For many 4-H and FFA youth, projects have been well underway since the first of the year and beyond. 4-H and FFA youth enroll in projects, utilize curriculum and resources designed to help youth grow essential skills needed to enter exhibits at the fair which showcase their knowledge and skills gained. Extension staff and 4-H volunteers have offered numerous educational workshops for youth in a wide variety of topics from computer coding, cupcake decorating, plant science investigation, sewing, fishing and others. Youth have also participated in public speaking, a culinary food challenge and soon the clothing and fashion day.
Amusement park with ferris wheel background with copy space.
Probably the most visible part of the 4-H youth development program is the county fair. The fair provides youth the opportunity to showcase their exhibits with community members. In our area, fairs are rapidly approaching.
One of the many projects I have been working on this spring has been some lessons how plants and animals react to the sun, especially with regards to a total solar eclipse. You may or may not be aware, but over 200 Nebraska communities fall within path of totality, or the path of the shadow where observers will see the moon completely over the sun for roughly two and a half minutes. During the total solar eclipse, the moon’s umbral shadow will fly across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, in a little over 90 minutes. This is the first eclipse through the contiguous United States since 1979, according to NASA records.
In response to this rare and unique opportunity, Nebraska Extension and Raising Nebraska are partnering with the Hastings Museum to offer solar eclipse training for teachers and youth professionals in advance of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The training will provide participants with eclipse resources and lesson plans they can use in their classroom, after-school setting or organization.
The total solar eclipse is a remarkable phenomenon that not many have the opportunity to witness. Nebraska’s wide open spaces will be one of the best places to view the eclipse so we want to help youth professionals capitalize on this exciting teaching opportunity. The training will educate participants on exactly what the eclipse is and how they can take lessons from concept to application. The curriculum will also be applicable beyond the Aug. 21 event, covering topics such as nocturnal animals, how sundials work and why sunlight is critical for plants.
All trainings are free to attend and will be held from 2 – 4 p.m. Training dates and locations are:
June 1: Raising Nebraska, Nebraska State Fairgrounds, 501 E. Fonner Park Rd., Grand Island
June 15: Hastings Museum, 1330 N. Burlington Ave., Hastings
June 18: Raising Nebraska
July 27: Training via Zoom video conference
To register for the June 15 training at the Hastings museum, please call 402-461-2339. To register for all other trainings, visit go.unl.edu/solareclipse. Space is limited.
For more information contact Beth Janning, Science and Agriculture in Action Educator at Raising Nebraska at 308-385-3967 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Raising Nebraska is a joint effort of Nebraska Extension within the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska State Fair.
One of the statewide programs I coordinate is the Youth Crop Scouting Competition which engages youth in the crop sciences. It provides youth with real-world scenarios in crop production as they diagnose plant diseases, crop disorders, identify insects and weeds and other challenges producers currently face.
Registration is now open for the 2017 Youth Crop Scouting Competition to be held this August in eastern Nebraska. The contest is open to FFA and 4-H club members and will help those interested in crops test their skills and those new to crops better understand crop production.
To prepare for the contest youth are encouraged to learn about crop growth and development and basic crop scouting principles. If a group doesn’t know a lot about crops, they’re encouraged to ask a local agronomist to assist by providing a short lesson on crop production at regular meetings or outside of the meeting.
The crop scouting contest will be held at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (ENREC, formerly ARDC) near Mead on Aug. 1. The event will include both indoor and outdoor events. Teams of three to five junior high or high school students (those completing 7-12th grades) from across Nebraska are invited to participate.
FFA Chapters or 4-H Clubs may enter a team composed of three or four participants. An adult team leader must accompany each team of students. Team leaders could be FFA advisors, crop consultants, extension staff, coop employees, etc.
Top-scoring teams win prizes: $500 for first, $250 for second, $100 for third place. The top two teams will be eligible for regional competition in August at Indiana.
Teams will be expected to know the basics of scouting corn and soybean fields. This includes crop staging; looking for patterns of crop injury; disease, insect and weed seedling identification; etc. Other topics may include but are not limited to pesticide safety, nutrient disorders, and herbicide injury.
