4-H youth

Litchfield County 4-H Names Public Speaking Winners

4-H cloverThe Litchfield County 4-H held their first annual County Public Speaking Contest recently with 12 talented 4-H members from throughout the county competing for the chance to represent the county at the State 4-H Public Speaking Contest at UConn in March. Ages of the participants ranged from 7 to 17 years old, and they chose to present a speech or do a visual presentation on a subject relating to their 4-H project or another area of interest to them. Topics ranged from poultry housing, equine therapy, the decline in the dairy industry, dog obedience and training, to goat milk, tractor use on a horse farm and preparing chocolate desserts, to name a few.

Public speaking is one of the many life skills that 4-H members learn as it is one of the most sought after “soft skills” in any industry or career path these members may pursue. Public speaking is the number one fear in the average adult, so these 4-H members begin to conquer that fear starting as early as age 7 in 4-H so that they become confident, outgoing and self-motivated young adults as they age out of 4-H once they turn 19.

Four of the contestants were selected as county winners and will compete at the State 4-H Public Speaking Contest in March at UConn. Owen Miller, from Torrington, a member from the Udder 4-H Dairy Goat Club, placed first in the Junior Speech division. Abigail Ceritello from Terryville, a member of the Busy Bunnies 4-H Club, placed first in the Junior demonstration division. Madeline Hall from Woodbury, a member in the Bethlehem Busy Stitchers 4-H club, placed first in the Senior demonstration division. Lillian Gura from Southington, a member of the Bits and Spurs 4-H Horse Club, placed first in the Senior Speech division.

4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. Litchfield County has 26 active 4-H clubs with over 400 active members in those clubs. Project areas include but are not limited to beef cattle, canine, crafts, dairy cattle, dairy goats, equine, community nutrition, food safety, food preparation skills, horticulture, mechanics, oxen, poultry, robotics, sewing, sheep, small animals, STEM, and swine.

The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join, please contact Bill Davenport, Litchfield County Extension 4-H Educator, at william.davenport@uconn.edu or at 860-626-6854.

4-H Program Teaches Finances to Military Youth

Reading Makes Sense Youth on the USS Constitution in Boston
Photo: Pamela Gray

A group of military affiliated youth recently wrapped up a six-week session of lessons about saving, spending, earning, and the value of a dollar, and their time. Following the Reading Makes Cents 4-H Afterschool Curriculum Guide, participants were able to inspect the hidden secrets of a dollar, learn about saving and spending, needs and wants, and budgeting and sharing (donating to those in need).

Each meeting was started with reading aloud a picture centered on the lessons for the day. The kids had a great time examining needs and wants through a fun experiential game where they decide what is actually necessary to spend money on. They ‘earned’ a week of minimum wage, and then were able to ‘shop’ some catalogs with prices listed – their money was more carefully spent when they considered the time it had taken them to earn it! They brainstormed options available for them to earn money (yard sale of their old toys, lemonade stands, chores for people), as well as ways they can give back to the community with their time instead of giving money.

The stories The Hard Times Jar and If You Made a Million were the clear favorites. A visit from a Navy Federal Credit Union representative helped them explore credit and investments through age-appropriate games and rounded out the experience by providing families with information on the options available through the bank for military affiliated youth. To round out the experience with some real living history, the participants visited Boston, visiting the USS Constitution (the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy) and the Paul Revere house, ‘paying’ for their trip with tokens earned at the classes for attendance and good behavior. Overall, the experience will hopefully produce some great financially wise futures!

Article and photo: Pamela Gray

Auerfarm Appoints Erica Fearn as Executive Director

Erica FearnThe Auerfarm 4-H Education Center in Bloomfield, Connecticut announces the appointment of Erica Prior Fearn, CAE, as its new Executive Director, beginning July 24.

Fearn succeeds Interim Executive Director Barbara G. DeMaio, who held the position since March.

“Auerfarm is thrilled to have an executive of Erica’s caliber lead our organization. Her experience at the CT Farm Bureau at both the state and nationals brings a wealth of talent to our organization. In addition, Erica’s 25-year involvement with Connecticut

4-H, both as a youth participant and now as leader, speaks volumes about her commitment and passion for agriculture and the environment, which are at the heart of everything we do at Auerfarm,” said Mark Weisman, chair of Auerfarm’s board of directors.

“I have always admired the mission and work of Auerfarm. It is an invaluable community resource for children, families and guests from across the region who want to learn about agriculture and the environment. I look forward to working with its very dedicated staff and volunteer force to further enrich the visitor experience and chart Auerfarm’s future,” said Fearn.

In addition to her work with the CT Farm Bureau, Fearn served as a consultant to several agricultural and environmental related non-profits.  Fearn has a BS in Animal Science from UConn and earned a certificate in Financial Success for Non- Profits from Cornell University.

