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4-H University: Youth Experiences Serving Them For Life

two youth pulling mozzarella cheese

Mozzarella Cheese, 4-H U 2021

Youth participating in 4-H University can gain skills they can rely on for a lifetime! How do you ask? These youth (aged 14-18) get to explore numerous career opportunities by participating in educational workshops, lead community service projects, participate in competitive events, be recognized for their outstanding activities, and make friends with youth from across the state!

The weeklong 4-H University experience allows youth to self-select topics of interest and gain insightful experiences to explore these topics. This year’s tracks include livestock and dairy science to food science and culinary. Simply put, this is career exploration. These experiences are informative and introduce topics of interest that youth may want to consider as a career path. Many include the ‘learn by doing’ activities, for example making homemade mozzarella cheese, are designed to develop some life skills in the process. If that was not enough, there are competitive events such as illustrative talks and public speaking, a Share the Fun Contest that allows youth to share their talents with others, a campus tour for first -time attendees, and of course a youth banquet and a dance.

While speaking to a former 4-H State President, Mr. Matt Schmarje (99-00), he echoed the importance of 4-H University (at that time called Congress). By self-selecting workshops led to the introductions he had to numerous different topics and the building of life skills that he says have served him to this day. He then went on to express 4-H University also taught him team building skills, how to embrace people and their differences, and allowed him to develop and enhance his communication skills. The years he spent attending 4-H University allowed him to grow within the 4-H program through the many experiences that he has utilized in his life and career. Most importantly Matt emphasized how the accepting and embracing of other people and their differences opened his world to a variety of cultural experiences with people he is still friends with to this day.

If you would like more information on 4-H University, contact your local 4-H Agent or follow this link https://florida4h.ifas.ufl.edu/events/4-h-university/

What does “Agriculture” mean to you?

Mill Pond, Marianna, Fl. Photo credit Marie Arick

Grab your favorite soft cotton sweatshirt, jeans and those nice leather sneakers or boots … these all require agriculture!  Kayaking in your favorite spring? Springs are considered a part of agriculture, labeled as a natural resource and are managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Agriculture touches our lives daily. It would be quite impossible to navigate our world without the assistance of agriculture. Timber farms produce the lumber to build homes and make paper, cotton is used not only for clothing, but also in the creation of our paper monies. And we have not even discussed the foods we eat, and numerous other products created utilizing agricultural products.

Agricultural insight into the production and management of agricultural resources is why we in Extension promote and teach Ag Literacy. It is this basic knowledge that celebrates those who work hard daily to not only produce items to be consumed, but also manage those agricultural resources not only on the farm, but also our forests and waterways. This management can even rely on public policies for protection of these resources to ensure proper usage for generations to come.

Still not convinced? Did you wash your hair this morning and brush your teeth? Thank a farmer. Agricultural and the related industries contributed more than $1.1 trillion to the gross domestic product of the United States in 2019 and also provided 19.7 million jobs in 2020 per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is a small  insight into how much agriculture impacts your life every day.

Everyone is dependent on agriculture in numerous forms each day. Celebrating Ag Literacy Day is a great way to expand your agricultural insight and awareness. Look around and appreciate the beauty of our land and waterways. Explore agriculture and all the ways to be a good steward of these natural resources, after all we all depend on them every day.

Meet the Author—Marie Arick

Marie Arick

Greetings, my name is Marie Arick and I am the County Extension Director, 4-H and Family & Consumer Sciences Agent in Liberty County. Beginning in 2019, I stepped into this complex, but rewarding position and have worked with volunteers, community partners and other Agents on some amazing projects.

The 4-H program provides a diverse array of opportunities for youth ages 8 to 18. One great example is the Liberty County Livestock Club. This club provides a variety of animal projects and agricultural judging opportunities. As an Agent, I support my volunteers with curriculum, training opportunities and fund raising. This club successfully fund-raised enough money to buy a set of portable livestock scales to aid with animal projects.

