Programming, Youth

Nebraska Extension Showcasing 4-H’ers at County Fairs

Nebraska Extension is working to make sure all 4-H’ers across the state have the opportunity to showcase their hard work come county fair time this summer. Since COVID-19 hit, rest assured Nebraska 4-H faculty and staff have been diligently working on numerous plans and options to celebrate our youth and showcase their hard work. Recently, our Dean and Director, Chuck Hibberd released an article which also describes our efforts.4h_mark1

County fair boards and agricultural societies in Nebraska’s 93 counties are determining what their county fairs will look like – or whether to have them at all — as the state responds to COVID-19. Nebraska Extension is working with these groups to design in-person or virtual 4-H experiences or a combination of both appropriate for each county.  Recommendations of both the governor’s office and Nebraska’s district health departments will determine what strategies will work best on a county-by-county basis.

“We are absolutely committed to making sure all youth who take part in 4-H across Nebraska have the opportunity to exhibit their hard work at a fair,” said Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of Nebraska Extension. “We are equally committed to protecting the health and safety of our youth, volunteers, judges and spectators.

Nebraska has one of the highest 4-H participation rates in the nation, with one in three – a total of over 140,000 — youth engaged in the program. Nebraska Extension began adapting 2020 4-H programming to virtual formats back in March, when social distancing and other directed health measures were first put in place. Locally, I’m proud to say that Clay and Fillmore Counties actually reach one in two – youth engaged in the program.

“Fairs may look different than they have in the past with social distancing, different arrangements for livestock shows, and the possible option for virtual shows; we also know that the fair experience is an important part of a 4-H’ers summer,” Hibberd said. “We are excited to be able to make that happen.”

Additional information for county fairs will be available as details are finalized.  Please be patient with our staff and council members as we work through options.

Horticulture, Programming, Youth

Biggest Grower Youth Competition

Nebraska Extension and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture have launched a new student gardening competition to take place this summer. The Biggest Grower competition offers Nebraska high school students the opportunity to learn how to start their own garden and small growing operation. Students will plant, grow, cultivate, harvest and distribute their own fresh specialty crops in a garden space or in containers. Participants will be placed in virtual teams with one team chosen as The Biggest Grower and each team member will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card. Additionally, one high school junior or senior will be awarded a College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Department of Agronomy and Horticulture scholarship of $1,000.

The goal of this competition is to help increase awareness in growing food, improve personal wellness and community involvement, explore opportunities in entrepreneurship and expand the availability of specialty crops in fresh food drought areas.  Stacy Adams, an associate professor of practice in agronomy and horticulture and a Nebraska Extension specialist is in charge of the program.3EC4F63F-DE54-490B-92DE-378D19986434_1_105_c.jpeg

This project can expose Nebraska youth to the fundamentals of plant production and demonstrate career opportunities in agriculture. Funding is provided through the Nebraska Specialty Crop Block Grant Program as a means to enhance the competitiveness of non-commodity specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, nuts and ornamentals.

This competition is beneficial for both rural and urban students; growing specialty crops can expand income potential for farmers as well.

The Biggest Grower competition is free to Nebraska high school students entering the ninth through 12th grade this fall 2020. Nebraska Extension and a university horticulture student, who will be a personal garden mentor, will work with each student virtually on a weekly basis. Participants will be randomly placed into 10, statewide virtual teams of 10 gardeners. These teams will compete over the summer to find out which team is The Biggest Grower.

Students can register at https://agronomy.unl.edu/the-biggest-grower.

Each participant will use an existing garden space at their home or they can choose to grow in pots as a container gardener. Competition garden space as a backyard gardener is limited to 80 square feet, maximum. Participants will complete the activities assigned by the garden mentor and will be given a toolkit consisting of a hand spade, weeding tool, seeds and starter plants.

Participants will be asked to participate and complete the following:

  • 10 weekly activities.
  • develop and cultivate specialty crops in their backyard or container garden.
  • record productivity data in the growers’ leaderboard.
  • record the amount of harvest consumed.
  • record the amount distributed.
  • participate in virtual The Biggest Grower Day hosted by the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture on June 26 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln East Campus.

High school junior and senior participants, who want to be eligible for the scholarship award, will be asked to write a 350 to 500-word essay on how The Biggest Grower competition affected them and their community, or the use of specialty crops in their future. Students must also enroll in one of four majors within the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in CASNR at Nebraska.