Fearn is a resident of West Suffield, CT.

“We are very thankful to Barb DeMaio for serving as our Interim Director for the past several months. Her work was integral in maintaining Auerfarm’s level of excellence as a community resource,” said Mary Eberle, Auerfarm board member and chair of the recruitment committee. “We also thank Harvest Development Group for their assistance is recruiting both Erica and Barb to our organization,” said Eberle. “Harvest identified the type of leaders that we needed to continue Auerfarm’s heritage as a one-of-a-kind destination and experience.”

UConn Extension Gives Back

UConn Extension has a long history of delivering high-quality educational experiences to the citizens of Connecticut. These programs enhance the wellbeing of families, communities, and businesses across the state. Extension faculty and staff plan and implement programs, and feel a deep sense of pride and commitment to extending knowledge, and very often, changing lives in the process.

Many Extension employees and retirees feel strongly about the need to give back to the organization that gave them their livelihood. Two of UConn Extension’s generous donors, one a current employee and the other retired, explain why they give back, and what it means to see their contributions enhance the lives of others.

Nancy Bull
Nancy Bull

Nancy Bull, Extension Professor

“Why give? Giving was part of my growing up as I watched my parents involved with my dad’s students and my mom’s social organizations. When I started in Extension, I saw how much 4-H volunteers gave of their time and talents, and how unselfish they were. While we did not always agree on how to do something, or why we should do so, had it not been for the volunteers involved in the 4-H and county fair programs, there would have not been the opportunity for so many youth to learn and grow.

It is the give and take between and among our engaged volunteers that is humbling for me. Giving of time is not always possible, and so at times I have chosen to give money. I have seen what our Connecticut volunteers can do with donated funds given by others, and what a difference those funds can make.

Over the decades of being involved with 4-H I have watched volunteers who had very little in material goods, give
of their time over and over again, even when their opinions were not always in line with mine. As we watch youth grow and evolve, I can see the next generation of volunteers emerging. Hopefully a few dollars here or there will make their roles and responsibilities a little easier, and the load a little lighter.”

Carole Eller, Retired Extension Educator

“I began working for Cooperative Extension with the 4-H Youth Development Program when I was in college. For two summers I was the water- front Director at Nassau County 4-H Camp. It was there I learned that women didn’t need to be Home Economists to be educators. My first job was in Niagara County, NY. Here, I was able to do wonderful things for low-income girls. I got people to donate money that allowed girls in the summer program to be taken to dinner at an up-scale restaurant, a first experience, and high school students to attend a concert and summer stock performance. I could see the importance of private donations to the lives of 4-Hers.

I was non-traditional in many ways. 4-H was not all cows and cooking. I worked in New Jersey, and then came to Connecticut in the mid 1970’s. First, working in Windham County and then Tolland. At about this time, Elsie Trabue, a former secretary in the state office died and left a trust fund with the university for 4-H. This money had few, if any strings attached, and it provided funds for rich experiences for kids. She set an example for me. I want all children to have the experiences of a 4-H program, not necessarily in a specific project area, but citizenship, leadership, science and technology. I hope that my contributions help future Extension Educators have the resources to keep reaching out and expanding kids horizons, making the world exciting in positive ways.”

As we look to the future of Extension and the ability to provide innovative programming that impacts families and communities across the state, support is needed more than ever.

To make a donation, visit the UConn Extension Online Giving Page at s.uconn.edu/extension

Article by Nancy Wilhelm

4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program

youth members work on an afterschool project while a mentor observesThe 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program was started in 2014 as a partnership between UConn Extension Tolland County 4-H and UConn Community Outreach (CO) Program. The 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program is an enrichment opportunity where UConn CO student volunteers work with local area elementary school students in a fun and informal education setting, engaging in hands-on experiential learning activities in STEM and Healthy Living.

The 4-H in Vernon program meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in three elementary afterschool programs, presently run by the Vernon Department of Parks and Recreation. Coordinating all these partnerships and overseeing the program is the job of the UConn CO student leader.

For the last two semesters, Muhammad Shahzad has served as the UConn CO student leader for the 4-H Program.

Muhammad is responsible for coordinating between program and community partners as well as recruiting volunteers and implementing the program. He provides experience, motivation and opportunities for reflection for the collegiate volunteers, while striving to help meet the needs of the community.

Article by Maryann Fusco

Support 4-H Through Your Local Tractor Supply and JOANN Stores

paper clover graphic

Tractor Supply and JOANN stores across the country are supporting 4-H this spring through their Clovers for Kids and Paper Clover campaigns.  From March 1st to April 30th JOANN Stores nationwide will ask their customers to donate towards the 4-H Program through their Clovers for Kids Campaign which is in its second year of operation.  Both $1 and $4 donations are available.  Purchase of a $4 donation comes with a $4 off a future purchase coupon.  In addition, JOANN wants to support individual 4-H’ers involvement by providing a rewards card for 4-H members, leaders, staff and parents.  The rewards card gives holders 15% off JOANN graphictheir purchase every day.

