Agriculture plays an important role in our society, yet a noticeable gap in understanding and engaging with this sector is evident among youth. Often, this disconnect stems from misconceptions about agriculture and the vast career opportunities it offers. Addressing these challenges requires long-term educational efforts that provide youth with hands-on experiences in the form of field excursions to increase interest and participation in Agriscience topics. The Ag Adventures program, an annual venture between UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) and Florida 4-H, was created in response to this need. It aims to immerse students in the diverse and rich world of agriculture through experiential learning.
Ag Adventures connects youth from urban and rural areas to a large-scale farming research center, offering a firsthand look at agriscience topics in action.
For years, Ag Adventures has been actively engaging 4th and 5th graders from counties across the Panhandle. This program introduces students to several key subfields in agriculture, with an emphasis on sustainability:
- Soil Science: Students learn about the critical role of soil in natural ecosystems and agriculture. Hands-on experiences, such as exploring a soil pit, help youth gain a deeper understanding of soil science topics.
- Agricultural Technology: Students explore the latest innovations in precision agriculture, including drones and sensor technology, and their role in promoting sustainability and economic growth.
- Entomology: Focusing on the vital role of pollinators, students learn about the impact of insects on the ecosystem and our food supply. Field activities, like insect collecting, offer practical understanding of the importance of these animals and the need to protect them.
- Agronomy: By learning about crops such as corn, cotton, and peanuts, students gain insights into the economic and historical significance of agriculture in North Florida. Through this section, researchers and agents are able to showcases the diversity and complexity of plant science in a tangible way.
Students explore a soil pit, uncovering the hidden wonders of soil science and gaining hands-on insight into soil formation in our region.
Benefits of Field Excursions
Engagement in programs like Ag Adventures offers a multitude of benefits, equipping students with valuable insights and experiences that go beyond the traditional classroom. Such field excursions are important for:
- Strengthening STEM Appreciation: By contextualizing STEM concepts within the framework of agriculture, Ag Adventures bridges the gap between classroom learning and its practical applications. This approach not only enriches students’ understanding of STEM but can also spark their curiosity about agriscience.
- Facilitating Career Exploration: Ag Adventures provides a platform for youth to explore various careers in STEM. Through interactive experiences and exposure to academic pathways, the program demystifies agriculture, making it more accessible and relatable. This engagement broadens their career horizons and helps them envision a future where they can apply their learning in diverse ways.
- Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide: Ag Adventures offers youth from all backgrounds a chance to experience large-scale farming firsthand. By connecting youth directly with the source of their food, the program fosters a deeper appreciation for agricultural contributions and the interdependence between urban and rural communities.
Ag Adventures enables young learners to engage with faculty members and discover cutting-edge agricultural research. For example, NFREC researchers demonstrate the use of thermal imaging technology to detect drought stress in crops, showcasing practical applications of science in farming.
The Ag Adventures program enhances the educational experience of 4th and 5th graders by merging classroom learning with real-world agricultural practices. This initiative by UF/IFAS Extension deepens their appreciation for STEM, opens new avenues for career exploration, and introduces them to the unique aspects of rural life and agriculture. We hope students develop a more comprehensive understanding of the world, laying the foundation for them to become informed and engaged members of society.
This program occurs annually in the fall. If you are interested in your school participating, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Behrendt, M., & Franklin, T. (2014). A review of research on school field trips and their value in education. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 9(3), 235-245.
Jean-Philippe, S., Richards, J., Gwinn, K., & Beyl, C. (2017). Urban youth perceptions of agriculture. Journal of Youth Development, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2017.497
Now that the weather finally cooling down, it is fair season in the Florida panhandle! Fairs aren’t just about rides and food but also about participating in showing livestock, entering exhibits, and competing in judging contests. There are so many opportunities at fairs for 4-H youth to participate in and gain knowledge from. Agricultural judging contests are great for youth who are interested in learning about agriculture. There is a statewide virtual agricultural judging contest and an agricultural judging contest at the North Florida Fair.
This year we will be hosting the 4th Annual Florida 4-H Virtual Ag Judging Contest. It will take place on October 26th at 6:00 pm EST on Zoom and it is free! There will be training before the contest to allow 4-H youth an opportunity to learn about each topic before participating in the contest. The training will be held on October 24th at 6:00 pm EST on Zoom. This contest is great for 4-H youth to learn how to judge bulls, dairy cows, poultry, goats, swine, hay, grain, peanuts, and tomatoes. There will also be questions on tool identification, weed identification, and soil samples. To participate in this contest youth must be 4-H age 8-18 and will need to register in 4-H Online. If you have any questions about this event, please email Evie Hunter (email@example.com) or Chris Decubellis (firstname.lastname@example.org). We had so much fun creating this contest virtually and are super excited for youth all over the state to participate! This is our 4th year doing this contest and we are happy to see it grow!
