Posted in Programming, Youth

The “Buzz” at the Extension Office

Did you know there are 90 crops ranging from nuts to berries to flowering vegetables that require insect pollination. Managed honey bee colonies are the primary pollinators which add at least $15 billion a year by increasing yields and help ensure high-yielding crops (USDA, 2017). As many of you have heard in the news, beekeepers have been steadily losing colonies. In fact, an article by the USDA states, “the number of honey bee hives in this country (U.S.) has decreased from 6 million in the 1940’s to about 2.5 million today. This has drawn attention to the importance of honey bees and seems to have even created a renewed interest in honey bees.


One of the great things about my job is how I am able to continue learning about a variety of topics and have been inspired by one of my own 4-H’ers!  Madeline Kamler, a Fillmore County 4-H’er became involved in the Nebraska Beekeepers Association youth program. She received beekeeping supplies and was assigned a mentor to get her started with beekeeping and has learned so much! In conversation with her mom last year, I mentioned how I’d like to

expand our landscape at the extension office to include a pollinator garden and she asked if we’d like to have our own bees at the office. With lots of help and tons of hours Madeline and her mom, Renae have spent the idea became a reality.

IMG_3053I’d like to give special thanks to the Geneva City Council and Fillmore County supervisors for their support of this endeavor. Since April of this year, we have been very fortunate to have our own hive north of the Fillmore County Extension office. The Fillmore County 4-H Council generously provided funds to get the project started. This project has been able to educate youth with 4-H workshops and even offer an adult program to the Geneva Garden Club. During honey extraction time, youth from Sowing Seeds Academy even had the chance to extract honey from the frames!  I’m so excited for more opportunities to increase educational programming, not only related to beekeeping, but on the business and entrepreneurship side as well.

We extracted over 20 frames of honey in the end of July and have started to sell some of the honey! Proceeds from the honey go directly back into the production of beekeeping so the project will be able to sustain itself for future years. If you are interested in purchasing some honey, feel free to contact the extension office and we’ll gladly sell you some “Bee Sweet” 4-H honey.IMG_3154.jpg

Plans to continue this “sweet” educational endeavor are already being made for next year, with the potential of workshops this winter as well.  Without the hours of labor, the Kamler family has so freely given, this project would not be as successful as it is, so I’d like to thank them for sharing their knowledge, resources and expertise to not only 4-H’ers and community members, but the extension staff as we’ve all learned so much!

Posted in Crops, Programming, Uncategorized, Youth

Youth Learn Crop Scouting Skills

At the end of the July I coordinated the fifth annual Crop Scouting Competition for Nebraska youth in which four teams from across Nebraska competed. It was held in at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center near Mead, Nebraska on July 26, 2018. Teams of students (those completing 5-12th grades) participated by completing a written knowledge test and seven crop scouting exercises in field plots.


The purpose of the competition was to provide students an opportunity to learn crop scouting and principles of integrated pest management (IPM) for corn and soybeans in Nebraska, to obtain knowledge and skills that will be helpful in future careers and to demonstrate newer crop scouting technologies.

Results from the 2018 competition were as follows:

First place- Colfax County 4-H (Logan Nelson, Brad Kratochvil, Austin Steffensmeier & Korbin Kudera)

Second place – Kornhusker Kids 4-H Club of Cuming County (Payton & Levi Schiller, Matthew & James Rolf and Kaleb Hasenkamp)

Third place – Humphrey FFA Team #2 (Mikayla Martensen, Bryce Classen Jacob Brandl and Wyatt Wegener)

Also participating was IMG_3144.jpgFillmore Central FFA with Carson & Brock Tatro, KayLynn Sieber, Kaylea Geiser and Gunner Gewecke.

Top-scoring teams won prizes: $500 for first, $250 for second, $100 for third place. The top two teams will represent Nebraska at the regional competition held in Nebraska on August 27, 2018.

