Nebraska 4-H Month

Every year, Nebraska 4-H Month sees thousands of young people, parents, volunteers, and alumni come together to celebrate the many positive youth development opportunities offered by 4-H. While celebrations may look different this year, Nebraska 4-H is looking forward to celebrating in new ways.

4-H is dedicated to providing opportunities for belonging. Through positive relationships with caring adults and inclusive and safe environments, young people find a sense of belonging in 4-H. The theme for this year’s Nebraska 4-H Month celebration, I Belong, is a promotion created to celebrate 4-H members and encourage others to explore the opportunities for belonging in 4-H.

During Nebraska 4-H Month, youth will be encouraged to complete the 4-H enrollment process. 4-H is open to all youth ages 8-18. Over 150 projects in a variety of topic areas provide youth with an opportunity to find a 4-H project that fits their interests. By enrolling, youth have the opportunity to exhibit their 4-H projects at their local county fair and the Nebraska State Fair, as well as participate in other statewide contests. In 2021, Nebraska 4-H will also implement a new statewide enrollment deadline of June 15 for youth interested in participating in their county fair or the Nebraska State Fair.

This year’s Nebraska 4-H Month celebration will kick off with 4-H Professionals Appreciation Day on Friday, February 5. Youth, parents, volunteers, and alumni are encouraged to find creative ways to thanks their local 4-H Educators, Assistants, and Staff. The month-long celebration will continue on Friday, February 12 with 4-H Volunteer Appreciation Day, an opportunity to celebrate the 12,000 volunteers including 4-H Club Leaders and Project Leaders who support 4-H programs across the state. On Friday, February 19, 4-H supporters are invited to show off their 4-H pride by wearing green or the 4-H clover for 4-H Spirit Day. Finally, the celebration will wrap up with 4-H Sponsor and Donor Appreciation Day on Friday, February 26. 

Nebraska 4-H Month virtual backgrounds are also available for 4-H supporters, and a new Nebraska 4-H – I Belong Facebook profile frame is also available. 

Many local celebrations and events will also be hosted throughout the month of February. Contact your local Extension office for more information about local celebrations. 


Women in Agriculture Conference

The Nebraska Women in Agriculture Conference will be going virtual for 2021. The conference will be held on Feb. 18-19, 2021 from Noon to 2:15 p.m. CT each day via Zoom. 

“Even though we are unable to be in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful for the opportunity to continue supporting women in agriculture.” said Jessica Groskopf, director of Nebraska Women in Agriculture. “Through this virtual event, we hope to provide women with the tools, skills and networking opportunities they need.” 

The two-day conference will be a hybrid event, offering both live-stream and on-demand learning opportunities for attendees. These presentations and workshops will offer attendees tools and information on how to better manage risk, improve their farms and ranches and become more successful operators and business partners. 

Elaine Froese, a lifelong farmer from Manitoba Canada, will be the live keynote speaker on Thursday Feb. 18. Elaine has been working for years with hundreds of families on farm succession planning. She uses her background in conflict resolution and communication to help fellow farmers and ranchers face make-or-break issues head on, so they can focus on the business of farming.

On Friday Feb. 19 participants will hear a live keynote address form Brandi Buzzard Frobose, a Kansas rancher, who has been writing and speaking about the rural lifestyle and helping others share their story for more than a decade. Brandi was named one of the Top 10 Industry Leaders Under 40 by Cattle Business Weekly in 2019 and also selected as the NCBA Masters of Beef Advocacy Advocate of the Year in 2019. 

“We are excited to have two great keynote speakers join us this year,” said Groskopf. “We will also be hosting four live workshops, and several on-demand workshops that will offer attendees an abundance of information that they can take back to their own operations.”

Registration for the two-day event is now open on the Nebraska Women in Agriculture website, wia.unl.edu. The cost to attend is $25 for participants who register on or before Feb. 7. Registration increases to $30 on Feb. 8. Fifty scholarships are available for students and ten scholarships are available for beginning farmers/ranchers.  More information can be found on the website.


