Harvest Safety

It is hard to believe that harvest will soon be starting and just as a reminder that with harvest comes more traffic on the county roads and other stresses for farmers. It never fails, that equipment can break, there can be delays at the elevator and those extra-long hours can all add extra stress to farmers. It is important to carefully slow down and realize the many hazards you are being exposed to during harvest.

An Iowa State Extension publication, Harvest Safety Yields Big Dividends points out that injuries can occur by taking shortcuts to perform routine tasks, not getting enough sleep or regular breaks, or failing to follow safety practices. Some injuries occur when operators are pulled into the intake area of harvesting machines, such as balers, combines, or corn pickers, and many injuries occur from slips or falls around these machines. Exposure to powerful machinery is highest during the harvest season. The equipment must be powerful to effectively handle large amounts of agricultural commodities. When equipment plugs, NEVER try to unplug it with live equipment, instead always disengage power and turn off the engine before trying to manually clear a plugged machine. Regular maintenance of these machines can also make harvest go smoother. Also, lots of accidents happen by the operator slipping and falling off equipment.

In the same publication listed above, there are several tips for reducing fall hazards: 

  • Always keep all platforms free of tools or other objects.
  • Frequently clean the steps and other areas where workers stand to service, mount, and dismount, or operate the machine.
  • Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Use grab bars when mounting or dismounting machinery.
  • Be sure your position is stable before you work on a machine.
  • Recognize that fatigue, stress, drugs or alcohol, and age may affect stability.

Other helpful tips during harvest are to keep kids away from machinery. Tell them the dangers that can occur and not to play near the equipment, even when it is shut off; you never know when they will be playing in hidden areas of the equipment. Operators should double check where kids are before moving the equipment. Too many accidents can occur when youth are in the path of equipment out of the operator’s view. Operators of all equipment should check in regularly and let someone know where you are. Keep all guards on equipment; it is there for a reason! 

It is also important for the public to understand the increased traffic on public roads and be patient. The greatest threat raised between farm equipment and passenger vehicles is the difference in speed. Farm equipment runs at an average speed of 20 miles per hour while passenger vehicles average 60 miles per hour. If the motor vehicle overtakes a tractor, the impact is comparable to a passenger vehicle hitting a brick wall at 40 miles per hour. If the tractor and a car, mini-van or pickup collides head on, the impact is the same as hitting a brick wall at 60 miles per hour.

Farmers can reduce the chances of an accident by using warning lights, reflectors, and reflective tape on their machinery to keep passenger vehicle operators aware of their presence on roads. Some farmers may choose to install supplemental lights to increase visibility. It also is a good idea for producers to keep off heavily traveled roads as much as possible and avoid moving equipment during the busiest part of the day.

Some farm equipment, such as combines, can take up more than half of the road. Even so, it is up to both drivers to be aware of their own limitations and adjust accordingly. Farmers should not take up more space than is needed, but other drivers should try to provide as much room as possible. It is a good idea for passenger vehicles to turn off onto side or field roads until larger machinery has passed. Whenever possible, farmers should use an escort vehicle such as a pickup to precede or follow large machinery and equipment on public roads. More than one escort may be necessary. Ideally, the escort vehicle would have extra warning lights and a sign indicating oversized or slow equipment ahead or following.

Have a safe harvest!


Free Movie!

Nebraska Extension in Fillmore County and, Nebraska AgrAbility and Easterseals Nebraska are proud to announce sponsorship of a major motion picture, titled, SILO available to your family. This movie is inspired by true events, in a rural U.S. town. Disaster strikes when a teenage becomes the victim of a grain entrapment accident. Family, neighbors and first responders must put aside their differences to rescue him from drowning in the 50-foot-tall silo where corn quickly turns to quicksand. SILO shows how dangerous modern farming can be, while also highlighting the ways in which communities’ band together to look after on another.  