School enrichment is a large part of 4-H programming for Liberty County youth. The two most successful are the Ag Adventures and the Embryology in the Classroom programs. Ag Adventures introduces youth to many crops and their uses. While teaching cotton in the field during this program, it surprised me how many youths did not know that our ‘paper’ money contains cotton. With embryology, each year is met with excitement when we enter the classroom with the incubators and eggs. The daily lessons include learning the parts of the egg and following the growth of the chick. Egg candling sessions allow me the opportunity to see how much the kids have learned and there is no shortage of enthusiasm when the chicks hatch. While Covid-19 did inhibit Ag Adventures for 2020, it did not stop Embryology. All incubators and supporting equipment along with the eggs were delivered to the schools. Lesson videos were created and other supporting materials were all placed on a closed Google site for the teachers to utilize.

Embryology Google Site

 

 

 

 

 

4-H University Cheese Making

 

 

As an Agent, one experience that never gets old is to ask a group of 4-H youth if they think they can transform a gallon of milk, using a few additional ingredients and a recipe, into mozzarella cheese. I absolutely love watching the skeptics successfully participate in the workshop and create their mozzarella cheese. In the process, these youth learn about food safety, kitchen safety, recipe literacy and adherence. The ‘learn by doing’ motto drives this experience.

Prior to adding 4-H to my Extension Agent assignment, I still incorporated youth into my Jackson County Family & Consumer Sciences programming, specifically culinary arts. Cooking is a life skill, we all eat! What better way to introduce food safety, kitchen safety, nutrition, and a variety of food preparation methods to youth than through culinary arts. Once I transitioned into a 4-H role, I added cheese making, grilling, food challenge, food preservation and more. Kids are more likely to try a new food, or an old favorite prepared in a healthier manner, if they make it themselves.

Carlos Staley, UF Intern

The above programs have shown great success, but 4-H offers a broad range of programs and there is something for everyone. My reward is each child’s success. It is even more gratifying when a former high school student that participated in the culinary arts school enrichment program for two years is now attending UF studying food science. The icing on the cake, so to speak, is when he becomes your UF summer intern!

I am a Mississippi State University graduate with a BS in Exercise Science and a MS in Health Promotion. After a long stint in the medical field, I transitioned to my second career choosing Extension. I began working with Texas A & M AgriLife Extension prior to transitioning to the University of Florida IFAS Extension in 2015. Extension is extremely rewarding, but in my down time I enjoy kayaking, gardening, and reading.

Exploring the Origin of 4-H

Have you ever wondered how 4-H came to be?  4-H has a rich history that started in the late 1800’s (around the time of the civil war). The Morrill Act of 1862 gave each state in the US land for agriculture research and teaching. This established the land grant university system.  The second Morrill Act in 1890 made racial discrimination illegal for land grant universities receiving federal funds….unless a separate institution was established and maintained. This second Morrill Act gave rise to many of the historically black colleges. However, university researchers struggled to get these new practices adopted by farmers. Adults just didn’t trust new technology, but young people were. So researchers took these new practices into public schools and provided hands on lessons in the hopes that the new concepts would be shared at home and adopted on the farm.  These early 4-H clubs were known as Tomato or Canning Clubs for girls and Corn and Pig clubs for boys.

boy with corn

National 4-H Historic Preservation Project. Marius Malmgren , a member of a corn club in Virginia, grew 209 bushels of corn on one acre in 1912 when national corn yields averaged only 45 bushels per acre.

Before there was 4-H, agriculturally based youth clubs began in 1902 as a result of these hands on agricultural learning experiences, years before Cooperative Extension was created! Specifically in Clark County, Ohio and Douglas County, Minnesota, youth clubs were born. The Corn Growing Club for example, was an after-school club. Fairs also began in this same year allowing a venue for youth to share what they had ‘learned by doing.’ To honor youth’s efforts, Jessie Field Shambaugh created a four-leaf clover pin to honor the efforts of the youth. In 1910, the H was added on each leaf of the clover and shortly thereafter the title ‘4-H Club’ was born.

The original mission of the 4-H club was to introduce school aged youth to the agricultural community in which they lived with the intent of helping youth to gain practical, hands on experiences and aid with becoming productive members of their communities. These clubs empowered youth by teaching them valuable life skills enabling them to be better prepared for their transition to adulthood.