Since it began in 2010, the partnership between Tractor Supply and 4-H has generated more than $11,000,000 nationwide in essential funding.  The spring promotion will commence on March 27 and run through April 7.  Tractor Supply customers can participate in the 2019 spring campaign by purchasing paper clovers for $1 or more at checkout.

In Connecticut Tractor Supply funds provide exciting opportunities for 4-H members to attend national 4-H leadership conferences such as National 4-H Congress and Citizenship Washington Focus.  Over 50 youth will benefit from these funds this year.  The JoAnn’s campaign provides support for the 4-H Expressive Arts Day along with other 4-H activities.  Visit your local Tractor Supply and JOANN stores this spring to ensure more kids get the chance to participate in hands-on 4-H programs.

My 4-H Story: Chloe Smith

I Found Myself at 4-H Camp

Chloe Smith Chloe Smith Chloe Smith

It’s not very often that someone reflects on defining moments in their life but when I take a moment to reflect on my life so far, the biggest influence that comes to mind is the eight years I’ve spent in the 4-H program and how the 4-H program has shaped who I am, and also helped me understand who I want to be.

I started going to 4-H camp when I was 8 years old.  When most people think of 4-H camp, they immediately think of farming but our camp is the only 4-H camp in the area that is not agriculturally based, it is centered around leadership.  When I was a younger camper, I did not necessarily understand what being a leadership camp meant but I knew I respected and looked up to the teens in our camp and hoped to someday become one of them and achieve that same respect and level of impact.

In the summer before 9th grade, I became part of the Teen Leader program, which was mainly focused on leadership.  We did a lot of team building within the program and I started to take on a lot more responsibility with younger campers.  The following year I got promoted to a junior staff, which is another leadership-based program.

In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I became a member of the Connecticut 4-H Teen Ambassador Program.  This program consists of teens from all over Connecticut and even a few out of state. Within the Connecticut Teen Ambassador Program, we meet once or twice a month to do community service projects, discuss important current issues and figure out new ways to help around our community and within our 4-H programs.

During this time, I was also learning to engage a group or speak to a crowd.  Sitting in a group of 50 or so teens we would pass around a microphone and share something, literally anything about ourselves.  One person would say they got their driver’s license or aced a test and the next person would say that their socks didn’t match. I didn’t realize it at the time but this was a leadership exercise focused on confidence and the ability to speak to a crowd, to reach an audience.  This confidence was something that helped me realize I want to work with children and help them develop their natural abilities.

I have helped plan a teen leader weekend conference with other teens from around New England.  I’ve developed my public speaking skills by giving presentations about the New London County 4-H Camp and Teen Ambassador program at the Big E.  I’ve gotten to experience once in a lifetime experiences.

In 2017, I was selected as one of the forty-three delegates to represent Connecticut at the annual Washington Focus trip in D.C.  On this trip I was able to meet so many different people from across the United States while developing my communication, leadership and citizenship skills.  I’ve learned so many skills and learned what I love to do, and I love working with people, especially kids.

Through all my work with the 4-H program I have gained more of a leadership role, it has made me realize I want to pursue a career in education of young children.  I strive to be someone that kids can look up to.

As I end my 4-H story, I reflect on how grateful I am that I became part of the 4-H Program and now have the privilege to be in a leadership role to give back to children as they start their own 4-H story.  

By Chloe Smith

4-H Spotlight: Edward Merritt

4-H Alumni and Retiree Spotlight 

Edward Merritt – Retired Hartford County Administrator, 4-H Agent and MA 4-H Alumni 

By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, State 4-H Office 

 

Ed Merritt
Photo: Nancy Wilhelm

At 83 Ed Merritt remembers a lot of exciting experiences during his time with the Hartford County Extension Program. He came to UConn Extension on October 1, 1963 directly from a National 4-H Fellowship in Washington, D.C. and was hired to serve as the Hartford County 4-H Agent. At the time, the Hartford County Extension Office was located in a two-story brick building at 6 Grand Street in Hartford.

Ed grew up in Goshen, Massachusetts, a little town of about 200 people. The youngest of three children, he lived on a farm during the 1930s and was a member of a 4-H woodworking club. Ed states, “There was an older gentleman in town who worked with four or five boys. Most of my projects were poultry and dairy because of the farm. I also grew vegetables such as potatoes and corn which was income for the farm and had a little maple syrup operation. I say little, but in those days, it was a lot. We made about 100 gallons a year if you had a good year.” Ed was also a delegate to National 4-H Conference. He graduated from UMass with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science and went directly to New Hampshire to serve as a 4-H Extension Agent in Cheshire, NH. His wife Jessie, (now deceased) was a 4-H member in New Hampshire and an active 4-H volunteer in Connecticut. Ed and Jessie met through 4-H, and their four children were actively involved in 4-H as well.