The competition will begin May 25 and end Aug. 7. After all the data is entered and the essays are reviewed, The Biggest Grower team and the scholarship winner will be announced Sept. 4. Complete application guidelines and more information may be found online.

Source: IANR News & Stacy Adams, Associate Professor Nebraska Extension/ Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

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Programming, Youth

May Youth Project Workshops

Pick a Project Fridays Square_EDIT.pngClay, Fillmore, Nuckolls, and Thayer counties are hosting a “Pick A Project” Zoom workshop series to encourage local youth to practice their fair project prowess and to learn how to make (or at least get started on) projects for County Fair 2020. We encourage youth ages 8-18 to register for one or all four of the workshops. Even though COVID-19 disruptions have limited in-person programming, we’re excited to inspire 4-H members to practice experiential learning and learn to do new projects.

Register by visiting https://go.unl.edu/4hpickaprojectfridays.

May 8 – Heritage

Join Nuckolls/Thayer 4-H Educator Kylie Kinley as she explores the Heritage project. We’ll peer into the past and brainstorm what historical stories or family heirlooms would make quality projects for fair. Supplies: Pencil and paper, potential heirlooms, family photos, list of family members for family tree drafting.

May 15 – “Coffeecake 201”

Join Clay County 4-H Associate Holli Alley from her kitchen as she bakes coffee cake for the Cooking 201 project. Youth will learn basic baking techniques to perfect yummy coffee cake for the county fair.

May 22 –  “T-shirt Rags to Riches”

Fillmore County 4-H Assistant Rachel Adams will show youth how to use old t-shirts that would normally be used as rags to make a one-of-a-kind rug. Don’t know how to sew? No problem! We’ll use a braiding technique to craft our rugs. This will not be a project we will get done in an hour, but you can work on it in your spare time. Supplies: Old T-shirts cut into 1 ½ inch strips. Around 10 XL shirts or the equivalent would be a good place to start. Avoid too many seams in your strips. You will also need scissors (fabric scissors would work best).

May 29 – World of Weedsplant-148601_1280.png

Join Fillmore County Extension Educator Brandy VanDeWalle & Todd Boller, county weed superintendent, as they explore common weeds and even start you on an exhibit for county fair. Create a Weed Display, which allows original and creative exhibits that contain educational information about weeds, such as interesting information about a weed species, the effects of weed control, herbicide-resistant weeds, what makes a weed, or uses for weeds. Supplies needed: 1-3 weeds to identify, sheet of paper and pencil to brainstorm a poster idea. (Optional: poster board & supplies to get started on a poster.)

Programming, Youth

Tractor safety course to teens across Nebraska

Members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health will provide a tractor safety course in May and June of 2020 at 11 sites across Nebraska in partnership with Nebraska Extension. The course provides extensive training on tractor and all-terrain vehicle safety with a variety of hands-on activities. Instilling an attitude of ‘making safety a priority’ and respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the course.TractorCourse

Teens 14 or 15 years of age who work on farms, or others who are interested in learning about safe farming practices, are encouraged to register for the Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety & Hazardous Occupations Course. Anyone under age 14 is not eligible to take the class.

Federal law prohibits children under 16 years of age from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment.

Susan Harris-Broomfield, University of Nebraska Extension Educator reports that a common cause of agricultural-related injuries and deaths in Nebraska is overturned tractors and ATVs. She emphasized that this course is designed to train students how to avoid these incidents as well as many other hazards on the farm and ranch.

Cost of the course is $60 and includes educational materials, instruction, supplies, and lunch. The first day of class will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, hands-on participation, concluding with a written test which students must pass to attend the second day of training.

The second day of training will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors will also offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles (UTVs), and other off-road vehicles (ORVs).

Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ph.D., Ellen Duysen, MPH; UNMC graduate student Alyssa Damke; and Nebraska Extension educators Troy Ingram, Randy Saner, Chandra Giles, and John Thomas.

Classes begin at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., depending on location, and end times vary depending on the number of participants.  If classes do not fill to the minimum of 10 participants, an option will be offered to do Day 1 training online and Day 2 in person.