Cooperative Extension was born as a result of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. As a result, 4-H became a nationwide club opportunity, and the clover emblem was adopted. Otis Hall, a state leader from Kansas created the 4-H pledge that was adopted in 1927 at the very first National 4-H Camp held in Washington DC. The motto ‘to make the best better’ was also proposed by Miss Carrie Harrison and adopted that same year. The 4-H pledge is still used today with one small addition in 1973, the words ‘and my world’ added to the end.

In less than 50 years, specifically in 1959, the National 4-H Center was opened and provided trainings and experiences for volunteers, youth, and professional staff. Eventually, the National 4-H Foundation and the National 4-H Service Committee merged to create today’s National 4-H Council. This rapid growth is a testament to the important positive youth development role 4-H has provided. Sadly,

4-H will celebrate it’s 120-year anniversary in 2022! Today, 4-H proudly serves youth from rural to urban areas and everything in between. Experiences still include school enrichment, agriculture, and livestock related projects, but have also branched out to include science, robotics, food safety, healthy living and more. From such humble beginnings, 4-H has grown and adapted to remain relevant while continuing to offer educational opportunities to teach concepts and skills guiding today’s 4-Hers to become productive citizens.

4-H and Extension have had (and continues to have) a huge impact on our country. Teaching today’s 4-her’s about the rich legacy of our organization can help develop a sense of belonging and connection. Focusing on 4-H history can also build excitement and anticipation for our 120th anniversary next year. Here are a few ways you can incorporate some 4-H history into your club meetings this fall:

  1. Share this video at your next club meeting. What was different about 4-H back then?  What is the same?

2. Design a fair booth highlighting 4-H History in your county

3. Ask 4-H alumni from different decades to come speak with your club. Ask them to bring photos, record books, and memorabilia to share with youth. Help youth prepare questions in advance about what alumni did and learned when they were in the program. Talk about what is different, and what is the same.

4. Host a 4-H history quiz bowl. The National 4-H Historic Preservation Project has lots of information. You can also refer to Florida 4-H: A Century of Youth Success (your local 4-H office or library most likely has a copy you can borrow).

5. Work with your 4-H agent to form a committee to plan your countywide 120th anniversary celebration.

Unmasking the New 4-H Year

Unmasking the New 4-H Year

face mask with 4-H clover on it

Photo credit: Marie Arick

I recently saw a meme of the Jetsons™ cartoon relating to how we are living our lives utilizing telemedicine, videocalls, online classes and our home office…how ironic. Well, 4-H has embraced these unprecedented times and is preparing to provide 4-H youth programming for the upcoming year. Nothing is more important than our youth and their health.  Despite the fact things look a bit different and may require a few adjustment, such as masks, social distancing and some virtual club meetings, the 4-H Agents in the panhandle are ready for the year ahead.

While we realize that computer usage and screen time has increased due to the pandemic, it will be a part of our 4-H clubs and/or projects. Over the spring and summer months, Florida 4-H created an array of virtual summer camp experiences that taught agents we can still engage and provide wonderful learning experiences without being in person. So, we will move into the new 4-H year with our newfound tools and skills to create engaging experiences. For example, livestock and shooting sports and the associated club meetings surrounding these programs may be a hybrid of small in-person groups with safety measures and virtual meetings, but they will take place.  Additionally, there will be a variety of virtual 4-H clubs offered.

Check out the list of 4-H offerings the Northwest District 4-H Agents put together for 4-H youth across the district:

#HoneyBees 4-H Club                   W.O.L.F. 4-H Club                Baking Buddies 4-H Club              Culinary Artists 4-H Club

Lead with 4-H Club                        Farm to Table 4-H Club       Chick Chain 4-H Club                    Backyard Livestock 4-H Club

TailGators 4-H Club                       Sew Much Fun 4-H Club     Range Ready 4-H Club

4-H Agents will be here to support these clubs and projects. Please understand that we will be taking extra precautions and measures to ensure all experiences, whether in person or virtually, meet all Florida 4-H requirements. We look forward to our temporary ‘new normal’ and invite you to click here to enroll in the 2020-2021 4-H year. For questions to navigate the enrollment process click here for additional information.

Unmask your child’s potential by enrolling today!