Nebraska Extension in Fillmore County and, Nebraska AgrAbility and Easterseals Nebraskawill be making the movie link available to the public from at participating local ag businesses during Nat’l Farm Safety & Health Week. For more questions, contact the Fillmore County Extension Office at (402) 759-3712.  For services and supports to farmers and ranchers who have experienced serious accident or injury, or developed significant health conditions that impact farm/ranch operations, contact Nebraska AgrAbility at 402-984-3819 or visit the website at https://agrability.unl.edu/.


National Farm Safety Week

It is no coincidence that National Farm Safety and Health week falls in September. September marks a busy time for farmers as harvest begins. The busier we get, the increased chance for accidents to occur happens. This week, I’ve decided to share tips for farmers to keep safe this harvest season.

According to the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety, the theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week 2021 is “Farm Safety Yields Results”.  The 2019 data for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the agricultural sector is still the most dangerous in America with 573 fatalities, or an equivalent of 23.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. Fall harvest time can be one of the busiest and most dangerous seasons of the year for the agriculture industry. For this reason, the third week of September has been recognized as National Farm Safety and Health Week. This annual promotion initiated by the National Safety Council has been proclaimed as such by each sitting U.S. President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944. National Farm Safety and Health Week is led by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), the agricultural partner of the National Safety Council.  

Daily topics of focus this year include:

  • Monday, September 20th – Tractor Safety & Rural Roadway Safety
  • Tuesday, September 21st – Overall Farmer Health
  • Wednesday, September 22nd – Safety & Health for Youth in Agriculture
  • Thursday, September 23rd – Agricultural Fertilizer & Chemical Safety
  • Friday, September 24th – Safety & Health for Women in Agriculture

Nebraska is fortunate to have the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health. UNMC works with the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health and Risto Rautiainen, PhD provides the following farm machinery hazard reminders:

  • Protect grain augers to prevent cuts and laceration injuries.
  • Protect Power Take-Off shafts with guards to avoid entanglements.
  • Old tractors can have poor steps; if possible, purchase improved steps to prevent slips and falls.
  • Old tractors have poor seats which lead to muscle and joint pain. Replace them to protect your muscles and joints.
  • Use good lighting and marking to increase visibility on the road.
  • Use protected ladders or (preferably) stairways with guardrails in grain bins to reduce falls.
  • Do not enter a bin when the sweep auger is running.
  • Oil leaks from worn hydraulic lines can penetrate the skin and enter the blood stream.
  • Sharing the road with all types of traffic can be a challenge, so be aware of your surroundings.
  • Safety around powerlines should always be front of mind when operating large farm equipment.

Other tips from UNMC, include wearing N95 masks to protect your lungs from dust and wear hearing protection to protect your lungs. Keep fire extinguishers maintained and easily accessible. Talk to your children or children who plan to visit the farm and make sure they are aware of the hazards of large equipment. Do not enter the grain bin alone and communicate with others where you are located.

One thing often not though about is how stress and fatigue can cause accidents. One strategy to prevent clouded thinking is to take time between each task to THINK!  Take 5 deep breathes before moving on; this helps your brain function better. During this unique time of uncertainty with low commodity prices, weather-related challenges and in a pandemic, you are an essential work, not only to feed the country but most importantly to your family and friends. Be sure to take care of yourself this harvest season. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy meals and utilize your network of family and friends and ask for help if needed.

For more tips on farm safety, go to UNMC’s website at https://unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash or The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety’s site at https://www.necasag.org/. Wishing you all a very successful and safe harvest!


Establishing a Routine in the New School Year

Originally written by Dr. Jill Lingard in 2020
Modified by Dr. Michelle Krehbiel in 8/2021

The last year and a half have uprooted most people’s routines, sense of security, and understanding of how the world functions.  Social distancing, virtual meetings, online learning, and sanitizing are a common place in today’s world.  Thanks to science and the effectiveness of the vaccine life is returning to more familiar times.  Attending in-person classes, eating at restaurants, going to sporting events or concerts, and celebrating milestones with friends and family are some of the activities that might take some adjustments. As children and youth head back to school here are some tips to help establish routine and structure that children and youth need to grow and develop. 