Dates, training site locations, and site coordinator phone numbers are below:

  • May 21 & 22 – Weeping Water, Fairgrounds, (402) 267-2205
  • May 26 & 27 – Ord, Fairgrounds (308) 728-5071;
  • May 28 & 29 – Wayne, Fairgrounds (402) 375-3310
  • June 1 & 2 – O’Neill, Plains Equipment, (402) 336-2760
  • June 3 (first day is online) – Gordon, Fairgrounds, (308) 327-2312
  • June 4 & 5 – Ainsworth, Evangelical Free, (402) 387-2213
  • June 9 & 10 – Geneva, Fairgrounds, (402) 759-3712
  • June 11 & 12 – North Platte, West Central Research, Extension and Education Center, (308) 532-2683
  • June 16 & 17 – Kearney, Buffalo County Extension Office (308) 236-1235
  • June 18 & 19 – Hastings, Adams County Extension Office (402) 461-7209
  • June 29 & 30 – Gering, Legacy Museum (308) 632-1480.

For more information or to register, contact the appropriate Extension office above. The registration form is located at kearney.unl.edu.

Programming

Strategies For Family Farming Success In The Shark Tank

Developing and implementing a business management contingency plan to overcome unexpected changes to the organizational structure and/or management leadership to a family farm is crucial for the continued success of a farming operation.  This is an important step in preventing potential misunderstandings between farm family members as well as helping to avoid possible family disputes.  Can a farm business survive a potential shark attack (unexpected change) and still prosper?  An effective management strategy is to put yourself in the ‘shark tank’ and begin addressing the difficult questions and situations that might arise from these uncertainties in farming.Hanson20flyer.jpg

To aid farmers and ranchers with a business management plan, the Farmers & Ranchers College will be offering the final program of the 2019-2020 programming year on March 10th. This program will take place at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds in Geneva, NE featuring Dr. Ron Hanson, UNL Harlan Agribusiness Professor Emeritus. Registration starts at 5:30 p.m. with a meal to start at 6:00 p.m., followed by the program, Strategies For Family Farming Success In The Shark Tank.

Hanson points out that few farming operations ever survive an unexpected change to the organizational management structure of their farming business, let alone a crisis situation within the family.  Most farm families realize the importance of implementing a contingency business plan for if and when something ever happens, but few families ever accomplish this management goal. No one wants to be in the shark tank and be faced with a stressful situation.  These issues (unexpected death, sudden illness, family dispute, loss of a key employee) are often never discussed and usually avoided. But what if it does happen?  What might actually happen next?  What impacts could result to the farm?  To family members?

This presentation will identify the importance of implementing a business contingency planning process so that a farming operation continues when and if the unexpected actually happens. Striving to find answers as well as solutions is an effective strategy for a success when initiating a business contingency plan in case an unexpected change happens to the farm or family or even both at once.

Please pre-register by March 2nd, to the Nebraska Extension Office in Fillmore County or call (402) 759-3712 to assure a seat and meal. Walk-ins are accepted, but may not get a meal. You may also complete your registration online on fillmore.unl.edu or http://go.unl.edu/farmersrancherscollegePre-registration will also save you time at the door!

 

Crops, Programming

Risk and Reward Workshops 

An upcoming Nebraska Extension workshop will help farmers develop marketing plans for 2020. “Risk and Reward: Using Crop Insurance and Marketing to Manage Farm Survival” will be presented in Clay Center on February 5th. Extension economists will discuss the role of farm location and yield/price relations in making informed grain marketing and crop insurance decisions.

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Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

“This is a unique opportunity to think about grain marketing differently,” said Jessica Groskopf, a regional economist with Nebraska Extension.  “Often, we think of marketing and crop insurance as two separate decisions. This workshop will show the importance of how these tools work together to help farms survive.”

“Understanding production risk becomes especially important as farm locations move farther from the center of the corn belt,” said Cory Walters, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics. “These workshops are designed to assist Nebraska farmers improve their decision-making and understand the role of production risk considerations in their marketing plans.”

Participants will learn how to use crop insurance and pre-harvest marketing together. The workshops will encourage producers to focus on specific risks to evaluate the balance between these two tools, which will vary from operation to operation.

“The role of crop insurance and marketing is not the same for everyone,” said Walters. “Farm location matters.”

Attendees should leave the workshops with a strategic plan of farm survival, focused on the role and use of crop insurance and pre-harvest marketing specific to their location and crop.

Schedule for “Risk and Reward: Using Crop Insurance and Marketing to Manage Farm Survival

Clay Center, Feb. 5, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Clay County Fairgrounds, 701 N Martin Ave. To register, call 402-762-3644.

