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.

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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.

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Alexis has been instrumental in maintaining our community garden. 

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.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.”

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!

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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.

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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!

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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 Livestock, Youth

Sportsmanship & Youth Development

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Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines sportsmanship as “conduct becoming to an individual involving fair and honest competition, courteous relations and graceful acceptance of results”.  Sportsmanship starts with parents teaching their youth how to accept a win or a loss, although in the 4-H youth development program, even if the youth receives a red ribbon, nothing is lost as long as some basic knowledge and skills were gained. Too often in our society we focus on the tangible results of a ribbon or trophy and don’t think about the process that youth went through to achieve the end results and what was learned from that process.

I often use the example that as a youth, I’ll never forget receiving a red ribbon for a market heifer; I was disappointed, but will never forget my dad asking me, what the judge said in the comments.  After we talked it over, I realized his reasoning and was able to understand the type of animal I should select the following year. That was a lesson I’ll never forget.  My parents instilled the value of hard work into my sister and I and any animal we showed we bought with our own money to build a small cow/calf herd or they came from our own herd. We rarely had the award-winning animal and were extremely excited to even receive a purple ribbon. The learning that occurred, memories and fun we had were just as valuable than if we would have received a trophy or plaque.

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I enjoyed showing cattle and while purples were exciting to receive, the ribbon placing didn’t matter; it was the learning experience and fun had with friends!

For these reasons, it is really rewarding to work with youth who are happy with any ribbon placing- white, red, blue or purple. It really is just one person’s opinion on one particular day!

The 4-H Program focuses on providing positive youth development and developing young people as future leaders. A ribbon or plaque placing does not achieve this; rather it is the process, skills and effort that went into the project.  It is also important to mention that the entire 4-H program extends beyond the county fair and is done through educational workshops, career portfolios, leadership experiences and much more and is a year-round program.

Three reasons adults and teen leaders should be concerned with developing sportsmanship are:

  1. Youth programs are easier to conduct and are more positive experiences for everyone involved if good sportsmanship is demonstrated.
  2. The development of sportsmanship is an important part of youth development. Youth and adults who develop and show good sportsmanship get along better, and are much more successful on a long-term basis in becoming self-directing, productive, contributing, competent, caring, capable adults, than are those whose behavior is un-sportsmanship-like.
  3. Sportsmanship is one of the key elements of civilized society. Those who think of the “big picture” know the reasons for developing sportsmanship extend beyond an individual, a community, or a program. When societies allow sportsmanship to decline, their civilizations also decline.

As we get ready for another County Fair, let’s be reminded that the end result is not the ribbon placing, but the skills that each youth learned!

Source: Kathryn J. Cox, Ohio Extension 4-H Specialist, Youth Development, Developing Sportsmanship- A Resource For Preparing Youth And Their Families For Participation in Competitive Programs and Events, 2006

Posted in Youth

Helping Others

One of the things I love about rural communities is the amount of help and support given when people go through difficult times. I can attest to that, on two occasions. For example, when my mom had her stroke in 2011, neighbors, coworkers and friends stepped up to provide support, send cards and helped out when I was needing to make trips to visit her. Also in 2011, 2012 and 2014, I was laid up with ankle surgery and very blessed that many people in the community helped watch my girls, made meals for our family and showed many other acts of kindness.  A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my favorite, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

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Photo by imagesthai.com on Pexels.com

You might be wondering why I am writing about this topic of helping others. A part of the 4-H pledge is to “pledge one’s hands to larger service” and “heart to greater loyalty”. These are the values we try to instill in our 4-H youth. It is great to see youth helping each other during 4-H workshops and programs and friendships being made. There is actually research that shows how helping others has benefits for themselves. A professor, Thomas G. Plante from Santa Clara University and adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry at Stanford University has found that his students who attend a spring break trip working with people in poor and marginalized areas managed stress better than those who did not attend trips. He believes the research finding is due to a matter of perspective. Additionally, when helping others, you generally experience more empathy, compassion and solidarity with others as well.

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Youth helping each other at a 4-H workshop!

As we approach county fair season, it is important to remind adults, as well as youth of 4-H’s core values of helping others with our hands. It might improve their stress management abilities and make for a smoother fair for all involved. Rather than seeking out problems, remember the 4-H pledge and help others. You’ll likely be happier and create a better experience for everyone around you. So, instead of only worrying about your exhibits or animals or trying to get others in trouble, consider helping a fellow exhibitor and fill one’s bucket with water or calling that person and telling them their animal is running low on water. If an exhibitor is struggling to know where to check-in their static exhibit, offer to help them.

By practicing these small acts of kindness, you might be surprised how much less stressed you and those around you will be. I am certainly appreciative of a 4-H parent who helped my daughter last year by putting her calf in after it somehow got out of its pen. “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”  If we practice these principles, we can make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Posted in Programming, Youth

Keeping Youth Safe

That, “no child would become ill, injured or die from farm, ranch and rural activities.” That is the vision for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation governs and secures funding solely to educate youth and families on ways to make farm, ranch and rural life safer for children and their families. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation is the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America, which Fillmore County is proud to provide one of those programs. In fact, over 400 safety days are planned across the United States & Canada reaching over 104,000 participants in 2018 alone. Since 1995, the Progressive Ag Safety Foundation and its sponsors has provided resources for over 6,972 safety days have occurred reaching nearly 1.3 million participants and over 347,000 volunteers.IMG_2378.jpg

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On May 24, 2018 Nebraska Extension in Fillmore & Clay Counties coordinated Progressive Agriculture Safety Day for 128 area youth in collaboration with the local WIFE (Women Involved in Farm Economics), Emergency Management and Fillmore Central and Shickley FFA Chapters. The event for youth who just completed 1st to 6th grades provided hands-on activities for youth on a variety of topics from knife safety to healthy lifestyles to lawnmower safety.

