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Calling all NW District Teens

Advertisement for 4-H Teen Retreat Feb. 25-27

4-H Music Magic Teen Retreat
February 25-27, 2022

We are so excited to be able to offer a face-to-face teen retreat “4-H Music Magic” February 25-27, 2022! Join 4-H teens and faculty from the panhandle of Florida to learn new skills in a fun and educational way. Teen youth are encouraged to participate in the weekend filled with fun and hands-on experiences. Feel free to invite your friend that are not in 4-H already. They will just need to join. At the conference you will have the opportunity to network with 4-H educators and other volunteers to help you become a stronger 4-H member.

The conference registration will be open until February 7. The cost is $120 per person, paid to your county office. Some scholarships are available talk to your local 4-H Faculty member if you need financial help to attend. You will be required to register through the 4-H Online, under events labeled NWD 4-H Teen Retreat.

During the registration process you will be ask what your workshop/funshop preferences are for more information about these and a tentative schedule can be found on the 4-H DII website. For more information contact your local Extension Office!

Meet Chris Lauen New Holmes County 4-H Faculty

image of Chris Lauen

Meet Chris Lauen

“There’s No Place Like Holmes” – a phrase used in recent years to celebrate the opportunities that exist here in Holmes County, Florida. I find that many people try to figure out where our county is. Many locals say we are located right between Pensacola and Tallahassee, east and west– as well as Panama City Beach and Dothan, Alabama, north and south – right on the I-10 corridor. Many people know our community for our large annual rodeo, but most people out of state know we are their pathway to “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches”. As a rural county with limited infrastructure, many young adults move elsewhere before realizing just how good of a place Holmes County is to raise a family and do life. I like to say, “The grass is green where you water it and my family and I choose to water it here.” Holmes County is growing and Holmes County 4-H will continue to do so as well.
My name is Chris Lauen and I grew up in the heart of Holmes County. One could even say it was the heart of Bonifay, the county seat, as my childhood home initially sat a few blocks from historic “downtown area”. Our home sat right on Highway 79 and faced the First Baptist Church. It was nestled next to the old Woman’s Club building and a “stones throw” from the Courthouse, Western Auto, and the “old” Bank of Bonifay. When the Bank of Bonifay (now First Federal Bank of Florida) chose to purchase the property from the church where my father was employed, my family ended up moving the home do a different property on the edge of town. That’s right – I managed to live in the same house with two different addresses. My weekly schedule as a child consisted of early mornings and late afternoons at Bonifay Elementary because that’s where my mom spent much of her career as the music teacher. Sundays were not much different as she typically played piano at First Baptist where my father has served as Minister of Music, Administrative Pastor, and a few other titles during my lifetime. My two older siblings would describe similar childhood experiences and still call Holmes County home, but reside with each of their families outside of Atlanta.
As I reach my middle school years, I would travel all over town as far as my bicycle or roller blades would take me, but my real playground was around any water that might have a fish hiding inside. I would bounce between the local ponds and creek and even prided myself in being able to catch some fish out of the ditches in the front of my home. My family supported my love for fishing and I’ll always remember my first days of surf fishing in Destin and my first trips on party and charter boats. I remember the sight of all of the big boats lined up at the harbor, the smells of diesel fumes from the engines wafting through the air combined with the odor of fish from the morning catch, and the overwhelming feelings of excitement about new adventures. For me, a driver’s license meant that I could find even more fish to catch, but also opened the door for more passions as my grandfather and great uncle passed down their old Browning A5 shotguns and a 1917 rifle. I enjoyed my new pursuit of new species, learning how to trap hogs, figuring out the best ways to get ducks to decoy, and looking for that big whitetail buck. With a driver’s license and other church members and mentors that liked to hunt and fish, I always tried to have a box of ammunition or fishing pole within reach. In the years ahead, my life revolved around school, hunting, fishing, attending or teaching at youth camps, foreign mission trips, playing music, and serving at our church.
Graduating from high school meant that I had the credentials to be a substitute teacher. With my mom still teaching and my history of literally growing up in and around the school, it didn’t take long for teachers to keep my calendar full based off their sick and vacation days. I was 17 years old. One week I was a student and somehow the next, a substitute teacher. I had the opportunity to attend Chipola College where I earned a degree in Professional Communication. I spent extra time on campus as a result of a Fine Arts scholarship and TV production scholarship. Whether it was running sound for the next big theatrical production or operating cameras at the athletic events, there were always opportunities to jump in, learn, and serve. After graduating from Chipola College, I went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Communication as well as a Master’s degree in Corporate and Public Communication from Florida State University.

