze.  Then place them in quart-size freezer bags to use later in smoothies, crumbles, cobblers, or ice cream.
  • Recent studies show that blueberries may have the potential to aid in memory loss, vision loss and even slow down the aging process
  • Native Americans recognized the nutritional value of blueberries and used them for medicinal purposes as well as flavorings
  • Early American Colonists used blueberries to dye fabric and also to color paint

This month, celebrate the blueberry by planting a bush, visiting a U-pick farm, or making a tasty home-made blueberry treat.  Fresh From Florida (a division of the Florida Department of Ag) has lots of free and delicious recipes.  Try Florida Blueberry Parfait, Blueberry Breakfast Casserole, Blueberry and Blue Cheese Salad  or even Blueberry Barbecue Sauce!

Additional UF/IFAS Resources about Blueberries:


Spreading the “4-H Bug”

Jerry is a retiree and currently volunteers in the 4-H learning gardens in Calhoun County, working as he is available. He also answers my many gardening questions and offers advice. I’m grateful for his commitment to the Calhoun County 4-H program, and am glad to share his 4-H story with you today in his own words. Jerry says:

“I became involved in 4-H at age nine so that I could go to camp.  My older sister and brother were going, and I didn’t want to be left out.  At camp, I caught the 4-H “bug” and it has never let me go.

As a member of 4-H, I always found new and interesting challenges to do such as learning to swim at camp, collecting insects, growing a garden, raising and showing calves and pigs, farm judging at North Florida Fair, judging beef cattle at Tampa, Florida and dairy cows at Waterloo, Iowa, and attending 4-H Congress at Gainesville.  All provided experiences and knowledge that were not available to me elsewhere.

Youth enjoying the Calhoun County 4-H Learning Gardens which Mr. Wyrick helps to maintain.

Youth enjoying the Calhoun County 4-H Learning Gardens which Mr. Wyrick helps to maintain.

Now in a volunteer capacity, I enjoy watching members grow and enjoy new and novel experiences which are available through 4-H Club programs and knowing that I am helping young people grow to be positive examples for their peers. “I continue to volunteer with 4-H because of the payback of having previous 4-H members relate to me what 4-H meant to them and how it helped them to achieve their personal accomplishments.  If young people are expected to be positive influences on society, they must be provided examples and knowledge of meaningful lives.  They must be exposed to new ideas and experiences so that they know choices are available to them.  If the next generation is to be different – is to be a positive generation – they must be taught as young people.  There are no better teaching methods than those available through 4-H Club programs.”

If you are not already a volunteer, think about sharing your talents with us!  You can fuel the extraordinary efforts of our youth by joining us as a volunteer.   To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office or visit  Happy National Volunteer Appreciation Week!


4-H Grows: Environmentally Conscientious Youth!

Grow Card Supplies and products

Grow Card Supplies and products

4-H literally got its start with gardening. The very first 4-H Clubs focused on growing tomatoes and corn for boys and canning for girls. Many youth and volunteers still enjoy gardening projects today.  One great curricula that is used is the Junior Master Gardening Program. This program allows youth to enhance their life using gardening as the spark of interest. Gardening enriches youth’s lives, promotes good health, gives a sense of environmental awareness and saves money.

One of the activities I enjoy doing with youth combines gardening with recycling and crafting. As a group we will make our own paper grow cards or ornaments that have seeds embedded in them.  Once the cards are dry, we deliver them as a service project. The cards are fun and inexpensive to make and are a perfect activity for your next club meeting!  Try making them as valentines for Valentines Day.  For beginners, we recommend growing tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, basil, chives, or parsley. Not into vegies? Try starting marigolds, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, pansies, or petunias.

Download our detailed factsheet with photos and directions. This activity is great for any occasion when you need a card or small gift. You can use as party favors by making them into ornaments using raffia to hang them from a tree or gift bag. You can take them to a nursing home, veterans center, hospital or other site as a service project for your club.  Just be sure to share with the individual that they need to plant your card or ornament.  It is a great way to help youth share their joy of gardening with others.
Other Extension gardening resources include:
Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

If you have a green thumb, consider going “totally green” as a 4-H gardening volunteer! 4-H needs caring adults like you to share their knowledge and passion for gardening with the next generation. Through the 4-H gardening project, youth not only learn gardening knowledge and skills, they also learn responsibility, teamwork, and other life skills that will help them grow up to be compassionate and competent citizens. To get involved, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit Florida 4-H.