Cow-Calf College on January 28th

Cow-Calf College is gearing up to be hosted January 28th at the Clay County Fairgrounds from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm in the Activities Building. Registration starts at 9:00 a.m. This year’s program will be offered in a hybrid format through zoom & attendance in person. The focus of the 2021 Cow-Calf College is improving reproductive performance through the use of nutrition, estrus synchronization, and alternative breeding and forage systems. Speakers will include specialists from the University of Nebraska as well as the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center with disciplines in nutrition, reproduction, physiology, and cow-calf systems.

Allflex, a sponsor of the program will provide an update from Clayton Mead with “Beef Monitoring: Increase Estrus Detection. Ward Laboratories, another sponsor will have Carrie Putnam available with “Practical Use of Forage and Feed Analysis” updates. Other sponsors include Trans Ova and Boehringer Ingelheim and the Farmers & Ranchers College.

Dr. Travis Mullinkiks, Range Cow Production System Specialist from UNL will discuss “Nutritional Management for Successful Calving and Breeding Seasons, Managing Postpartum Interval and Accuratly Evaluating BCS”. Dr. Kacie McCarthy, UNL Beef Cow-Calf Specialist will explain “Economics Behind Estrus Synchronization; Executing Successful Estrus Synchronization Protocols.”  Dr. Mary Drewnoski, a popular Cow/Calf College presenter and UNL Beef Systems Specialist will present on “Getting the Most Out of Early Spring Forage; Selection and Management of Winter Hardy Small Cereals for Silage.” Dr. Bob Cushman, a research physiologist with USDA, ARS will present “Dry-Lot Breeding Systems.”

A boxed lunch will be provided under guidelines provided by the South Heartland District Health Department. The program will conclude with a coffee shop panel where participants can ask questions directly to specialists as well as the opportunity to win a variety of door prizes. Masks are highly encouraged and available at the door and 6-foot physical distancing will be required.

Pre-registration a week in advance is highly encouraged to allow for proper social distancing planning. Pre-registration can be made by calling the Fillmore County Extension Office at 402-759-3712 or Webster County Extension Office at 402-746-3417 or online at go.unl.edu/cowcalfcollege. To participate via zoom, register at go.unl.edu/onlinecowcalfcollege.


New Year’s Resolutions

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If you are like many nearly half of the American population, you probably have a New Year’s Resolution set for 2020, while 38% of Americans absolutely never make New Year’s Resolution according to research by University of Scranton, 2016. A majority of those resolutions are self-improvement or education related resolutions (47%), weight related (38%), money related (34%) or relationship related (31%).  University of Southern California’s John Monterosso who is an expert on psychology and neuroscience of self-control offers insight on how to achieve setting those resolutions.

Monterosso suggests thinking of a resolution as a special kind of plan and visualizing your future-self. If you have already made that resolution or still working to tweak it, he suggested keeping the following in mind:

  • Failed resolutions are not harmless. Most people don’t like to fail; in fact, it hurts our confidence and can actually lead to worse behavior. Keeping this in mind and accepting the fact that one might not have accomplished all that was planned is important. If you get off track, you can always start again and don’t have to wait until a new year.
  • Resolutions work by linking single decisions to a bigger picture. For example, if you have a goal of quitting smoking or eating unhealthy foods and let a craving lead to poor decisions, you might think, “it’s just one cigarette or just one meal of fried foods” which may or may not lead to the continuation of a bad habit. If one takes a resolution seriously, think about the health consequences and the potential “relapse” that could occur.
  • Consider being less ambitious in your resolutions. We tend to be overly confident when making a resolution and think we can change our behavior overnight. While it is good to be confident with your goals, be careful not to make overly ambitious goals. For example, if you plan to work out one hour/day every day of the week and have an already packed life with a career, community obligations and a family, consider starting at 20 minutes/day and work up to more minutes if time allows. Setting a good resolution requires being realistic.
  • Resolutions should not be vague. If you set a resolution of “eating healthier.”  What does that mean?  Does it mean drinking 64 oz. of water/day?  Does it mean to include a fruit or vegetable at every meal?  Write down a SMART goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based.
  • The New Year is a fresh start.Setting resolutions/goals at the first of the year helps us “clean the slate” and put past failures away. It gives us a sense of confidence and optimism. Capitalize on that.
  • Even successful resolutions can be mistakes. If youset restrict your diet to the point of starvation or over-exercise to the point of hurting yourself, you must be able to adapt, know yourself and use common sense and wisdom to correct the resolution.

