The UConn 4-H Military Partnership Project joined forces with the Subase Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Subase New London School Liaison Officer, University of Rhode Island 4-H, CT and RI National Guard CYP Coordinators, and New London County 4-H clubs for a “Barnyard Boogie” family sensory afternoon. Hosted by Horses Healing Humans, a partnering agency with VETSCT.ORG (Veteran Equine Therapeutic Services), local businesses, non-profits and Mental Health Professionals collaborated to make possible this free event for military-connected EFMP kids to meet kid-friendly barnyard ponies, goats, chickens, rabbits, sheep, and dogs. Over forty youth connected to the 4-H animals, many meeting a farm animal for the first time. Four 4-H clubs attended with animals in tow. This event will become an annual experience for our military families. Proud moment of the day involved one school-age boy, who, after much encouragement from his mom, tentatively reached out one finger to touch Trinket the sheep’s fleece. An expression of pure joy flooded his face, and he threw both arms over Trinket and buried his face in her fleece.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the Connecticut Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, only 10% of Connecticut high school students participated in a personal finance class annually. Fewer than 20 high schools required students to take a personal finance course prior to graduation. According to the Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015 by the Federal Reserve System, “Forty-six percent of adults say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.” Young people need opportunities to learn about money and practice those skills to prepare for their financial futures.
Every 4-Her has the opportunity to learn about finances through their projects and activities. As a member of a local 4-H Club, they are likely to pay dues to cover the cost of their various activities. This fee (usually a dollar or two) may be used to pay for snacks, a club t-shirt, jacket, or supplies. Most clubs have officers including a treasurer who will record these funds under the supervision of an adult leader. In addition to learning about the financial aspects of their specific project such as animal husbandry, science and technology, leadership and community service, 4-H members can register for projects such as money management, consumer education, or financial literacy.
When 4-H members begin a project, they need to write down their project goal. This is great practice for managing their own finances as they will need to identify their personal financial goals and determine their priorities. 4-H members complete project record sheets for their major projects. If they spent money to complete their project, they document it. For example, when a 4-H member has a horse project, they need to consider all the costs involved in keeping that animal alive, healthy, and safe. They inventory their supplies and write down the financial value of those items. Expenses related to feeding and health such as veterinarian bills and costs related to participating in competitions are recorded. This practice reminds them that there are usually costs involved in almost any project they choose. A 4-H alumnus reports “We had to keep records of animals, breeding, litters, sales, [and] showing [events] as well as expenses such as grain, hay, feed and water bowls, carrying cages for showing, and entry fees… becoming responsible for keeping a written record for expenses and income.” In a consumer and family science project such as sewing or childcare, they record any expenses or financial values of items related to their projects such as patterns, fabric, and thread in sewing, or games, books, videos, or craft supplies to entertain young children.
4-H members have the opportunity to serve on county and state planning committees such as 4-H Citizenship Day and 4-H Advisory committees. They review the costs related to the event from the previous year to help in determining the budget for this year’s event. As a committee, they will discuss different ideas for the event and will learn that any changes they make in the program may also affect the final cost, learning financial decision-making and the need to balance income and expenses. In addition, they can become involved in county fair boards where one responsibility of each officer role is financial management. One 4-Her shared “When I was treasurer, I learned more about the financial system in 4-H. I was required to count money during the fair weekend and compare the income to past years. As Coordinator of home arts, I was responsible for calling a vendor with a request for tables. I had to know the estimated amount needed and get the estimate for the fair meeting. For entertainment, I was responsible for filling out forms for performers to ensure they were paid.“
Throughout a youth’s time in the UConn 4-H program, there are many opportunities to learn and practice financial decision-making and responsibility.
Talking to Katie Adkins you get a sense that anything in life is possible. That with a little hard work and enthusiasm you can accomplish anything. And that’s exactly what she has done. Katie is the owner of Plymouth Meats in Terryville, CT, a full service USDA inspected facility from harvesting to packaging all done under one roof. Her bright smile and infectious laugh make it seem like being a wife, mother, 4-H club leader and business owner is all part of a day’s work. The hard work ethic and drive to succeed came at a young age as Katie had to rise at 4:30/5:00 am to take care of the animals on her family’s farm. Her father jokes that when Katie was little they had 4-6 beef cows. But as Katie grew the herd grew as well to over 80 cows.
Katie grew up on Blue Moon Farm in Harwinton where her family raises Hereford beef cattle along with pigs, lambs, poultry, rabbits and goats. They process and sell meat from their own cattle. Plymouth Meats is the retail store for their farm products. They also do live animal sales. Both Katie and her parents are members of the New England Hereford Association. Her father is the President. As Hereford breeders, they also focus on genetics and perform embryo transfers as well. Katie joined the 4-H program at the age of 12 and was a member of the Litchfield County 4-H Beef Club, where she served in several officer positions, did public speaking and showed her cattle at the local fairs and the Big E. She is now in her fifth year as the leader of the same club. In taking over leadership of the club, she explains that they started out with only a few youth but have grown to 12 youth currently. She lost a lot of the older youth who aged out of the club. Their parents had beef cows and grew up on family farms. The current crop of youth are younger and only three of them have project animals. The rest are there because they also love the animals and want to come to the fair and help with the projects.
Katie has them come to her farm occasionally for meetings to get hands-on experience. Some of the kids who have multiple animals will share them come fair time so everyone in the club gets to have show experience.