  • Engage children and youth in planning a routine together. Adults and youth may have differing ideas about ways to spend time so, start by having a conversation about expectations.  Determine what activities are non-negotiable. Be clear about the expectations must be met. If possible, offer some choices for when these “must happen” activities take place.
  • Find a healthy balance between flexibility and consistency when establishing a routine. Creating plans that are too ambitious or rigid will be difficult to monitor and enforce.
  • Create a balanced routine that includes time for unstructured activity and fun.  Make time for playing outside, reading a book for enjoyment, engaging in an art or craft project, having a family game night, or cooking together. Remember that it is important not to overschedule the day. Both adults and youth need free time. 
  • Maintain self-care routines.  Eating a good diet, getting enough sleep (the CDC recommends that children and youth get at least eight hour a night), and engaging in regular exercise and hygiene habits are a key for success.
  • Successful routines should include intentional ways to keep young people connected to the important people in their lives. Staying connected to those we care about helps manage our feelings, become less isolated, and maintains a sense of mental well-being. 
  • Establish times of self-reflection such as meditation and journaling in a daily routine.  Times of self-reflection can help one gain a new perspective, be a healthy way to manage feelings and thoughts, and express gratitude. 

It is important to remember as a society we have experienced many different emotions, situations and events over the last 18 months. The beginning of the school year is a great time to help young people establish routine and structure in order for them to develop into caring, confident, and capable adults. 

More information and resources about youth social-emotional development in challenging times can be found at https://4h.unl.edu/supporting-young-people-through-change or by contacting your local county Nebraska Extension office.



What’s red with green, juicy and delicious fresh and can be canned into many popular items? That’s right, tomatoes!  Every year, we receive many questions about tomatoes and if you are like me, you love to canning with them to enjoy all products all year long!  Our regional horticultural expert, Nicole Stoner recently provided me with some information on tomatoes and fall gardening so I’m including this in my weekly column.

This year the weather has been quite abnormal. We started out with a very cool spring, after that the weather quickly shifted to hot, windy, and stormy. We are seeing quite a bit of problems with tomatoes lately and they all look similar but could be due to a few different problems.

Many people are seeing tomato plants with curling leaves. Most often these curled leaves are at the top of their plants and it is not usually all the plants that a person planted in their garden that are having problems. Sometimes it is just a couple of plants out of 10-12.

Tomatoes can produce so many delicious canned goods throughout the year.

Environmental Damage

The stress from the environment can be very harmful to our plants. When the weather quickly shifted to summer this year, it caused wilting from heat and drought stress. Sometimes that environmental stress can cause the leaves of tomato plants to curl upward. Watering can sometimes help this issue, but not always. The plants may need to get over the impacts on their own. With environmental issues, the plant will eventually grow out of the damage.

Another issue caused by the environment is called physiological leaf curl that can develop on tomato plants. This is a physiological issue, meaning it is a growth response in the plant. This response is caused by changes in the environment, usually when weather shifts from spring to summer. Typically, the plant will recover on its own. Correct irrigation can help speed up this process.

Herbicide Injury

Herbicide injury is something that we often see in our plants. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to drift from 2,4-D and Dicamba products. With herbicide drift, curling, cupping, and vein distortion of leaves. The plant will likely grow new leaves that are not affected and look fine. However, it is not advised to eat fruits or vegetables from plants that were hit by herbicide drift, due to the variables regarding the herbicide, there is no way to know when or if they will be safe for consumption.

This year, since we were having such a chilly spring, we were able to spray herbicides later in the season. Then, when the temperatures shifted so quickly and these products were still being used, we had a lot more volatilization of the products making them move to our plants.