Livestock, Programming

Cow/Calf College – January 28

Farmers and Ranchers Cow/Calf College – January 28

The annual Farmers and Ranchers Cow/Calf College “Partners in Progress – Beef Seminar” will be held at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center near Clay Center on January 28, 2020 with registration, coffee and donuts starting at 9:30 a.m. The program will run from 9:55 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. This program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension’s Farmers and Ranchers College and will feature several outstanding speakers discussing issues and management strategies that can affect the profitability of all beef producers. There is no cost for the event and the public is invited. It does include a noon meal, which means that early registration is necessary to reserve materials and a meal. 1-15 F&R College.jpg

The “Cow/Calf College” will begin at 10:00 a.m. with a welcome by Dr. Mark Boggess of USMARC. Dr. Mary Drewnoski will kick off the program with “Do Your Herd & Your Bank Account a Favor – Test Your Hay”.  She will discuss the benefits and proper techniques for testing your hay and the advantages that can serve in your operation. Mary is part of an interdisciplinary team evaluating economic systems for integrated crop and livestock production in Nebraska.

Glennis McClure, Nebraska Extension Agricultural Economist will present on annual cow costs and provide updates on basic beef economics. Her responsibilities include publishing livestock and crop enterprise budgets, surveying and publishing the Farm Custom Rates Guide, and assisting with special economic analyses in the department.

Lunch is provided and will be handled with a rotation system featuring a session on: “Questions to Ask Your Vet Before Calving Season Begins” with Dr. Halden Clark, veterinarian with the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center (GPVEC).  Dr. Clark’s duties at GPVEC include teaching veterinary students, engaging in research projects at GPVEC and providing extension service to beef producers and veterinarians.

The afternoon session will start with “Blockchains: Connecting Consumers with their Food” by a representative from IMI Global. IMI Global specializes in verification and certification program for the livestock industry to enable producers, feeders, growers, packers and processors to meet the ever changing needs of both domestic and international consumers.  Wrapping up the program will be a presentation by Dr. Alison L. Van Eenennaam on “Alternative Meats and Alternative Statistics: What do the data say”.  We’ve heard a lot in the news about alternative meats, how they are produced and how the nutrition compares to real meat, but what does the research really show?  Dr. Van Eenennaam from the Dept. of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis will join us via the web to provide insight on her work in this arena. Alison is an animal geneticist who discovered it is possible to splice the “hornless” gene from Aberdeen Angus cattle into the widespread black-and-white Holstein dairy cows so they are born without protrusions.

All presenters will then pull everything together, give their final thoughts and considerations and provide a coffee-shop style panel discussion during which participants can ask questions and get answers on questions that came to them during the day’s sessions. A chance for door prizes will be awarded to those that stay for the entire event.

Please pre-register by January 21st, to the Nebraska Extension Office in Fillmore County or call (402) 759-3712 to assure a seat and lunch. Walk-ins are accepted, but may not get a lunch. You may also complete your registration online on fillmore.unl.edu or http://go.unl.edu/farmersrancherscollege.  Remember, your contact information is required to be on the U.S. MARC property, so pre-registration is helpful and will save you time at the door!

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Managing Stress During the Holidays

I love the holiday season! It is a great time for getting together with friends and family and a time to reflect on the year. Holiday baking, looking at Christmas lights, and showing appreciation to those in your life by giving gifts are just a few of the many things I enjoy.  While I enjoy many things and truly do love the holiday season, it can also be a stressful time. Situations may be challenging, especially if there are increased financial stressors.

selective focus photography of ceramic mug near candy cane
Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

For farm and ranch families, the stress is also very real – someone still has to break the ice and feed the livestock, manage financial recordkeeping, tax preparation, evaluate crop yields, and plan for the next growing season; there is lots to do. The downturn in the agricultural economy and weather-related disasters have only compounded the stress many agriculturalists have had to endure. This can make one’s situation seem hopeless. My colleague, Holly Hatton-Bowers shared an article that pointed out the American Psychological Association found that in the US people tend to feel more stressed around the holidays.

Before you become dragged down by negative feelings and stress, try to sprinkle your winter holiday with these seven tips compiled by my colleague, Dr. Holly Hatton Bowers. Doing these practices may help you manage your stress and even find some moments of joy during the holidays.

