IFAS News

University of Florida

Youth potato project plants seeds of STEM careers

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the Flagler County 4-H members started growing their own potato plants at home, they were a little worried at first.

“They would come to me and say, ‘I don’t see any potatoes on my plant. What’s wrong?’” said Amy Hedstrom, a Flagler County 4-H youth development agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

“That was the day they learned potatoes grew in the ground, not above-ground,” Hedstrom said. ‘“Aha” moments like these really open their eyes to the science behind the food we eat.”

These youth are part of the Tri-County 4-H Potato Project created in 2015 by the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H programs in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. In addition to growing their own potatoes, youth also participate in planting and harvest field days at the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Extension Center facility on Cowpen Branch Road.

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UF/CALS student facilitates national 4-H conference roundtable with FBI

Topic(s): 4-H, CALS, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida student recently led a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C., with Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives on cyber bullying. Students even got advice from former 4-H participant FBI Director James Comey.

During the 2017 National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. from March 25 to 30, UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student Jose Alvarez led the social equity roundtable of 4-H delegates. Alvarez was partnered as a facilitator with FBI representatives to guide the delegates in creating a social media campaign and slogan to address cyber bullying.

Comey told the 4-H delegates about his 4-H experiences as a child and spent some time with them answering career-related questions and how to leverage their 4-H skills in their future occupations.

The 4-H delegates presented their final project, titled “Celebr8 Us,” to FBI representatives on March 28 to be considered as a potential solution to be implemented by the bureau. The social media project incorporated eight pillar topics from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The students aimed to create a welcoming environment on social media with their project presentation. Messages focused on testimonials and positive solutions, such as “giving compliments generously.”

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Lake County 4-H club opens first of five miniature community libraries

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

Who:    The Deep Roots 4-H club supported through the Lake County 4-H Youth Development Program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

What:    Thanks to funding and donations from the Florida State 4-H Foundation, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Bob Strier of Bookman Bob, Ace Hardware and local residents, the Deep Roots 4-H club members have planned and constructed five miniature community libraries, four to be installed at local public parks and one that will travel with the club to events.

The libraries will house 5,000 books donated by Bookman Bob, and most will be for young readers. The project aims to help more children access books and experience the joy of reading. Borrowers do not need a library card, and there are no late fees.

The opening of the first library will coincide with several youth soccer games at the same location. About 400 youth are expected to participate in these games. The Deep Roots 4-H club will invite players to discover the library and learn about the project.

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4-H youth have voices heard at state Capitol on March 23

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida State Capitol will be a sea of clover green on March 23 when approximately 500 4-H youth visit with state representatives and senators, and learn about the legislative process firsthand.

The day will include a group photo in front of the Historic Capitol building, a speech from Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, meetings with state legislatures and a tour of the Capitol complex.

“This is a very special event and one that is very near to my heart,” said Chris DeCubellis, associate state program leader for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension 4-H youth development program.  “The idea of providing a framework in which young people can interact directly with their elected officials is an exciting prospect.”

Students will learn much from a firsthand look at government, DeCubellis said.

“This 4-H program provides an outstanding opportunity for our young people to understand how our government works and how their voices can be appropriately heard at the highest levels,” DeCubellis said. “We want our 4-H members to go on to be contributing members of their society, and this is an example of a program that helps youth on that positive journey.”

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UF/IFAS Extension faculty win seed money through new Shark Tank-style program

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Facial recognition software is no longer a thing of the future. But what if similar technologies could one day help farmers identify pests in the field?

Steve Futch, multi-county citrus agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, thinks it’s possible. And thanks to the new UF/IFAS Extension Entrepreneurship Program, he and other UF/IFAS Extension faculty now have more of the tools they need to make their ideas a reality.

“One of the missions of UF/IFAS Extension is to connect Floridians with science-based information that will improve their quality of life. Our relationships with our clientele are always evolving, so we are always reassessing and rethinking how we can better serve our audience,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “Entrepreneurial thinking can help us get out of our comfort zone and approach problems in new and creative ways.”

Jan. 17 to 19, UF/IFAS Extension faculty members from around the state heard presentations from several UF entrepreneurship experts, including Elio Chiarelli, entrepreneurship specialist with the UF/IFAS Center for Leadership. As a doctoral student in the UF department of agricultural education and communication, Chiarelli’s research focused on successful entrepreneurship within agriculture and natural resources.