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This program is possible through the assistance of numerous volunteers from varying agencies or businesses including Plains Power, Nick’s Farm Store, Perennial Public Power, Fortify Group, Nebraska Extension, Shickley and Fillmore Central FFA Chapters. Sponsorship from W.I.F.E. (Women Involved in Farm Economics), Fortify, Fillmore County Emergency Management, Fortigen, Sutton Vision Center and Harre Seed. Lunch was served and provided by the Fillmore Central FFA Booster Club.

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New this year, youth learned about the severity of the opioid epidemic and were given information on its devastating effects on people. Goody bags with lots of resources and other activities were sent home with the record-breaking number of participants. Each family received a weather radio this year as well. Local coordinator, Brandy VanDeWalle attends the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day training and works to coordinate this collaborative event. For information on how to be involved locally in the future, contact Brandy at the Fillmore County Extension Office at 402-759-3712.

Posted in Crops, Programming, Youth

Connecting Youth with Crops

Looking for a fun project for 4-H or FFA youth? Want to unite your club members? Running out of ideas for youth projects?  If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, help is on the way!  Nebraska Extension is pleased to present the 5th annual Crop Scouting Competition for Nebraska youth. Youth interested in crops have the opportunity to learn about crop growth & development and basic crop scouting principles.IMG_9071.jpg

Don’t know a lot about crops?  Ask a local agronomist to assist by providing a short lesson on crop production. You can have the agronomist meet with youth a little during each meeting or outside of the meeting. This is one way to engage those youth interested in crops.

This contest will be held at the ARDC near Mead, Nebraska on July 26, 2018. The event will include both indoor and outdoor events. Teams of junior high and high school students (those completing 5-12th grades) from across Nebraska are invited to participate. This event is limited to the first ten teams who sign-up!

Clubs or other organizations may enter a team composed of three to five participants. An adult team leader must accompany each team of students. Team leaders could be FFA advisors, crop consultants, extension staff, coop employees, etc.IMG_9110.jpg

Top-scoring teams win prizes: $500 for first, $250 for second, $100 for third place. Top two teams will be eligible for regional competition in August at Nebraska.

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 many 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 at cropwatch.unl.edu/youth. Register at: go.unl.edu/cropscoutingregistration. For more questions, contact me at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402) 759-3712.

Teams must be registered by July 18. This program is sponsored by Nebraska Independent Crop Consultant Association, DuPont Pioneer, Farm Credit Services of America and Nebraska Extension.

Posted in Programming, Youth

Raise Your Hand for 4-H

cropped-n_4h-ext-3c.pngNebraska 4-H currently reaches one in three youth through 4-H programming. Considering the amazing benefits youth experience through participation in 4-H programming, Nebraska 4-H anticipates reaching one in two youth by the year 2020. In order to achieve this goal, leadership of Nebraska 4-H asked counties to establish growth goals for their local 4-H programs beginning in 2014. These growth goals were meant to encourage and challenge 4-H programs to think of creative and innovative ways to engage more youth in 4-H programming. While reaching one in two youth may initially seem overly ambitious, fifty four counties currently reach one in two youth through their 4-H programs. This is due, in large part, to the great work of our 4-H alumni and volunteers. Fortunately, Fillmore and Clay Counties have already achieved this goal and are working to expand even more through diverse audiences.

Recently, the National 4-H Council announced their own growth goal of reaching ten million youth through 4-H programming by 2025. They asked all states to begin setting growth goals to help them achieve this. It is great to see Nebraska 4-H setting the standard for growth and leading the way as we work to give as many youth as possible the opportunity to make their best, better.

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How can you be a part of Nebraska 4-H reaching one in two youth by 2020? Invite new members to join 4-H clubs, perform community outreach projects in the county, or invite your child’s teacher to utilize school enrichment programs in their classroom. Are you on social media? As you share great accomplishments with 4-H members and use the hashtag #4Hgrowshere and #NE4H. Even if you are not directly involved in 4-H programming, share great 4-H memories or experiences that helped you make the best better. Growing the reach of Nebraska 4-H begins with volunteers and alumni sharing their stories and shining the spotlight on the life changing moments experienced in 4-H. Help Nebraska 4-H continue to lead the way to reaching one in two youth in counties of our great state and ten million youth nationally.2018-04-13_1457.png

If you are a 4-H alum, don’t forget to Raise Your Hand! Together we can help 4-H provide the hands-on learning that empowers kids across America with the skills to handle what life throws at them.

It’s easy:

  1. Raise Your Hand: Go to www.4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to show your pride as a 4-H alumni.
  2. Compete for Your State: Raising your hand is a vote towards a $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000 award for the states with the most alumni hands raised. In Nebraska, this award will be used to reach more youth through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.
  3. Pay it Forward: Tweet, post and share your #4HGrown and #NE4H experience or support and tag fellow alumni asking them to raise their hands for their state at www.4-H.org/RaiseYourHand 

In addition, share the campaign by:

  • Adding the Nebraska 4-H Frame to Facebook Profile Picture – Log into Facebook. Click this link to change your profile picture. Search for “Nebraska 4-H” and click “Use as Profile Picture.”
  • Asking Four Friends to Raise Their Hand by Voting for Nebraska – Send an email, social media message, or text to four friends asking them to Raise Your Hand for Kids in Nebraska! Include the link to https://4-h.org/raise-your-hand.

Help kids learn responsibility, compassion, respect and the value of hard work by supporting 4-H. Together we can grow the next generation of true leaders.