In summary, Monterosso suggests that done correctly, “resolutions play a role in great human achievements.”

Extension’s Help with Resolutions

As stated above, almost half of resolutions made include education or self-improvement. If you need any educational resources or materials on nearly any subject, Extension has resources. Whether it is information on a website, talking with an extension professional, utilizing an app from your smart phone, attending a face-to-face program, participation in a webinar or many other avenues, Extension works to solve complex problems for clients. If you haven’t been to Extension’s website recently, I encourage you to go to extension.unl.edu. There you will find an abundance of resources on topics such as food, nutrition and health, cropping & water systems, community vitality, community environment, learning child, beef systems and 4-H youth development. Consider attending a program or utilizing a resource to help you achieve a resolution or goal you may have.

For a list of extension programs in the area, visit our website at fillmore.unl.edu or call our office at (402) 759-3712.


Extension Recap from 2020

During the holiday season is often a time to reflect on the year. I have many blessings in my life. First and foremost, I would like to thank my family for being understanding with me as I often travel to evening meetings and conferences that pull me away from home. Secondly, I am fortunate to have great colleagues that help me out and work as a team. I’d also like to thank you, my readers, extension supporters, 4-H volunteers and others who have helped in some capacity with an extension or 4-H program. Without amazing Nebraska Extension supporters, programs wouldn’t be as successful as they are.

Fillmore County Outdoor Classroom features an apiary.

While I’m not one to boast, I’d like to mention that Nebraska Extension is one of the leading Extension organizations in the country! Utilizing cutting-edge delivery methods and programming ideas, we focus on critical issues identified by Nebraskans through periodic needs assessments. Nebraska Extension is nationally leading 4-H youth engagement by reaching 1 in 3 youth between the ages of 8-18 and we have extension faculty with national and international reputations. Finally, Nebraska Extension engages a large number of Nebraskans in Extension programming every year – from the agricultural community to sectors as diverse as nutrition, health care and technology. From border-to-border Nebraska Extension is making an incredible impact on the success of our state – its youth, its families, its farms and ranches, its communities and its economy. These are broad program accomplishments to look at from a balcony view, but what are some key impacts locally for Clay and Fillmore Counties?

Let’s describe some key accomplishments in Clay County. Nebraska Extension in Clay County and Fillmore County reaches 1 out of 2 age-eligible youth. In 2020, the Clay County 4-H program 254 youth participated in School Enrichment lessons at all four elementary/middle schools in the county. Also, 1 in 2 age-eligible youth participate in Clay County 4-H Youth Development Programs. Fifty-five youth participated in spring/summer virtual educational youth workshops and 64 youth participated in 4-H afterschool programs. To support beef producers, the annual Cow/Calf College provides cutting-edge research practices for producers to consider in their operation. Since its inception in 2001, over 1,275 producers have participated. 

To support ag, people need to know where their food comes from. Fillmore (& Clay) County Extension staff held the 23rd AgVenture Day in collaboration with the South Central Cattlewomen. This year, 154 fourth graders participated in the ag literacy program virtually due to COVID-19. Since 1997, AgVenture Day has taught over 4,000 youth just that.  Also, 1 in 2 age-eligible youth participate in Fillmore County 4-H Youth Development Programs. In 2020, 609 youth were reached through school enrichment programming. With the Farmers & Ranchers College, over 260 people learned how to improve their risk management decision-making, understand financial documents and production costs. Over 260 people participated managing over 120,000 acres and nearly 22,000 head of livestock for potential impact of $1.7 million based on information gained from the programming.