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UF/IFAS Extension Baker County breaks ground on new teaching orchard

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you want to know how best to prune a fruit tree or even how to plant one, Alicia Lamborn can do more than just tell you—she can take you out back and show you.

Lamborn, a horticulture agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Baker County, recently received a $500 grant from Miracle Grow to establish a fruit tree orchard in the arboretum behind the county office. She’ll use the area to teach residents how to care for plum, fig, persimmon and other types of fruit trees.

“I’m a learn-by-doing kind of person, and that’s how I prefer to teach others,” Lamborn said. “For locals who have always wanted to grow fresh fruit in their backyard, the demonstration orchard is a place where they can get the hands-on experience they’ll need to be successful.”

The learn-by-doing approach was on display earlier this month when Lamborn and 4-H agent Shaina Spann led a group of Florida Master Gardeners, 4-H volunteers and 4-H youth in planting over a dozen fruit trees, as well as blackberry and blueberry bushes, in the orchard area.

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50 Florida 4-H youth to attend presidential inauguration

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On Jan. 20, 50 youth from the Florida 4-H youth development program will attend the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., to learn more about U.S. democracy and civic engagement.

“4-H believes in learning by doing, and this is an opportunity for our young people to be really engaged in our political process at the highest level,” said Chris Decubellis, associate state program leader for Florida 4-H youth development.

Florida 4-H members will attend the inauguration as part of the Citizenship Washington Focus program, a national program held in Washington, D.C., and attended by 4-H members from across the country ages 14 to 19. 4-H members confirmed their attendance for the inauguration nine months prior to the Nov. 2016 election.

Florida 4-H members will arrive in the capital on Jan. 17 and stay through Jan. 20.

“I am excited for the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and witness such a monumental event in history,” said Gabi Sullivan, an attendee from Marion County and president of the Florida 4-H State Council. “Attending the inauguration is a once in a lifetime event for me, and I believe the experience will open my mind to many new ideas and people.”

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Florida 4-H annual meeting celebrates successes, looks to the future

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida 4-H agents spend their careers helping young people learn life skills that put them on the path to becoming successful adults. However, these dedicated professionals also know that learning is a lifelong process.

At the 2017 4-H Youth Development Institute, Florida 4-H faculty and staff  from across the state will come together to learn from each other and share success stories from their own 4-H communities. The institute is set for Jan. 10 to 12 at the Hilton Hotel in Ocala, Florida.

“At the 4-H Youth Development Institute, we work to provide our wonderful 4-H agents with the latest science behind positive youth development and the latest youth development curricula,” said Chris DeCubellis, associated state program leader for 4-H youth development with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. “We also provide training for the organization and volunteer systems necessary to provide positive experiences for Florida’s Youth.”

“We are striving for the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program to be the premier youth development program in the nation,” DeCubellis said. “In order for this to happen, we must have the best-trained professionals in the business.”

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4-H Tech Wizards gives Hastings youth science education, confidence

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Each week, 28 middle schoolers from Hastings, Florida, gather at the W.E. Harris Community Center, where they practice programming robots to light up and move around or learn the physics behind the bow and arrow. These 4-H Tech Wizards are not just getting a leg up in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—but also developing life skills they might otherwise miss out on.

“Most of these youth have grown up under difficult circumstances,” said Julia Kelly, 4-H agent with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County. “Some were born drug addicted or come from homes that receive public assistance, while others are cared for by a single parent or have one parent who is incarcerated.”

UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County is one of six Florida counties—including Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Duval, Osceola and Broward—that has a 4-H Tech Wizards program.

“Youth arrive with a with a variety of science backgrounds and skill levels, so our goal is to supplement what they are learning in class and spark an interest in science they may not have known they had,” said Kelly.

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Hardee County 4-H alumna: Attitude, perseverance are the keys to success

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Livestock

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the most important lessons Destiny McCauley ever learned happened in the show ring: “Never give up, even when you think you’ve lost,” she says.

After the first round of a cattle showmanship competition, McCauley, a long-time Hardee County 4-H member, was put last in the line of contestants, which usually signals a low score, she explained. Thinking she had already lost, McCauley just went through the motions in the second round.

She later found out the judges were testing her resolve. Her placement in the line-up had nothing to do with her score. After the first round, McCauley was in first place, but, after her lackluster second round, she had dropped to third.

Now, as she gets ready to graduate from the University of Western Kentucky with a double major in animal science and communications, that experience in the show ring still impacts the way she faces challenges.

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