There is also a virus known as Beet Curly Top that can also be found in tomatoes. The experts are suggesting that this could be part of the problem as well. The symptoms from this virus are very similar to herbicide injury. As with all virus diseases, there is no cure for the plant. It is best to pull the infected plants as soon as the virus is noticed and destroy them to reduce the chance for spread of the virus.

So, whether your plants are facing herbicide injury or a virus, the best option is to remove the plants. This will reduce the chances of all your plants getting the disease and be safest for your household. If it is an environmental issue, the plants will grow out of it. If you are unsure of the cause, it is best to remove the plants. Be sure to keep them watered as necessary through the summer or early fall to help reduce the problems.

If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, or like her facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture and follow her on twitter @Nikki_Stoner.

Crops, Uncategorized, Youth

Youth Crop Scouting Winners

Nebraska Extension has worked hard to push through the struggles of 2020 and 2021. From moving everything online suddenly to slowly brining in person events back the past two years have been roller-coaster. This year’s Youth Crop Scouting Competition was able to be held in person at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center. Teams were able to talk with Extension staff and scout real plots at the Research Center. This competition is a great experience for those wanting to work in many different fields of agriculture. This competition provides a fun competitive environment where teams can receive hands on learning about all aspects of crop scouting.  

Five teams competed in the 2021 competition.

Receiving first place and a cash prize of $500 was Kornhusker Kids team coached by Chris Schiller. Team members were James Rolf, Ethan Kreikemeier, Kaleb Hasenkamp, Levi Schiller, and Ian Schiller.  Second place went to Arlington FFA team coached by Kali Agler. Team members were Braden Monke and Aaron Fuchs, the team received $250. Third place with a $100 cash award was Colfax County 4-H #1 team coached by Steve Nelson. Team members were Hayden Bailey, Josh Eisenmann, Eliza Bailey, and Mic Sayers. 

Also participating was West Elk Creek 4-H Club coached by Jon Schmid. Team members include Wesley Schmid, Cameron Werner, Levi Othmer, Reese Badertscher and Sophie Schmid. Colfax County 4-H #2 team was coached by Steve Nelson. Team members were Daphne Jedlicka, Cody Jedlicka, and Callen Jedlicka.  

Continuing this year was an online session of “Ask an Agronomist” where Nebraska Extension agronomists and specialists presented basic information that could be as part of the competition which allowed more interaction between the judges and participants.  

An online regional competition will be held among Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky teams. Participants from Kornhusker Kids 4-H and Arlington FFA will compete representing their county and the state of Nebraska in September. 

The 2021 Youth Crop Scouting Competition was sponsored by the Nebraska Independent Crop Consultant Association and Ward Laboratories in collaboration with Nebraska Extension.

For more information on the Youth Crop Scouting Competition, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or go to https://cropwatch.unl.edu/youth.   


In the Garden

Great gardening tips from Nicole Stoner…

Plants and Pests with Nicole

This time of year our gardens are really growing well, but in some cases so are the problems. I thought I would take some time to describe some common problems we are seeing in the garden currently.

Poor production

In unfavorable weather, we don’t see reduced or stalled out fruit production on our vegetable plants. Some of our plants have no fruits developing at all while others have fruits on the plant that simply won’t ripen. When it gets so hot and it stays that way for many days in a row, that is not optimal conditions for production. When our days get hotter than 85 degrees Fahrenheit and our night’s stay warmer than 70 degrees, tomato production slows and can even stop altogether until conditions improve. Pollen can even become sterile in very hot conditions. There is nothing you can do for poor production due to heat, except to…

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Easing into the New School Year

While there are still a couple weeks of summer left for most youth, the start of school is quickly approaching.  One of my colleagues, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator serving Dodge County provided some great tips on routine and the important role that has in getting children off to a smooth start. 