Family photo Chris wife and two children

The Meet Family

In 2009, my days as a substitute teacher came to close as I accepted a position with the Florida Department of Health in Holmes County. From 2009-2021, I served in a few different capacities. My titles included Senior Human Services Program Specialist, Certified Contract Manager, Webmaster, and Public Information Officer. My responsibilities as a Program Lead included the development of a county-wide partnership, including youth and adults, who would advocate for change across social, political, and legal landscapes. We worked with key decision makers, elected officials, and the general public to promote healthy living for generations to come. While serving at the Department of Health, I actually had the opportunity to serve on the local Holmes County 4-H Advisory Council and even had some of our youth partner with Holmes County 4-H on some projects.
Here I am today, my family and I are starting a new chapter with 4-H and Holmes County. In ways the work is similar to what I’ve been doing for years, but in many ways – it’s different. It’s exciting to have a new platform to serve my community. I’ve been blessed with an entrepreneurial, music singing/playing, horse riding, water sport loving, wife who I met through an annual church music camp that both of our parents taught at. In my very biased opinion, we have two spectacular kids who also love the outdoors and bring us lots of joy. Our little girl, who is currently in 2nd grade, has an amazing heart and is super witty. She is very excited about her dad’s new job because she is a huge fan of arts and crafts, cooking, and music. She learned how to sleep on the front deck of a boat at an early age and already has her lifetime fishing and hunting license. Our little boy just turned two and loves a good hardback book. He’s learning new words every day, but mainly prefers to use the books as a ramp for his cars and monster trucks to drive over, around, and under. If there is a mud puddle within sight, you better hold him tight or he will be in it. As my kids grow older, I’m excited about the prospect of their future 4-H involvement.
As the new Holmes County 4-H Agent, I look forward to “making the best better” and working toward the 4-H vision of creating positive change in our youth, their families, and our communities. I guess I can say “that grass” my family is watering now includes 4-H.
We look forward to watching Holmes County 4-H grow!

Oceans of Opportunity Volunteer Forum

Beach scene with star fish

Oceans Of Opportunity Volunteer Forum January 21-22, 2022

We are so excited to be able to offer a face-to-face volunteer forum “Oceans of Opportunity” for our Panhandle Florida 4-H Volunteers January 21-22, 2022! Join 4-H volunteers and faculty from the panhandle of Florida to learn new ways to engage youth in 4-H programs in a fun and educational way. Teen and adult club volunteers, 4-H staff, and military and afterschool staff are encouraged to participate in the forum to explore new 4-H curriculum and activities, learn ways to make their 4-H programs more fun and meaningful, learn skills to re-energize your program after the pandemic and gain insights and bring back to your local program. At the conference you will have the opportunity to network with 4-H educators and other volunteers to help you become a stronger 4-H volunteer.

The conference registration will be open until December 22, 2021. You will be required to register through the 4-H Online, under events labeled Northwest Florida 4-H Volunteer Forum.

During the registration process you will be ask if you have a share fair/static displays that you would like to share during lunch on Saturday. This could be something that has worked well for you in the past that you are excited about. You may also include a make and take craft stations for other volunteers to experience making something, such as a 4-H pin, rocket, or hose ball. The make and take should be suitable for a 4-H club educational program. These stations will be available Friday evening, after keynote speaker and is a totally voluntary event.

The cost of the conference is $60 payable to your local extension office. A tentative schedule, and additional registration information can be found on the NW District Volunteer site.