  1. Challenge Your Thinking – Often when we are faced with challenges, failures or even criticism, we begin to tell ourselves stories that lead to more stress. It can be helpful to ask yourself, “Is this True?” “Am I being Kind to Myself?” “What can I learn from this experience?” It can also be helpful to remember that feelings come and go. Acknowledge your feelings and also take note that they are not here to stay.
  2. Set Your Intentions to Eat for Gains, Sleep, and Move – During the Winter Holidays, many of us take joy in eating sweet, sugary and fatty foods. Sometimes our family and friends bake our favorite pies and cookies. Enjoy these foods in small amounts and also be intentional in eating foods that give you energy or a “net gain” for your wellbeing. Before drinking that next sugar filled coffee or soda, choose water. Choose a side of vegetables instead of French fries. It’s is also important to not skip meals which can lead to headaches, draining your energy and lead to you feeling more down. Set your intentions to get sleep. Turn-off technology an hour before bedtime and wake up at the same time each morning. Finally, set your intention to move your body. It is recommended to move your body every 20 minutes for at least two minutes.
  3. Reach Out and Connect with Your Support System– If you are feeling lonely, sad, or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Sometimes we need a friend or family member to listen or offer us support and help. Expressing your thoughts and feelings with those you trust may be helpful and deepen your relationships. Plan for difficult days by having an activity planned or by checking in with a relative or close friend. If you are having a lot of difficulty, reach out to a mental health expert. If you are feeling very isolated and having serious thoughts of self-harm or suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  4. Plan and Budget Expenses – It may feel daunting to stick to a reasonable budget during the holidays. In the moment you may think, I can just charge this and pay it later. Often these impulsive buys can lead to more stress later. Miriam Caldwell in her “Get Tips on Making and Sticking to a Holiday Budget” suggests listing out your holiday expenses, stick to a spending limit, and making a shopping list so that you are less likely to overspend.
  5. Embrace the Messy – At time we may have expectations for how events and activities will go. We plan celebrations and expect them to be filled with complete joy and fun. Often these expectations may not go as planned. Let go and be ok when this happens. Stop and breathe. It can be helpful to breathe in for a count of 5 and breathe out for a count of 7. Practice this breathing a few times and then tell yourself to embrace the mess.
  6. Create a To-Do or a Done List – Write down four things you can accomplish and do it! If a to-do list sounds stressful, then try a DONE list. Write down the things that you have accomplished today.
  7. Cultivate Gratitude – Practicing gratitude can help you de-stress by focusing on what you have, and what you value. Make a list of 5 things/people/experiences you are grateful for.

What will you do to combat your stress during the Winter Holidays? Take time to be present and find ways to intentionally create holiday experiences that are less stressful and a little more pleasant and meaningful.

Programming

Keeping Stress Levels in Check

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. It’s a time of year to reflect on the many blessings in our life and reconnect with family members. It can also be a time of year to trigger many stressors and create anxiety for those dealing with added stress. For that reason, my colleague, Glennis and I have decided to provide a webinar for anyone in agriculture dealing with some extra stress this holiday season.nebraska extension12.17.19web

Farmers and ranchers have many stressors in their lives. Weather challenges and disasters like many Nebraskans have recently experienced have led to uncertainty in their crop and livestock operations. Machinery breakdowns, debt loads, volatile markets, sleep deprivation, changing regulations, and the stress of holding onto a multi-generational farm/ranch all play a part of the stress and mental health of a farmer or rancher. Farmers and ranchers know the importance of planning and talking about their financial health to bankers, financial planners, spouses, etc. but might not realize how important it is to spend time on their mental health.

A free webinar will be offered December 17 via the web for farm and ranch families.  The webinar will take place over the noon hour (12:30 p.m. CST) and can be accessed at go.unl.edu/stresswebinar.  “Keeping stress levels in check” will be presented by Nebraska Extension Educators Glennis McClure and Brandy VanDeWalle starting at 12:30 p.m. (CST). This free webinar is available for farm and ranch families to participate and will provide strategies for dealing with the stress of farming or ranching in today’s difficult economic environment.

Participants will learn: How to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress; understand the role stress plays in our lives; and strategies and resources to manage stress.

For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at brandy.vandewalle@unl.edu or (402)759-3712.

A separate workshop available to agribusiness professionals and service providers working with farmers and ranchers titled, Communicating with Farmers Under Stress can also be taught face-to-face. For more information on this workshop contact Glennis McClure at gmcclure3@unl.edu or (402) 472-0661.