Of course, there are numerous more impacts and programming results to report, but these are some that I decided to include this this week’s column.


“Oh, what fun it is to”

Meaningful Conversations…

A familiar holiday song pronounces “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh laughing all the way.”  It continues to say, “Making spirits bright.”  The holidays are often times to relax and time to spend with family and friends.  The times with family and friends may be around the dinner table eating or playing a game, decorating the house, playing in the snow, making favorite holiday treats, or watching a movie or the big game.  One of my favorite things about the holidays is the opportunity to slow down and engage in playing games with family while eating cookies or some other tasty holiday treat.  It is in playing games or just having time to catch-up that I able to reconnect with family members and gain insight on what has gone on in their life over past year.

Photo by Nicole Michalou on Pexels.com

Meaningful conversations for me are when I feel heard and listened to and when I return the favor of listening and understanding the person in which I am engaging in conversation.  These conversations can take place while washing dishes, cleaning up the wrapping paper after all the presents are open, doing a puzzle, or at bedtime.  As we approach the holidays, think about ways you can engage with family members or friends about what is taking place in their lives.  Here are some tips for engaging in meaningful conversations.

  • Ask open ended questions.  By asking open-ended questions it gives a person an opening for a longer conversation and dialogue.  Open-ended questions sound like, “How are you feeling?” or “Tell me more about…”  
  • Be prepared to listen attentively.  Put away your phone and turn off all screens and make eye contact with the person to show that you are truly engaged in what they are saying.  Ask follow-up questions that show you are interested, and you want to know more. 
  • Listen without judgement.  Getting a lecture or being told that you are wrong can quickly end a conversation.  Instead ask the person about their feelings regarding the situation.  Share that you are willing to support them. 
  • Capitalize on everyday events to engage in meaningful conversations.  Food preparation, clean-up and mealtimes are a wonderful time to ask family members about their day or what they like about the family, or what is their favorite holiday food.  Bedtimes can also be a time to engage in conversations.  Start a tradition of asking one question a night to discuss.  Here are some questions to get you started in engaging in some meaningful conversation.
    • Tell me about a time when you felt happy.
    • Tell me about your favorite teacher.
    • Who is someone you really respect and why do you respect this person?
    • What is the best way for people to show that you they love you?   
    • What is your favorite time of year?

To ensure the health and safety of family members and friends because of the global pandemic, this year’s holiday celebrations and gatherings will be a bit different, but it doesn’t mean that one has to forgo those meaningful and sometime silly conversations.  These chats can be done in a person or virtually.  It is important to remember that a gift of time is one of the best gifts one can give.  Simply, young people and adults need human connections.  We all need to be heard, loved, and supported.  Take the time this year to listen, share, and to be vulnerable with each over a card game, meal, or while engaging in a favorite holiday tradition.  If you do, it really will “Make spirits bright”. 

(Source: Michelle Krehbiel, Nebraska Extension Youth Development Specialist)


Strategies for Business Success

To say the year 2020 has been difficult for many businesses is an understatement. Farms and ranches were already dealing with trade wars and daunting price outlooks and then the pandemic hit. It disrupted “business as usual” creating shock and uncertainty for people.  Recently at a Farmers & Ranchers College program, Dr. David Kohl emphasized the importance of maintaining working capital or cash for businesses and families, among other important business principles.

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Kohl spoke on the “four pillars of the business model of the future” which includes resilience, agility, entrepreneurial/innovation, and a strong business IQ. For a business to be resilient, start with basic goal setting to redefine business, family and personal goals to achieve balance for sustainable success. The business must know its cost of production, implement a marketing and risk management program and benchmark themselves to peers. Regarding agility, the business should have working capital and access to cash during adverse events or if an opportunity presents itself. Examine markets for competitiveness and know when it’s better to improve business efficiency versus diversification or growth.