Teams were expected to know the basics of scouting corn and soybean fields. This included crop staging; looking for patterns of crop injury; disease, insect and weed seedling identification; etc.

More information about the crop scouting competition are available online at Click on the link that says, “Crop Scouting Competition”.

This program was sponsored by DuPont Pioneer, the Nebraska Independent Crop Consultant Association and Farm Credit Services of America in collaboration with Nebraska Extension. If you know of a company or you would are interested in sponsoring the 2019 program, please contact me at


Posted in Youth

An Extension Intern’s Reflection

This week, I have a guest columnist who has been an integral part of the summer 4-H program for the past three years. Alexis Schmidt, has been working at the extension office as a summer aide/intern and been a huge asset to the 4-H county program so I decided to share some of her experiences before she goes to college. Alexis writes:

I have been a part of the Fillmore County 4-H program for 9 years now. As a 4-Her you don’t see what truly happens at the County Fair.  I have had the great opportunity to experience both sides. For the last three summers I have worked as a summer aide. I started this job when I was heading into my junior year of high school. That previous February I had to undergo knee surgery. This surgery put my athletic career on hold. What does a high school athlete do when she can’t do what she’s known all of her life?  I had many options such as sitting around and moping around about it. This is not the way that I live my life though.

Alexis teaching at Ag Safety Day

I decided that I was going to find a job. I remembered the Extension Office having a summer aide, and I enjoy helping younger kids develop 4-H projects. I decided that I would apply for the position. Now, as a sixteen year old I didn’t have much experience filling out a job application or even a job interview. So right off the bat this job has given me lessons for the future. A couple days later I received a phone call saying that I was hired for the job and that I would be serving as a summer aide/office manager. This office manager part of the position scared me quite a bit. I was a sixteen year old trying to take a key role at the Extension Office.

I finished school and a couple days later I started training for this position. Let me tell you there was a lot of information that was thrown at me, and I was very overwhelmed, but I made it though! I am sure there were mistakes that I made and didn’t hear about especially on the livestock and financial side of things. If you know me you know that my family doesn’t raise livestock. I knew there were shows at the County Fair, but didn’t really pay attention to them because I was a kid who exhibited static exhibits. This threw me for a loop because people were asking me livestock questions and I didn’t know the answers. We made it through the County Fair successfully though.  This experience is not forgotten though. I experienced my first fair from the other side. The other side meaning setting up Ag Hall for fair, listening to concerns in the livestock barns, and continuously checking on the Food Stand to make sure things were run smoothly. I would have never thought about the amount of work put into such a week.

Alexis has been instrumental in maintaining our community garden.

I had the opportunity to come back for a second year. This year was much different as Holly, our office manager, was not on maternity leave. I spent most of the summer seeing the complete other side of the Extension office. For example, I went to my first Excellences in Ag Sciences Day, which is a day where teachers see curriculum that the University is developing.  The topic was about horticulture and landscape. I would have never thought about what neat things teachers could incorporate into their lesson plans to help students understand what is going on in the horticulture industry. Then, I was fortunate enough to plan and execute my own workshop for 4-Hers. This experience was tied into my Supervised Agriculture Experience for FFA so I had to tie it into agriculture. How was I going to tie agriculture into a cupcake-decorating workshop? That’s a great question, but I ended up asking kids where the ingredients of cupcakes came from.  You would be shocked at some of the responses I received. After the discussion, we spent time making a project that they could take to the fair. There’s that word again, fair! Fair was soon coming and many hours of prep and figuring out how to make it run as smoothly as possible both for static exhibits and livestock exhibits. I was able to experience what it was like to run the livestock shows. It was quite different for this “indoor kid.”