The North Florida Fair Ag Judging Contest will take place on November 11th at the fairgrounds in Tallahassee, Florida. This contest will cover judging steers, heifers, eggs, hay, and grains. This contest is for youth 4-H ages 8-18 who are interested in learning how to judge agriculture. To participate in this contest youth must register in 4-H Online and contact your 4-H Agent to sign up. If you have any questions about this event, please email Robbie Jones email@example.com or Evie Hunter (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Both contests are great for youth to learn about how to judge each topic. It is very important to know how to tell if you are feeding your animals good hay and grains to make sure your animals stay healthy. It is also important to learn about the structure and what to look for in each livestock animal. Both contests are fun to participate in and learn about the importance of ag judging. I look forward to seeing both contests grow, and more youth learn about the importance of agriculture.
For livestock judging study materials, check out these links:
Livestock Judging Guide (Kansas)
Livestock Judging Explore Guide (Texas)
Livestock Judging EDIS Factsheet (Florida)
Or, check out our video on judging contest basics!
Because of our mild weather in Florida, nearly every season is fair season! County, regional, and state fairs occur throughout the fall, winter, and spring in our sunshine state. However, most county and regional fairs in the panhandle are in the fall. Fairs are an important component of the project experience. They provide opportunities for youth to demonstrate their project knowledge and skills. Livestock shows, judging contests, and exhibits are three ways youth are encouraged to develop communication and problem-solving skills associated with their project. To help our families prepare for the fair season, we have curated several resources:
Livestock Shows- if you are new to livestock shows, you may feel a little overwhelmed. This article has some very helpful tips on making sure you are prepared- whether you are showing a large animal (such as a steer) or a small animal (such as a rabbit). The article also includes a downloadable packing list, as well as a list of supplies you may want to have on hand for a “show box.” A show box is a container where you store all of your show supplies.
Judging Contests– Juding contests help youth develop critical thinking skills. Fairs typically offer a variety of judging contests- from agriculture, livestock, poultry, horticulture, and even consumer choices. If you want to learn the basics of judging contests, check out this article and video. If you are interested in agriculture or livestock judging, check out this article for a list of free, downloadable resources and local judigng opportunities.
Exhibits– Fairs are a great way to show off what you have done throughout the 4-H year. From individual project exhibits to club booth exhibits, there is something for everyone. Check out our family guide to fair exhibits to know which types of exhibits are right for you! If you plan to submit exhibits to the North Florida Fair in Tallahassee, be sure to read this article which is a step-by-step guide to prepare your exhibits for that blue ribbon premium!
4-H Days at the Fair– most fairs offer a special day just for 4-H families. On this day, entrance into the fair is usually free for 4-Hers and features several judging contests and events to support 4-H project work. 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair is November 12th. Check out this article with tips and information you need to know before you go to 4-H day.
For more information about fairs in your area, or to help youth in your county make the most of thier local fair, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.
It is amazing how far a dollar can go- especially these days! Now through October 15, you can purchase a paper clover (or several) to help support your local program. Your donation will make a huge difference in the lives of local youth. In Florida, Tractor Supply Clover funds help send youth to camp and leadership events like 4-H Teen Retreat, 4-H Executive Board, iLead, 4-H University, 4-H Day at the Capitol, and 4-H Legislature. Don’t have a local Tractor Supply in your county? Don’t worry- a portion of all funds collected are distributed to counties that do not have a store so that everyone benefits!
Since 2010, Tractor Supply has partnered with 4‑H to raise more than $14 million through the Paper Clover campaign. The success of these campaigns has impacted over 81,500 youth by providing them with the tools and resources they need to develop leadership skills to reach their full potential. For twelve days each April and October, Tractor Supply customers can purchase a paper clover to help local 4-H programs. One hundred percent of funds raised through the bi-annual Paper Clover campaign directly benefit 4‑H youth, with most funds benefiting local programs. For more information about 4-H, contact your local UF IFAS Extension office, or visit our website at https://florida4h.org.
Dates for the 2023 Fall Paper Clover Campaigns: Fall: October 4-15, 2023
First meeting is Sept 26th at 5:30 EST
I am so thrilled to let you know about a new endeavor with Florida 4-H. We are trying a virtual Food Challenge cooking club this year. This is so exciting for me because some of my fondest memories are cooking with my grandmother and Mom. I got to learn how to prepare foods and be creative as I was growing up pulling on their apron strings. I also enjoyed teaching and sharing these skills with my own children. What makes this even better is now I get to share and learn with all of you who join our program.
Paula and Madelyn Cooking together
By joining the new Virtual 4-H Food Challenge Club, you will embark on a fun, yet challenging, food-focused adventure right from the comfort of your kitchen! The club adventure will provide a fun atmosphere for you and your children to have a family time experience building lasting memories together. With the help from Florida 4-H Youth Development Faculty, you will get to unleash your culinary creativity and try delicious recipes while learning kitchen skills from safety, nutrition, and other food related life skills. Families will learn about competitive events related to foods like the Florida Food Challenge Competition. Families will also have the opportunity to make friends with fellow 4-H members across the state.