The third pillar is entrepreneurism and innovation. Analyze monthly or quarterly performance to sustainably move the business to the next level. Dr. Kohl also spoke on the importance of investing in people. Be a “people-first” business and find the right person that will help you move your business forward. You might have to pay more to find the best person, but it could reap rewards in the end. Also, align with the rapidly changing marketplace. Finally, the fourth pillar was to have a strong business IQ. This means to have a written plan with key performance indicators for business improvement. The business IQ management factors include:

  • Knowing the cost of production
  • Knowing cost of production by enterprise  
  • Setting business, family and personal goals 
  • Record keeping system 
  • Projected cash flow 
  • Financial sensitivity analysis
  • Understand financial ratios and breakeven
  • Work with an advisory team and lender
  • Marketing plan written and executed
  • Risk management plan executed
  • Modest lifestyle habits, family living budget
  • Written plan for improvement executed & strong people management
  • Transition plan/business owner plan
  • Educational seminars/courses
  • Attitude – Are you proactive, reactive or indifferent?

Dr. Kohl wrapped up the program with some “wisdom for well-being”. He used the acronym, M.E.D.S. for life. They are:

  • Meditate. In other words, find peaceful time to reflect and think deeply for a period of time. This can be used as a method of relaxation.
  • Exercise. We have been told for years that exercise releases endorphins which trigger a positive feeling in the body.  It’s important to take time out for you and have a balance between work and life/family.
  • Diet. Take care of your physical health.
  • Sleep. Sleep is important because it allows the body to repair and be fit and ready for the next day.

In addition to Dr. Kohl, Eric Snodgrass who is a Senior Atmospheric Scientist at Nutrien Ag Solutions provided fascinating information on weather patterns and trends. He described how El Nino and La Nina impact weather predictions and said that weather cannot be predicted over 21 days. Beware when weather-related products claim they can predict beyond that, as it is not the case. Snodgrass is the Former Director of Undergraduate Studies in Atmospheric Science at Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and with a dynamic and interactive presentation emphasized the increase in extreme weather events that will occur. For example, the increase in heavier (2.5” or more) rainfall events have been increasing in Nebraska. As producers, it is important to plan for these events and how they will impact your operation.


Helping Youth During COVID-19 Holidays

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Handling the stress and mental health effects during a global pandemic is hard for a person at any age, let alone a child. Don’t forget to monitor how children are handling the disappointment and potential changes to routine holiday traditions due to COVID-19. These can lead to feelings of sadness, despair, anger, anxiety and stress. It is important as adults we take time to acknowledge these feelings and talk through them. Listen to them and let them know you care. You don’t have to have all the answers; just assure them you are there to help them through this difficult time.

The 4-H youth development program has always and continues to build a firm foundation for youth that encourages good decision-making and strong interpersonal skills. Social-emotional health is the cornerstone to confident, caring young leaders who understand how to take care of themselves both mentally and physically. The Search Institute’s research has demonstrated that when young people experience developmental relationships with caring adults their outcomes are better, their risk behaviors are lower, and they are more likely to be on the path to thrive in life. The Search Institute has created a checklist with strategies for relationship-building steps during COVID-19. While the list was intended mostly for staff in schools and youth development professionals, they apply to all adults, even parents.

  • Express care. Show youth they matter to you.
    • This could be as simple as telling them you believe in them and you know they will get through this difficult time.
  • Challenge growth. Push youth to keep getting better.
    • An example includes asking the youth what they are or could be doing to help others during this time.
  • Provide support. Help youth complete tasks and achieve goals.
    • Ask how they are feeling about the world, themselves and the future during this time. Indicate that you really hear them when they response and that you care about their feelings.
  • Share power: Treat youth with respect and give them a say.
    • When you can, offer choices rather than mandating a single option.
  • Expand possibilities: Connect youth to people and places that broaden their world.
    • Explore through the Web or social media how young people very different from them around the country or even the world is experiencing COVID-19.