More information about the crop scouting competition and instructions on how to register a team are available online in the Youth section of CropWatch under “Crop Scouting Competition” and in the contest flyer. The program is limited to 10 teams so be sure to register soon! Teams must be registered by July 20.
In an effort to promote the wide variety of programming Nebraska Extension offers, this week’s column features a brief summary from Kayla Colgrove, extension educator in the foods and nutrition area. Nebraska Extension is increasing its healthy lifestyle programming to combat childhood obesity across the state by implementing programs to improve healthy eating and physical activity patterns in youth. Extension professionals focused on food, nutrition, and health, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, 4-H and The Learning Child are teaming up to create healthier home, school and community environments to make healthy choices, the more desirable choice.
“There is a critical need to reduce childhood overweight and obesity rates by encouraging healthy habits,” said Nebraska Extension Educator Kayla Colgrove. “Extension programming not only improves eating patterns and increases physical activity in youth, but it also helps create those environments that support healthier living.”
Through statewide programming and dynamic partnerships, Extension team members reached over 63,000 Nebraskans with programs focused on healthy habits in 2016. The programs are designed to teach children and youth how to choose healthy food and beverages, prepare food safely, fun ways to be active, alternatives to screen time and more.
Along with the focus on community and home, Extension is also focused on helping to create a healthy environment in Nebraska schools. Recently, a collaboration between Extension, Tri County Public Schools, Nebraska Team Nutrition and several local businesses culminated in a farmers market at the school. During the lunch hour, nearly 400 Tri County students were able to sample a variety of locally grown food, including vegetables from the school’s new hydroponic garden system.
During the farmers market, Colgrove shared smoothie samples with the students that featured spinach as a main ingredient. Other samples included hummus, whole grain bread, local meats from Frank’s Smokehouse, cheese sticks from Classic Dairy and ice cream from Prairieland Dairy. The farmers market was a way to show students the different types of vegetables they could grow in their own garden. The school district’s goal is to grow vegetables that could be introduced into their school lunch program. Their hydroponic garden is soil-less, and feeds plants in water. They are currently growing heads of lettuce.
Extension is also helping Nebraska schools implement smarter lunchroom strategies. This effort is the result of a partnership between Extension, 4-H, SNAP-Ed, Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Team Nutrition, and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The smarter lunchroom strategies provide low to no cost solutions to reduce food waste and increase the consumption of healthy foods. Extension staff provide technical assistance to schools by helping the food service staff identify and diagnose school lunchroom challenges, and develop strategies to promote healthy choices.
Additionally, school enrichment kits are available for elementary school teachers to assist in teaching nutrition and physical activity in their classrooms. The kits are designed to meet national health and state science standards. The kits include education on MyPlate food groups, basic nutrients, label reading, and planning a balanced meal. All materials needed to teach each lesson are included in the kits.
The goals of these efforts are for children and youth to increase consumption of healthy foods and beverages, engage in healthy levels of physical activity, and make the healthy choice, the more desirable choice. To learn more about Extension’s efforts in this area, watch a video at http://go.unl.edu/issue2.
Statistics from those impacted by a farm-related injury or death are sobering. Many know someone who was impacted by a farm accident that in many cases could have been prevented. This is why I feel so passionately about conducting the Annual Progressive Safety Day each year. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation provides safety and health information to rural communities that need it, which is why I’ve teamed up with them. The mission of Progressive Agriculture Days is simple – to provide education, training, and resources to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.
During the program’s first year, a total of 2,800 participants and volunteers were reached throughout the South and Midwest and now the program impacts close to 110,000 annually. To date, the program has impacted more than 1.3 million children and adults.
Current 1st through 6th graders are invited to attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Day on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds. Youth will participate in a variety of events designed to help them be aware of safety in potentially hazardous situations such as bike riding, agricultural settings, electrical safety and others. This year, youth will walk away with an emergency disaster kit to use in the case of storms and other emergencies. Registration and consent form is REQUIRED by all youth who participate. This can be found at fillmore.unl.edu or by stopping by the Extension Office in Geneva or Clay Center.