Ed was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years. He was stationed at, “nobody believes this, but it is true,” he states, 346 Broadway, New York City. He was recruited to do meat inspections for the massive wholesale orders going into packing plants. At the end of two years, he returned to UNH Extension where he remained for four years until 1962 where he was selected as one of six young Ex-tension 4-H personnel from around the country to serve as National 4-H Fellows. This was a fascinating experience because, as Ed relates, they got to know the top personnel in all of the USDA agencies. It really opened his eyes to the work of Extension at the national level.

During his tenure with UConn Extension, Ed recalls several important projects during the 1960s and 70s that highlight the expansion of Extension in Hartford County. The federal government had developed the CETA (Comprehensive Employment Training Act) Program which provided grant funds for a variety of programs. Beth Salsedo, who was hired at the time to establish 4-H work in the town of Bristol applied for a CETA grant and was awarded funds to hire six people to establish those clubs. The CE-TA program expanded and the Hartford County Extension Program ended up with five different contracts and a total of 30 new hires. The 1960s also saw the purchase of land in Marlborough, CT to build a 4-H camp. The camp opened in July of 1966. It was also the birth of 4-H programming in the city of Hart-ford. An Extension office was located on Vine Street in the North end of Hartford to focus on urban programming.

The establishment of the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield was also a major highlight of this time period. It initially began as a project to re-vive the old apple orchard at Auerfarm and give youth work experience. Ed and his family were heavily involved in the project for several years. The Koopman and Schiro families ultimately gifted a large portion of the property to the CT 4-H Development Fund.

Ed notes that some of the great strengths of 4-H include the volunteer leadership component as well as youth building leadership experiences through fairs, camp and the local club structure. He adds that 4-H in many ways is a com-munity within itself with youth forming lasting friendships and learning to help others. Ed recalls interactions with many wonderful people in 4-H and Extension overall.

Setting a Course for Active Learning

Setting a Course for Active Learning: An Interview with Senator Beth Bye

By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, State 4-H Office 

youth at Auerfarm meeting a rabbitElizabeth “Beth” Bye is the Executive Director of the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. She has worked in early childhood education for over 30 years. She is also a member of the Connecticut Senate representing the 5th district which includes Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington and West Hart-ford. Beth has spent her career working to assure all children have access to high quality learning opportunities. I sat down with her recently to get her thoughts on the benefits of early childhood education.

Her background in early childhood development and education began with a BA and MA in Child Development from the University of New Hampshire. Beth states that she was interested in the research on the impact of infant daycare on child development and in helping children to develop internal controls. She adds that “you can al-ways impact children, but it’s great to set their course early in life.” When asked what the research says about how we educate our youngest children she responds, “the research tells us that young children learn actively. They need to interface with a variety of materials, and explore, move and go outside. They also need to interact with other children and teachers. Their brains are qualitatively different and so they take in information differently than adults.” Beth also states that “play is the work of children”. It is universal, like walking and talking and is essentially how children make sense of their experience. Developing an attitude toward learning that is enthusiastic and flexible is also important and early childhood education programs can help to set the stage for children to be eager and excited about learning through play and active learning.

Environment also plays a key role in creating an effective early child-hood education program. The environment needs to be conducive to learning with 4-H clover youth member in garden projectinteresting materials and activities. Safety is a key factor as well. There is more fear among parents now regarding their child’s safety and so the question arises, how much freedom to allow children to explore and develop. Responsive care is critical to a safe learning environment. Building self-regulation is also important so that children can be part of a com-munity early on, learning how to work as a team, and care about others.

Beth credits the 4-H program with helping youth to create their own inquiry experiences with 4-H pro-jects and activities as well as teaching independence, enthusiasm for learning and contribution to com-munity. 4-H members learn these skills early on and it tends to stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Beth’s connection with Auerfarm began as a consultant for the Bloomfield Public Schools. Over 13,000 youth visit Auerfarm each year to learn about agriculture and the environment.

Auerfarm offers a variety of seasonal, school and summer enrichment programs that provide a wonderful setting for active sensory learning. Children take a hayride around the 120-acre property exploring the gardens, orchards and fields and also get to sample apple cider and maple syrup during seasonal programs. Auerfarm also has an ongoing relationship with the Wintonbury Early Childhood Mag-net School which visits the farm for several weeks during the year. What better backdrop for active learning than a 120-acre farm with animals, gardens, and orchards.