In summary, take time to listen and recognize how youth are feeling. Take this time to creatively and collaboratively brainstorm new alternatives or traditions for the 2020 Holiday season. Take time to practice gratitude and find ways to express gratitude to those less fortunate such as writing a note to someone who might need extra joy in their life. Be kind to yourself and each other.

Source: Search Institute, https://www.search-institute.org/


Agronomy Project – No Field Required!

Attention all youth interested in agriculture! Do you want to learn about agriculture? Do you want to raise a crop that requires little space? Do you enjoy learning about non-traditional crops? If you answered any of those questions, this project is for you!

The Nebraska Extension Special Agronomy Project gives 4-H members an opportunity to experience a crop that is grown, was grown or has the potential to be grown in Nebraska. Youth participate by receiving seed and resources to grow the crop, research traits of the crop and determine the viability of that crop in the part of the state they live. The project allows 4-H members interested in agronomy to grow something fun, new, and different.   

To kick-off the inaugural year of the special agronomy project, youth will explore teosinte. The plant looks and is very similar to corn, in fact it is believed to be the wild ancestor of today’s corn! 

The focus of the 2021 Special Agronomy Project is the Teosinte plant.  Teosinte is the ancestor to today’s corn, including dent, sweet, and popcorn. Native to Mexico and the surrounding area, this plant was adapted and changed by humans over time. There are both similarities and differences between them. Both plants have a tassel at the top. However, instead of a single stalk with a large ear, teosinte has multiple branches that produce many small spikes of trapezoidal seeds if the growing season is long enough. 

Youth should enroll for the Special Agronomy Project through 4-H Online.  Once enrolled in 4-H Online, youth are to call their local office to sign up for the project (order the seeds) by February 1st. By enrolling through 4-H Online, youth will have access to a folder with educational materials including a growing newsletter, potential virtual field trips & evaluation.   

Youth will have three options to enter this project at the county and state fair. One option is a special agronomy educational exhibit which youth share what was learned from the project in either poster (14” x 22”) with a short essay. The second option is to create a short 2-5-minute video presentation related to what they learned about the project. Finally, youth can enter the plants themselves and include supporting documentation about the project. Details can be found on the state fair book webpage and https://cropwatch.unl.edu/special-agronomy-project.

This is the first year for this project. If you have suggestions or any questions about the project, please contact Brandy VanDeWalle at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or Aaron Nygren at anygren2@unl.edu.


Christmas Tree Selection

Extension horticulturist, Nicole Stoner shared some tips on selecting the perfect live Christmas tree. If you have heavy ornaments, consider a Fraser Fir, Scotch pine, blue spruce or Black Hills spruce because they have stiff branches that hold ornaments better. If you’d like a Christmas tree scent, consider a Balsam Fir. If you prefer softer needles, go with a White pine.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Stoner also said, when choosing your tree, assess the tree condition. Walk around the tree to look for holes in the branching. Slightly tug on the needles that are on the tree to ensure they are tightly attached to the tree and have some flexibility. Also, give the tree a good shake, if green needles fall off or if it has a lighter green color that is not a fresh tree, choose another. Brown needles will naturally fall from the interior of the tree, that doesn’t mean there is a problem with it.

Finally, she provides some tips for home care of a real tree. When you take your tree home, place it immediately into the tree stand with plenty of water. If the tree was cut within the past 12 hours it doesn’t need to be recut but if it has to sit longer than 12 hours prior to placing it in the stand, it will need to be recut to improve water uptake. Place the tree in a stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water and be sure to add water daily. Research has shown that additives and water alternatives are not as effective as plain water in maintaining a tree through the holiday season.

Keep the tree away from sources of heat to reduce water consumption and help reduce fire hazards. Christmas trees rarely start fires in our homes, but they need to be watered to help them retain their color and keep your floor from getting too messy from fallen needles.