The virtual club is open to youth members ages 8-18 and will meet once a month starting in September. The club will meet via ZOOM on the following Tuesdays: September 26th, October 24th, November 28th, December 19th, and January 23rd from 5:30 – 6:30 PM ET. We request that adult supervision is present with the youth during the meeting and home practice sessions. The participants will be asked to gather a list of supplies for each monthly meeting as we focus on a new skill for each meeting.
Paula’s family working with herbs to prepare a dish.
During this course we will help families enjoy preparing food, provide you with opportunities to problem solve together and work as a family team as practice preparation for the Florida 4-H Food Challenge! If you join us, your family will learn how to prepare and create yummy dishes with a predetermined set of ingredients. By the end of the program, your family should have some new recipes for your cooking toolbox, learned essential cooking skills and created wonderful memories from your time together. Do not miss this flavorful opportunity – sign up now via Florida 4-H Online and get cooking with 4-H! If you are not a member of a current 4-H Club there is a $20 membership fee associated with this club. If you are unable to join our virtual club, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office to see if there is an active Food Challenge group that you can join. If not, work with your 4-H or FCS Agent(s) to identify two caring adults who could fill this role.
Enroll, Grab your ingredients, and get ready to join us via Zoom on September 26th@ 5:30 EST
4-H youth explored different Florida habitats to learn about species.
Thanks to Fish Florida, 4-H youth across the panhandle are exploring their sparks related to fishing and Florida’s natural resources. Fish Florida supports organizations like 4-H that teach people, especially children, about Florida’s fish and aquatic habitats through donations of fishing equipment, grants, and scholarships. Their mission is to promote public awareness of and encourage the protection of marine fisheries and coastal habitats through non-formal education. Because their mission aligns so well with the mission of Florida 4-H, this partnership has been very successful.
Fish Florida grants are supported through the sales of specialty tags.
Six Florida panhandle counties received equipment and funds to support 4-H fishing clubs and day camps, reaching 43 adult volunteers and nearly 200 youth. Through these programs, 4-H faculty, staff, and volunteers taught young people about different types of fishing equipment, how to rig a rod and reel, how to cast, how to tie different types of fishing knots, how to identify Florida fresh and saltwater fish, how to fish ethically (following Florida Fish and Wildlife regulations), water and boating safety, and more.
One 4-H youth shared, “I always enjoyed going fishing before, but now I understand what types of equipment and bait I need to use to catch the type of fish I like to catch. This program has also helped me understand why we have certain regulations to protect Florida habitats.”
Youth participating in the 4-H sportfishing program had the opportunity to visit a variety of Florida habitats to learn about different fish, including salt water, brackish water, and freshwater. They also met with professionals in the fishing and wildlife industries to learn about potential careers related to the fishing industry, as well as conserving Florida’s unique natural habitats. This program would not have been possible without the support from Fish Florida, which is funded through the sales of the Florida Sailfish specialty license plate.
4-H programs in Florida’s panhandle provide several ways for youth to explore their interests related to fishing and the outdoors:
- Clubs- Youth can participate in 4-H clubs that are focused on fishing, natural resources, and the outdoors (shooting sports, ATV safety, camping). Clubs are the foundation of 4-H. A 4-H club is a group of five or more youngsters guided by one or more adults. A club can be any size–from a small group of kids from the same neighborhood to a large group of youth from within the county. Clubs typically meet at least once a month to participate in activities to learn more about a topic. These activities might include games, field trips, guest speakers, and contests. To learn more about what a 4-H club is, visit our website.
- Day Camps– Many counties offer day camps focused on fishing and the outdoors. These are typically held during the summer months, or on non-school days. Day camps are a great way for youth who are new to 4-H to get a feel for what 4-H offers.
- Residential Camps– 4-H Camp Timpoochee in Niceville, FL offers residential camps to help youth explore Florida’s environments. This camp is the oldest 4-H camp in Florida and is located on the Choctwhathatchee Bay.
- School Programs– Counties offer a variety of programs through the schools to support non-formal learning. One of these programs is the Florida Youth Naturalists. The Florida Youth Naturalists program guides youth through an exploration of Florida’s uplands, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems and was inspired by the Master Naturalist Program, which is targeted toward adults.
- Contests– Youth can also participate in contests related to the fields of conservation and ecology such as the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest at the North Florida Fair. Activities and study guides to prepare for 4-H Wildlife Ecology can be found online. The deadline to register for the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest is October 13. Another contest related to outdoor education is the 4-H Forest Ecology Contest. A clinic to prepare for the State 4-H Forest Ecology Contest will be held on October 14th, and the deadline to register for the clinic is September 23 in 4HOnline.
Check out our 4-H Sportfishing Project Page to learn more about our programs related to fishing. To learn more about Fish Florida, or how you can support them through the Sailfish License Plate program, visit their website. To learn more about opportunities for you to share your passion for fishing with the next generation, or to get your child involved, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.