First, Routine Matters!  Family routines are different from the family schedule…and probably more important. What’s the difference? Schedules tell you exactly when something is going to happen. Routines, on the other hand, consist of the regular actions that occur for a specific event each time it occurs, such as bedtime, getting ready to go somewhere, or dinner time. When we put routines in place for our families, it brings a sense of security that children really need. When kids know what to expect, and know what’s expected of them, their behavior will also improve.

Many times, routines happen naturally in our lives. We go through the same ritual as we get ready for bed, for instance, because certain things just must be done before we go to bed. Other times, routines will have to be learned. Having the kids help set the table, sitting down to dinner together as a family, and then everyone clearing the table as dinner is finished would be a family routine that most of us would have to learn. There are certain event routines that normally benefit every family. Bedtime, morning routines, getting ready to go somewhere, homework, and mealtimes are included in this list.

It’s impossible for someone else to tell you exactly what these routines should be. Every family is different. What works for one may not work for another. We can offer some suggestions to give you an idea of what a routine would consist of. But ultimately, you must create your own family routines with your own family.

Bedtime routines are very important to children. It will help them feel more comfortable as they go to sleep, so they will fall asleep sooner, get a better night’s sleep, and stay in their own beds all night. The important thing is that the routines are pretty much the same each night. You can change up the song or story, for example, but make sure that you sing a song or tell a story each night, if that is your routine.

During the summer, our family gets out of routine, but starts getting back into a routine prior to school starting.

Morning routines can vary greatly among families, and even from child to child within one family because of differing schedules. A family with both school-aged children and toddlers, for example, might have one routine with the older kids and another with the younger ones who don’t wake up until after the older ones are gone to school. A family with a stay-at-home parent will most likely have a different routine than families that have two parents working outside the home. When you do things in the same order each time, it will become habit for your family. Children will know what’s expected of them next. It will save time and frustration for the whole family!

Getting ready to go somewhere can be a chaotic experience if expectations are not set ahead of time. Give your kids a time frame to get ready and make sure they do not have to be rushed. That will cause someone to have a meltdown every time! Try this routine… Tell the kids that they have five minutes to finish what they are doing, and then it will be time to get ready to go. When the five minutes is up, announce that you are setting the timer for 30 minutes (timers are a mom’s best friend!). Have everything the kids will need set out for them-clothes, socks, shoes and gather anything they need to take with them. Give a prize to everyone that gets completely ready before the timer goes off-it could be something as simple as a sticker.

The word “homework” usually evokes feelings of dread for both students and parents. A lot of times, the process of doing homework involves parents yelling at kids to “Get your homework done!”, and kids finding anything and everything else they can to do rather than the homework. When they finally do sit down to do it, there is a lot of whining that takes place, and parents are too busy doing other things to sit down with their kids and make sure the homework gets done correctly. Why not turn homework time into a time of bonding with your child through a new family routine?

Here is an example. Have a set time that homework occurs every day. It could be before dinner, after dinner, before bath-whatever works for your family. Try not to make it as soon as they get home from school. They’ve been in school all day and need a break! Do homework in the same location every day. Make sure it is as free from distractions as possible (not in front of the TV!). A table or desk is best. It gives them room to spread out and work. It also provides a level of comfort because that is the way they are used to working at school. Give kids a five-minute warning that homework time is about to begin (good “timer moment”). Use this time to check out the homework before the kids do. Make sure you have the supplies they will need available before you have the child sit down to begin. It’s a good idea to keep a “homework box” that holds common supplies needed for homework. When it’s time to begin, have the child(ren) sit down and explain what they are expected to do. As they do the work, make sure you are available to answer questions. When they are done, check over their work and make sure it’s complete. Have them put supplies back in the “homework box” and homework in their backpacks, ready to take back to school. The key to a pleasant homework experience is an involved parent!

Engage kids by having them set the table so it’s a family effort getting ready for meals.