April 21st is early bird registration at only $5 per child that includes a t-shirt, lunch, snack and goodie bag. After April 21st registration increases to $10 per youth in order to participate.
This event is conducted by Nebraska Extension in Fillmore/Clay Counties, Shickley and Fillmore Central FFA chapters, 4-H and W.I.F.E. For more info or to register, call 402-759-3712 or email email@example.com.
Federal law prohibits youth less than 16 years of age from working on a farm for anyone other than parents or legal guardians. Certification received through this course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with specific mechanized equipment.
The most common cause of agricultural-related death in Nebraska is overturned tractors and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Extensive training on Tractor and ATV safety occurs during in-class lessons with hands-on activities. Instilling an attitude of ‘safety first’ and respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the course.
The course consists of two days of instruction plus homework assignments. The first day of classroom instruction includes hands-on demonstrations, concluding with a written test. Students are required to pass the test before taking the driving test on day two. Classroom instruction will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program. Students will complete homework assignments that will be due on day two. The second day will include a driving test, equipment operation, and ATV safety lessons. To receive certification, students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course.
Two locations, Gordon and McCook, will offer online course instruction to replace the first day of the two-day course. Students complete this at their convenience before attending the driving component of the course on-site.
All on-site classes begin at 8:00 A.M. and end times will vary, depending on the number of participants. Dates, locations, and Site Coordinator phone numbers are as follows: May 30 & 31 – Kearney Fairgrounds (308) 236-1235; June 1 & 2 – Auburn Fairgrounds (402) 245-4324; June 6 & 7 – Valentine Fairgrounds (402) 376-1850; June 13 & 14 – North Platte West Central Research and Extension Center (308) 532-2683; June 15 & 16 – Gering Legacy Museum (308) 632-1480; June 19 & 20 – Wayne Fairgrounds (402) 584-2234; June 22 – Gordon Fairgrounds (308) 327-2312; June 23 – McCook Fairgrounds (308) 345-3390; July 10 & 11 – Grand Island College Park (308) 385-5088.
Participants must submit registration forms to the location they will attend at least one week before the course. The registration form is available online: kearney.unl.edu. Cost of the course is $60, which includes educational materials, instruction, supplies, and lunches. For more information, contact the Extension Office of the location where student will attend.
The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) hosts National Agriculture Day on March 21, 2017. This marks the 44th anniversary of National Ag Day, which is celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country. The theme for National Ag Day 2017 is “Agriculture: Food For Life.” The purpose of National Agriculture Day is to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. A number of producers, agricultural associations, corporations, students and government organizations involved in agriculture are expected to participate.
National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society. The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:
Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.
Since National Ag Day is one day out of the year, it is important for us to note that we everyday we should promote agriculture and share our story. Did you know how amazing Nebraska agriculture is? The Nebraska Department of Agriculture publishes some statistics that are interesting to read! For example, nationally, Nebraska ranks first in popcorn production, Great northern bean production and commercial red
meat production. Nebraska ranks second on pinto bean production, number of head of bison and proso millet production. We rank third for corn grain production and corn exports and fourth in cash receipts for all farm commodities. Nebraska ranks fifth soybean and grain sorghum production.
Cash receipts from farm marketings contributed over $23 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2015 and 6.1 percent of the U.S. total. Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.22 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production. Nebraska’s $6.4 billion in agricultural exports in 2015 translate into $7.8 billion in additional economic activity.
One in four jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture, thus the importance agriculture has on our economy. In Extension, we have several great programs that not only teach youth the importance of agriculture, but also strive to make youth aware of the numerous career opportunities in agriculture. As technology continues to advance, types of careers in agriculture will also continue to expand.
In conclusion, while March 21st is one day devoted to celebrating agriculture, we should celebrate agriculture everyday. If you ate, thank a farmer or rancher who produced your food. From the food we eat to the clothes we wear, tires on our cars, toothpaste, crayons, windshield wiper fluid, etc., we need to thank our American farmers and ranchers for providing us with products that are affordable and good for the environment. Thank you farmers and ranchers!