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Meet the Author – Aly Schortinghouse

Aly is a 4-H Livestock Agent in Escambia County, Florida.

Aly Schortinghouse is the 4-H/Livestock Agent in Escambia County, Florida. Aly grew up in Georgia 4-H and was heavily involved in the horse and livestock programs. From horse quiz bowl and equestrian drill team to showing heifers and steers, Aly was able to travel the nation with 4-H doing what she loved showing horses and cows. Though her heart was buried in the horse and livestock program, 4-H led to new experiences such as the speaking program and leadership roles in her clubs. Aly largely attributes the 4-H program with developing her life skills and her passion for life long learning.


Aly working on halter breaking a Jersey dairy cow.

Aly studied Animal Science at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. While completing her undergraduate degree Aly worked at the Berry College dairy and as a research assistant. After completing her undergraduate degree, Aly jumped back into the 4-H world when she joined the Escambia County 4-H family in January of 2017. Aly was once again enveloped in the 4-H family, though this time in the role as one of the 4-H agents. In this role, Aly works with the families, faculty, and community of Escambia County to build a strong and enduring 4-H program with programs and clubs which enable youth to dive into their passions all the while building the essential life skills which will aid them in becoming productive citizens.

Aly helps a youth get “show ready”.


Aly’s passion for 4-H lies in what the program means to so many and the opportunities it provides youth. “Seeing the youth set goals to strive for, then growing through their experiences is one of my favorite parts of the job.” Aly recently completed her Master of Science, and is looking forward to continuing to grow the Escambia County 4-H program.


Make Mindfulness a Resolution for 2021!

Holidays can be stressful under normal circumstances, but 2020 has been far from normal!  Mindfulness can help you improve your focus, manage stress, develop a positive outlook, and resolve conflict. Together, these all help you do a better job regulating emotions. Developing a mindfulness practice could be a great new year’s resolution as we look forward to 2021!  Last month’s Virtual Volunteer Leadership Academy webinar focused on helping volunteers develop a mindfulness practice.

There are three key features of mindfulness:

  • Purpose- intentionally directing your attention rather than letting it wander
  • Presence- being fully engaged and attentive at the present moment
  • Acceptance- being nonjudgmental about whatever arises in the moment. In other words, not fretting over what you should be doing or what you should have done, rather focusing on what you can do in the present.

To learn specific strategies for developing a mindfulness practice around these features, watch our webinar below, or check out some of the resources linked below.

UF IFAS Extension Factsheet “Introduction to Mindfulness”

National 4-H Council’s Kids Guide to Mindfulness 

Meet the Author- Brian Estevez

Brian is part of the Escambia County UF IFAS Extension Team

Brian Estevez is a 4-H Extension Agent in Escambia County, Florida. He grew up in Archer, Florida and went to school in Williston.  While Brian was not a 4-H member as a youth, he did participate in Williston FFA and won the state meat judging contest in 2000.  His involvement with the meat judging program propelled him to study meat science at the University of Florida. As a college student, Brian worked at the UF meat lab. After graduation, Brian met Dr. Nick Place who introduced him to the UF master’s program in Agricultural Leadership.

Brian didn’t realize that a career with Extension was possible, even though he had graduated from UF’s Department of Agricultural Education and Communication. After graduating with his Master’s degree, he volunteered with his youth group at church and found that he really enjoyed working with young people. Brian wanted to purse a job with college student development, but had not been successful in securing a position. He decided to apply for the Alachua agriculture extension position. While he did not get that position, he was encouraged to apply for some open 4-H extension agent positions. He applied for and was offered the 4-H agent position in Suwannee county. Initially, Brian viewed his 4-H position as a “stepping stone” to help him get the student development job he really wanted. However, after more than 12 years with 4-H, it is a career that he loves!

One of Brian’s favorite 4-H programs is the meats judging contest

While a 4-H agent in Suwannee County, Brian used his expertise in meat science to work with UF/IFAS Extension Animal Science specialist  Chad Carr to create, develop, and deliver the Florida 4-H Tailgating Contest.  This contest teaches youth to safely grill in an outdoor setting, while incorporating food and fire safety with public speaking opportunities.  In all, 348 youth from 39 different Florida counties have participated in this annual program which includes four district competitions culminating in a state contest in Gainesville.  Scholarships from corporate sponsors are awarded to district and state winners, with over $86,000 being awarded to youth winners since 2016.  Estevez has also coached 4-H meat judging teams, where youth learn meat retail identification, quality factors, and cooking methods.  He has coached 14 state winning 4-H meat judging teams and has led five teams to national 4-H contests.  His 2020 team placed second in the nation, with one team member being recognized as the national high individual. His team members learn communication, decision making, and critical thinking skills and have gone on to participate in collegiate judging teams.