Finally came year three.  This year I have had the great opportunity to be in a routine from last year as far as preparing for Excellences in Ag Sciences Day, Ag Safety Day, my own workshops, and fair. I was able to relax a little bit more and have some fun with the year. I have learned a lot about crops and agronomy this year. On a Monday I brought in one of my crops from our farm, and we dissected it to see the different parts of the plant. We were fortunate enough to see the tassel just forming!  This experience as well as the many trips to fields for soil samples or the Friday morning ET gage check has helped me develop a great passion for agronomy and what is going on with our crops. Later in the summer, came fair. I can remember showing up to the horse show wondering what we were forgetting because everything was so well organized and run. I had that thought run through my mind many times throughout the week but I never heard anything too major.  This year I spent even more time out in the livestock area and I was finally told that I couldn’t classify myself as an “indoor kid” anymore because of the knowledge that I knew about running the shows and the time that I spent out in the barns.

That leads me to where I am now. This job has provided me many great experiences and memories that I will cherish forever. I have met many people in Extension as well as many of the 4-H families that make Fillmore County’s 4-H program so strong.  I have developed a great passion of helping 4-Hers and their families learn and grow in the agriculture industry.  Working at the Extension Office has also helped me choose a major in Agriculture Education. I am thankful for the amazing staff I get to work with and that they didn’t shun me when I decided to not go to the University of Nebraska.

Alexis will be attending South Dakota State University and serve as a member of the track team throwing discus and shotput. I wish her well and know she will be successful in all of her endeavors!

Posted in Livestock, Youth

Collaboration and Teamwork

As we wrap up county fair related work and head back into other extension programming, I always reflect on the county fair experience. This year’s fair went very well, mostly due to the amount of teamwork and collaboration observed. It was a challenge this year with the Fillmore and Clay County fairs falling right on top of each other, but due to the excellent amount of preparation and teamwork that occurred, fairs went very well. First of all, when it comes to putting together a fair, there are many small, behind the scenes tasks that occur. I’d like to give a lot of credit to the entire staff of Fillmore and Clay Counties. Weeks before the fair, data is entered into the computer system, stall assignments are created, awards ordered, reminders sent to exhibitors about completing quality assurance, registration deadlines, etc. All of this preparation allows for a much smoother fair during the actual week of fair.

A highlight of this year’s Fillmore County Fair was a visit from UNL’s Chancellor, Ronnie Green!

Without the collaboration of staff, fair would not occur. Also, there is a lot of time spent from volunteers such as Council members and superintendents. From helping with winter and spring weigh-ins to helping answer questions and attend meetings, volunteers are engaged year-round to make the program the best it can be.

An article adapted from Belgrad, W., Fisher, K., & Rayner, S. (1995) best summarizes that “collaboration and teamwork require a mix of interpersonal, problem-solving, and communication skills needed for a group to work together towards a common goal.” The best teams I have worked with put their own agenda aside and work towards the greater good for the team. This article also provides tips for how to develop a collaborative team environment. There are five themes that must be present.

The first is trust. Being honest with the team helps each other develop respect within a team. Give team members the benefit of the doubt and work to eliminate conflicts of interest. Secondly is to clarify roles. When teach team member knows their key roles, they are able to perform more effectively and can figure out ways to help each other. Next, it is important to communicate openly and effectively. Work to clear up misunderstandings quickly and accurately. Its best to over-communicate, rather than not communicate. Learn to be a good listener and recognize team member efforts. Fourth, is to appreciate diversity of ideas. Be open-minded and evaluate each new idea and remember that it is okay to disagree with one another, but learn how to reach consensus. Often times, much is learned from those who differ from you.  Finally, balance the team’s focus. Regularly review and evaluate effectiveness of the team. Assign team members specific tasks to evaluate and provide praise to other team members for achieving results.

I would certainly like to take some time this week to thank the entire Clay and Fillmore county staff for the hours of time spent. Without the entire staff working together, fair would be miserable.  Also, I’d like to thank the 4-H Council members who have so freely given of their time during the whole year with various tasks and take time away from their own family to help manage the food stand, help clerk auctions, etc. Of course, livestock superintendents put in a large amount of time during the fair during check-in, the show, round robin, auction, etc. Special thanks to the fair board for their support of the 4-H program and the countless hours they spend setting up for events, etc. Businesses and financial donors help provide youth with incentives for their projects. There are so many other individuals and businesses who are helpful and do things without any recognition and to all of you, thank you!