4-H and the 2021 North Florida Fair

UF/IFAS Building image

UF/IFAS Building at the NFF

The 79th Annual North Florida Fair began with exhibits coming in Monday and being judged on Wednesday. We would love you to come see what our industrious youth have been up to creating artwork, growing plants and sewing to create some one of a kind pieces. Thank you to our judges who volunteered their time to support our youth!

image of person talking to group

Allison orienting judges for the 4-H exhibit judging.

The 4-H experience is being showcase right now at the 2021 North Florida Fair in Tallahassee, Florida. The fair is open thru November 14th, we hope you will come by and visit us. Here you will have the opportunity to see the 4-H youth work and meet UF/IFAS Extension Faculty and Staff. There are two areas to visit with Extension professionals.

display of 4-H project work

2021 Award of Merit Exhibits on Display at NFF

The first is the 4-H Building. In this exhibit you will find youth exhibits of artwork, sewing, canning, photography and much more. The second is the UF/IFAS Building where you can check out your marine science knowledge, learn about grains and grasses and amphibians. Youth will be participating in Beef, dairy, goat, poultry, and rabbit shows throughout the week. 4-H Day at the Fair is Saturday, November 13, 2021. From 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon youth will be competing in agricultural judging, horticultural judging, wildlife ecology, consumer choices, stem challenge, sewing contests to demonstrate what they have learned about these specific topics.

three plants with award of merit ribbons

The top Award of Merit winners for plants from all three age divisions

4-H teaches youth responsibility, compassion, respect and the value of hard work. It helps youth become a confident kid and caring adult. We provide 4-H programs in every county in Florida. 4-H programs are offered in big cities, small towns, and rural communities, as well as on U.S. military installations. For more information contact your local extension office. Participation shall not be denied on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, marital or family status, or political beliefs. Persons with disabilities should contact the Extension Office at least 10 working days prior to the event so that proper consideration can be given to the request.

image of 4-H specialty plate

Help support by purchasing a 4-H Specialty Plate

You can help kids have the same great experience – share your #4HGrown story. You can also help your local 4-H program by purchasing a 4-H license plate. Vouchers for a new specialty license plate bearing the iconic 4-H clover is available for purchase at all county tax collector offices and license plate agencies in Florida or online (from anywhere in Florida) through the Escambia County Tax Collector’s Office. The license plate will go into production once 3,000 pre-sale vouchers are sold. The voucher, which includes the $25 specialty plate fee plus processing fees, is $33 total. Please consider purchasing your plate today, it would make a great Holiday present for those who grew up in 4-H!


Happy National S’mores Day!

Nothing says summer better than a gooey, yummy s’more!  They are the ultimate summer campfire dessert. In celebration of National S’mores Day, we are sharing a history of the s’more, a how-to video, and recipe card with our readers. You can make s’mores the traditional way over a campfire, but you can also make them in a microwave or also turn them into a science lesson by making them in a solar oven!

While you are hanging around the campfire with friends and family, here’s a little history of the s’more:

  • Marshmallows were invented by the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes (specifically to relieve inflammation and constipation). The first marshmallows were made from the plant Althaea officinalis. 
  • The French added egg whites and sugar, and marketed marshmallows as a treat with healing properties.
  • In the 19th century, confectioners began substituting gelatin for the plant juices, which made it much easier to produce marshmallows in mass.
  • The graham cracker was invented by a Presbyterian minister, Sylvester Graham, who believed eating plain, simple food prevented immoral behavior.
  • Marshmallow roasting parties became fashionable during the Victorian era.
  • We have the Girl Scouts to thank for bringing together chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers!  The first recipe for s’mores appeared in the 1927 Girls Scout Handbook, and was called S’mores because they were so good, everyone would ask for “some more”

Nearly 100 years later, s’mores continue to be a favorite treat at 4-H camps. If it’s too hot for a campfire this summer, you can also make this yummy treat in the microwave:

You can also download and share this recipe card:

Making solar s’mores can be a fun 4-H club activity- National 4-H Council turned our previous solar s’mores post into a “4-H At Home” activity that you can also download and share.