Brian transitioned to Escambia county three years ago and is Brian is passionate about making 4-H available to all youth. In three short years, the program has grown to engaged more than 25% of the school age population in Escambia.  The quality of his programs have been recognized and awarded at the National level, including the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) Excellence in Animal Science 4-H Programming Award and the NAE4-HA Communicator Promotional Piece Award, both in 2011, the Achievement in Service Award in 2014, and most recently, the NAE4-HA Military Partnership Award in 2019He was also elected by his peers to serve Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents in 2014, serving in statewide leadership positions including president.  Another aspect of his scholarship is his commitment to mentoring early career colleagues by sharing his work through district, state and national conferences.

(Pre-COVID photo) Brian worked with UF specialists to develop the Florida 4-H Tailgate Contest to teach youth about meat science and food safety.

Brian lives in Cantonment with his bride Mindy and sweet baby boy Eli Thomas.  They teach the 1 and 2 year old class at their church, have season tickets to Gator football games, and like spending time at Pensacola Beach.

Empowering youth to succeed is what Brian finds most fulfilling about his job as a 4-H Agent.


Pick Your Clover: Fall TSC Paper Clover Campaign

In our “new normal” of social distancing, it can be difficult to find ways to give back to your community or provide service to organizations in the traditional methods we’re all accustomed to.  However, the partnership between Tractor Supply and 4-H allows you to do just that, pick your Clover!  Each year in Fall and Spring, you can volunteer your time, efforts and money to help fundraise during the Paper Clover Campaign which benefits your local 4-H program and the National 4-H program as well.  You simply visit your local Tractor Supply store, pick your paper clover, sign your name to it, provide your donation at checkout and then you’ve officially helped us #InspireKidsToDo with 4-H!

Tractor Supply has proudly partnered with 4-H since 2010 with the Paper Clover Campaign.  This campaign happens twice a year, Fall and Spring, right in a store near you (and online)!  Through this annual fundraiser, Tractor Supply has helped raise over $14 million dollars which have impacted over 69,000 students.  100% of the funds raised during the Fall and Spring Paper Clover fundraisers directly benefit local 4-H programs with 90% going directly to 4-H youth in Florida and 10% supporting the National 4-H program which our youth may participate in throughout the year.

Furthermore, funds from these Paper Clover Campaigns have directly assisted your local programs in sending youth to activities and events such as Camp Timpoochee, Camp Cherry Lake, Executive Boards, Leadership Adventure Weekend (LAW), 4-H University, and much more.  Each of these experiences have given our youth the opportunities to develop life skills alongside there peers and 4-H mentors, volunteers, and 4-H Agents.  The life skills gained during a youth’s experiences in a local 4-H program can be transferable to “real life” and helps prepare our 4-H members to be caring, competent citizens that we hope return as 4-H volunteers one day to give back to their program!

Now, how can you get involved?  Tractor Supply stores across the Panhandle are very generous in providing space and time for your 4-H Club to fundraise in various ways.  You may fill out an online request form here under their 4-H Fundraising page, or you can contact the store manager directly and ask about their upcoming events or days available for your program to set up a table to fundraise and educate clientele on the benefits of 4-H!

Ideas to get involved (request permission first):

  • Set up an educational livestock clinic in the parking lot
  • Club meetings or field trip or skill-a-thon on location
  • Fundraisers during the holidays
    • October- pumpkin carving
    • November- helpful haulers (load/unload)
    • December- gift wrapping
    • February- sell Valentine’s Day Cards made by members

Locate your Tractor Supply Store and introduce 4-H to the manager:

Blountstown- 19962 Central Ave W Marianna- 280 Highway 71
Chipley- 1610 Main Street Milton- 6531 Carline Street
Crawfordville- 2408 Crawfordville Hwy Panama City- 6450 E Highway 22
Crestview- 320 W James Lee Blvd Pensacola- 3 W Nine Mile Road Suite 16
Defuniak Springs- 931 US Hwy 331 S Southport- 6922 Highway 77
Ft. Walton Beach- 653 Beal Pkwy N Tallahassee- 5743 W Tennessee St


The Fall Paper Clover Campaign is going on NOW, October 7-18 so go grab your 4-H Clover today.  For more information on becoming a 4-H member, volunteer, starting a club, or to get involved in all of our virtual and traditional programs, contact your local 4-H program and a 4-H Agent will reach out to help you join our 4-H family!

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

Volunteers inspiring young minds

Every Spring during Walton County Spring Break, a local group of women collaborate with the Walton County 4-H program to deliver a special interest day camp for youth in the area.  This day camp, Stitch Perfect, was developed by the Chautauqua Quilters Guild and Jena Gilmore, the Walton County 4-H Agent.  Stitch Perfect teaches youth participants everything from hand stitching, sewing tools, and equipment, to advanced sewing techniques.