This was the first year, my oldest McKenzie showed a “big” calf, so it was great being able to watch her and be a “mom”. 

This year, I’d also like to thank everyone for allowing me the chance to be a “mom” on beef show day and help McKenzie get her three calves ready.  It was valuable time I was able to spend teaching her and being able to create memories. One of the best quotes someone once told me has stuck with me: “It’s better to be a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.” I saw a lot of sportsmanship being conducted in a positive manner this year which is refreshing at a time when so many people in our country, find things that are wrong and focus on those. Congratulations Clay and Fillmore County 4-H and FFA programs on a great week!

Source: Belgrad, W., Fisher, K., & Rayner, S. (1995). Tips for Teams: a Ready Reference for Solving Common Team Problems. McGraw-Hill: New York.


Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock

Farm Service Agency County Committee

It is important for one to stand for what they believe in and takes an active role in one’s community. Effective leadership is crucial to any community or organization.  An effective leader understands the issues at-hand, is knowledgeable in his/her area, knows the proper ways to motivate others, embraces change, can work in a variety of settings and with a variety of personalities, and involves the group or followers in important decision-making. That being said, remember that a leader is not only a political figure or someone that is well known, but a leader can be a farmer, local businessmen/women, or anyone in a community or organization.  For those individuals desiring to take on leadership roles, consider serving on the FSA County Committee. Details for how to step into this role follow.

photo of green leaf plants
Photo by Nico Brüggeboes on

Fillmore County USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Ryne Norton announced that the nomination period for local FSA county committees began on June 15, 2018. Nomination forms must be postmarked or received in the Fillmore County FSA Office by Aug. 1, 2018. Producers play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of FSA, making important decisions on programs dealing with disaster and conservation, emergencies, commodity loan price support, county office employment and other agricultural issues.

“County committees are unique to FSA and allow producers to have a voice on federal farm program implementation at the local level,” said CED Norton. “It is also important that committees are comprised of members who fairly represent the diverse demographics of production agriculture for their community. I encourage all producers, including women, minority and beginning farmers and ranchers, to participate in the nomination and election process.”

Producers can nominate themselves or others. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women and minority producers, may also nominate candidates to better serve their communities. To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program and reside in the area where the election is being held.

This year, nominations and elections for Fillmore County will be held in local administrative area 2, which includes Bennett, Geneva, Grafton, Momence and West Blue Townships. To be considered, a producer must sign an FSA-669A nomination form. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at, or from the Fillmore County FSA office. Visit for more information.

Election ballots will be mailed to eligible voters beginning Nov. 5, 2018. Read more to learn about important election dates.

Posted in Crops, Irrigation

New Cropping Systems Educator

On behalf of the Clay County Extension staff, we’d like to welcome Michael Sindelar to the Extension Family as he is the new cropping and water systems educator based out of Clay Center in Clay County. Here is a little bit about Michael:

Photo by Alejandro Barrón on

“I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. However, I was exposed to agriculture at a young age as my father would take me to the family farm located near Richland, Nebraska in Colfax county to “help” with the farm work. I joined the Navy in 2005 and served until 2010. I was a cryptologist collective (CTR) and worked in military intelligence. I was stationed out of Hawaii for my enlistment. I had the opportunity to see parts of the pacific and spent one year deployed in Afghanistan where I collected intelligence and conducted combat operations. After having fun for a couple of years I got my act together and earned a bachelor’s degree in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska. This spring I completed my master’s degree in Agronomy with a specialization in soil and water science from the University of Nebraska. I spent most of my master’s degree studying how changes in soil management affect soil water storage, recharge, and heat as storage and transfer through the soil. I look forward to starting my new position on Monday. I sign most of my emails using V/R which is a carryover from the military meaning very respectfully.”

His email address is