Family routines at mealtimes provide bonding and communication time. Dinner is a great time to learn a new family routine! As you are cooking, have kids set the table and do other age-appropriate tasks. Once dinner is ready, have everyone sit down together (not in front of the TV!). Use this time to talk to each other about your day. Stay positive-no arguing! After dinner, everyone clears the table together. Depending on the age of your kids, you might even have them load dishes into the dishwasher. Make it work for your family!

Hopefully some of these tips will get your family off to a great start for the school year.

(Source: Lisa Poppe, Nebraska Extension Educator)


Collaboration and Teamwork

After wrapping up another county fair and head back into other extension programming, it’s good to reflect on the county fair experience as this is one of the capstone experiences for 4-H youth. This marks my sixteenth year in Extension which is hard to imagine! As we pivoted to a pandemic-style fair last year, there were lots of things learned.  First – we can change and adapt. In fact, some changes made last year carried through to this year. Secondly – I am still amazed and blessed to have so many excellent and caring volunteers to make the fair a positive experience for our youth. Finally – the countless hours spent preparing ahead of time allows for a much smoother week during the fair. 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.

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/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.

My daughter showing her calf.

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 each team member knows their key roles, they can 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, 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 to make the fair a success. Of course, livestock superintendents put in a large amount of time during the fair with check-in, the show, loading animals, 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! 

Congratulations Clay and Fillmore County 4-H and FFA members on a great county fair!

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


Sportsmanship & Youth Development

Here is my annual article as a reminder on what it means to exhibit true sportsmanship and remember the main purpose of the 4-H program – positive youth development. This year’s Nebraska 4-H theme has been, “I belong”. This is something we strive to ensure youth who participate in a Nebraska Extension program truly feel is that they are welcomed and have a sense of belonging. Let’s look at other ways to ensure the 4-H youth development program creates a positive experience for our youth.

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 receive a red ribbon, nothing is lost if 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.         

My daughter McKenzie has increased in her self-confidence in leading cattle.

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.

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 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.

Positive Youth Development

Meredith has been learning responsibility with her bucket calves.

National 4-H reminds us that there are four critical components of a successful learning experience which include a sense of belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. During county fair and all 4-H programming, it is important that youth experience these.


Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in the group. As the facilitator, it is important to provide youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group. Create a safe and inclusive environment and foster a positive relationship with youth learners. Use discussion questions that encourage youth to learn from each other, synthesize and use ideas collaboratively.


Youth need to know that they can influence people and events through decision-making and action. They learn to better understand themselves and become independent thinkers. Throughout each curriculum, youth are given opportunities to develop and reflect upon thoughts and responses to the challenges, explorations, and investigations. Youth begin to understand that they can act as change agents with confidence and competence because of their learning.


To develop self-confidence youth, need to feel and believe they are capable, and they must experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. Youth need a breadth and depth of topics that allow them to pursue their own interests. Introduce youth to expert knowledge and guide them toward their own sense of mastery and accomplishment.


Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose. Throughout each curriculum, youth are encouraged to broaden their perspectives, find relevance in the topic area, and bring ideas back to their community.

Adapted from 4-H Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development, Dr. Cathann Kress, 2004.


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 several occasions. For example, when my mom had her stroke in 2011, neighbors, coworkers and friends stepped up to provide support, send cards and helped 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 favorites, “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.”

Last year, I was so humbled that we were able to find creative solutions for our youth to still have a county fair and showcase their projects. The 4-H Councils, 4-H superintendents, FFA advisors and county fair board/ag societies all pitched in to help Nebraska Extension staff navigate through unprecedented times. One of the biggest things learned in 2020 is that we can change and find creative solutions to circumstances beyond our control. In 2021, county fairs will be able to be celebrated by more and continue as a key social event in the county, but one thing that won’t change is that our youth will be able to compete and continue learning life skills.

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 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.

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 call that person and tell 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 4-H parents who are able to help out my daughters when I am busy with my job. “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.

County Fair Schedules

You can find the events for the Clay and Fillmore County Fairs on each extension website or social media. Locally, go to fillmore.unl.edu or clay.unl.edu.