Walton County 4-H has been extremely fortunate that this three-day day camp comes with a small cost, due to the Chautauqua Quilters Guild donating all materials, machines, and volunteer power while 4-H provides no-sew projects, environmental topics, STEM, and alternative sewing activities (crochet, weaving, etc).  Due to the collaboration efforts and strong partnership with the Guild, this program has been one of the highest demanded annually!  To serve more youth, 4-H expanded the reach of this project from 10 to 20 campers by dividing the youth into beginner and advanced classes.


Macie’s Masterpiece Headquarters

Four years ago, Macie, a 4-H day camper, attended Stitch Perfect and fell in love with the art of sewing and quilting.  The following year, she was so excited to attend Stitch Perfect and show off what she had been working on, however, her family planned a trip to Disney.  Macie was distraught and actually shared with her mother she would’ve rather attended Stitch Perfect!  While Macie still enjoyed her time at Disney, she has been able to attend Stitch Perfect in following years to gain skills in cross stitching, weaving, and advanced sewing.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of preventative equipment, Macie felt inspired to take action by utilizing the sewing skills she has learned over the years at 4-H Stitch Perfect with the Chautauqua Quilters Guild!  She created her own work space in her bedroom, determined her pattern, secured her supplies and tools and went to work creating beautiful masterpieces in the form of surgical masks, to share with her community.  Macie’s inspiration sparked after her mother, a postal worker, expressed the need and lack of supplies such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks for postal workers.  After all, they are on the front lines dealing with COVID-19 as they directly handle thousands of pieces of mail daily that have been handled tens of thousands of times prior to being delivered to their facility for sorting and delivery!


A display of finished sewing project-face masks

Macie’s Masterpieces

Macie is an outstanding example of just how impactful 4-H is on the lives of the youth that participate in 4-H programming.  Like so many other programs available, 4-H Stitch Perfect helped Macie to develop and master essential life skills such as critical thinking, decision making, concern for self and others, etc. With over 70 different 4-H project areas from sewing, gardening, animal science, to computer science and rocketry, there are plenty of topics to work with youth to develop their life skills and make a meaningful impact like the Chautauqua Quilters Guild did on Macie with the 4-H Stitch Perfect program.  If you would like to get involved in your local 4-H program as a volunteer, please visit to apply online or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations, open to all youth, ages 5-18, and available in every community. For more information on how youth can join or the many 4-H projects available, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit today.

Christmas Memories Gifts in a Jar

DIY gifts in mason jars for the holidays

A variety of yummy treats in jars to give as gifts for the holidays.

One of my fondest memories around the holidays was making special presents with my mom. Often we would make cookies, to share with our neighbors and then give them a jar with the dough mixture and special instructions for making more. In fact, I’m sharing some of the recipes from my colleagues in Kentucky, North Dakota and Iowa Extension. We used recipes similar to these when I was little. I remember making spoons with dip seasonings on a wooden spoon with a cute bow and holly. We also used jars to put together a cookie or soup recipe. We would usually present the individual with a taste treat and a little note how to prepare the next batch with their jar.




The great thing is you can do this with your children, teach them fractions and help with measuring skills, in the name of FUN! You can also help them enhance their creative skills. Decorations can be simple or elaborate depending on the amount of time you have. You are teaching them to productively use their time and sharing the great feeling of giving to others. Plus, you can include a science lesson on being a good conservationist by recycling and how you are being good to the environment. In fact, the conservation principles: reduce, reuse and recycle, can be applied to the entire gift giving process. Reducing will have the greatest impact on our environment because you are actually eliminating the purchase and use of another product. The way to do this with gifts in a jar is by reusing jars from pickles, mayonnaise and other food items. Just clean them thoroughly.

If you have limited dollars to use for gift giving, this can be a very economical option.  Especially making the cute spoons for dips that the receiver would just add sour cream or mayonnaise to complete the dip. Remember when giving the gifts, take into consideration any food allergies. If you do not have the means to do gifts from the jar, perhaps a gift of your time or talent would be more appropriate than an actual product, like a coupon for mowing the lawn, raking leaves, babysitting, etc. Another option would be to share some of your favorite recipes cards, so your friends can also enjoy your favorite dishes. Other ways you can save is by reusing and recycling gift bags, tissue paper, ribbons and other packaging material.

So gifts in a jar can be a great way to have a few extra gifts under the tree for those individuals who love your cookies, candy, soup etc. It is also great for those individuals you didn’t plan for but want to give them a little something.

Special thanks to Paula Davis, UF/IFAS Bay County 4-H Agent, for providing this article and picture.