Katie attended Wamogo High School and then went to Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania where she majored in large animal science and Ag Business. She finished college in 3 ½ years and landed a good job cutting meat at a small store. She decided to forego additional schooling for a career harvesting and processing meat with the goal of starting her own business. In 2011 she started the permitting process for her business which had to be approved by the town. Finding a building was the next step along with the remodeling process which took an additional 2 ½ years. In October 2017 Plymouth Meats was officially up and running. Katie explains that she was only doing custom processing at the time. It was January of 2018 when the 7,000 square foot building was completed and in March of that same year she came under inspection so that the business could do harvesting and processing.
Plymouth meats also offers seasonal deer processing and buys in some other products for weekly specials which Katie promotes strictly through social media. She also goes to the Collinsville Farmer’s Market.
Katie states that the leadership and people skills learned through 4-H provided a good foundation to help her with her business. The life-long friendships established through 4-H have also been wonderful in a lot of ways. Some of these friends are now customers and people she helps out with their 4-H clubs.
A lot of her 4-H members are realizing that 4-H provides great leadership experiences. Watching older club members help younger members is a really nice thing to see. Katie explains that 4-H teaches kids responsibility especially when it comes to the care of their animals. She states that 4-H kids seem to have a better work ethic and do well working as a team. These are all skills Katie learned as a child and uses every day running her business.
April 6-11 I was fortunate enough to be selected as part of the Connecticut delegation sent to Washington D.C. for the 2019 National 4-H Conference. I was a part of the Entrepreneurship round table and we were tasked with answering a set of questions for the United States department of labor. The challenge question tasked to us was as follows, “It is estimated that fifty percent (50%) of the U.S. workforce will be freelance workers by 2027. What is the Gig economy and what are the characteristics that make it so alluring to youth? What are the kinds of skills entrepreneurs need to be successful and in what ways is entrepreneurial, skills training taught? How important could an innovation-based entrepreneurial economy be to a rural area?” These questions were tough to answer at first but with the help of my round table, which consisted of 15 4-Hers, 14 from the United States and one boy from Saskatchewan Canada, we were able to begin answering the questions quickly and efficiently. We prepared a 30 minute presentation for select members of the United States department of labor and the presentation went very well. Many of these members have been receiving the presentations done by 4-Hers for many years now and as a group the members said our presentation was among the best they’ve ever seen. I learned a lot at this conference about leadership and it tested my public speaking skills as I met other 4-Hers from around the country and as I talked with high ranking officials., Leadership skills came into play in the planning stages of the round table discussions as we needed to put together a very large, multi-parted presentation with people we had never met before. I learned a lot from this conference as well about the industry that I want to go into.
I want to be an entrepreneur and own my own horseback riding facility when I’m older so through the topic of entrepreneurship at conference I learned a lot about what I will need to do in order to be successful in my field.
Why donors should fund these trips?
My experiences in 4-H surpass anything else I’ve done in high school or my other clubs because of the important life skills I’ve gained from these 4-H trips. I have been a part of various different clubs and sports throughout my youth, but the only thing I truly stuck with was 4-H because even at a young age I understood that in 4-H I was being taught important life skills that I would gain no where else. 4-H has taught me a lot about the importance of public speaking and being able to communicate effectively with others. From my first public speaking competition in 2015 where I was barely able to finish my presentation to placing 5th at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Contests in the Individual Presentation contest at the end of 2016, I have shown immense amounts of growth in being able to speak well. From there as I continued to work on my speaking skills I’ve made it to the Connecticut state public speaking finals four times.
Once my public speaking skills were improved through 4-H, I turned my focus to becoming a better leader which 4-H teaches so well. I worked my way up the ranks of my club to become club president for three years. From there I felt I had improved my leadership skills enough to become a superintendent of the Horse Exposition at my local 4-H fair, which is a fair entirely run by 4-Hers. I was able to implement an entirely new event at this fair from my skills learned about leading a group from my local 4-H club. I am now a ranking officer at my fair.
4-H is also a great place for kids to learn interpersonal skills and how to make friends. When you first join 4-H or go on your first national trip, it is likely you will know no one. This encourages kids to make new friends and connections and step outside of their comfort zone, possibly even for the first time. My experiences in 4-H are matched my nothing, and I truly thank the wonderful leaders and extension agents I’ve come to know for that.
In April, the Power Surge 4-H Robotics team from Fairfield County was in Maine for a FIRST Robotics Competition. Here is a recap of their competition:
“Things went well in Maine, but we got knocked out in the quarterfinals on our third match for best two out of three.
We were scoring “Hatch” pieces well with a guaranteed climb in every match during qualifications, but we had tough losses by just a few points, and ended up 22 out of 31. However, our scoring and defensive ability was recognized enough to be selected to join a three team alliance to go to eliminations.
In the quarterfinals we had to play defense to shut down the scoring of the second ranked alliance, and got roughed up enough to damage our climber mechanism. With that damage, we just missed our second win to move on to semifinals.
The high honor of the competition was that we won the “Creativity” award for robot design. This really energized the team to not only be recognized for a unique and effective robot climbing design, but also the ability of the students to effectively communicate the strategy and design process to the judges.
The students incorporated the lessons of 4-H into their discussions with the judges and it was reflected in the announcement of the team as the winner of the Creativity award.
Looking back on where we came from, having no shop and equipment in December, this has really been a miracle season to get to where we are and be recognized with an award. We now have a great foundation to really develop the team further next year. We plan to have training classes for the students over the summer in electronics and programming to get a jump on more advanced control techniques for next year.
We will continue competing in post season competitions around New England in late spring and the fall, to give the younger students some competition driving experience. New students can learn from the seniors’ competition experience before they graduate.
Now that the serious competition is over we are concentrating on “catching up” on our 4-H commitment. Members will be getting their binders up to date etc.
Thank you again to the UConn 4-H – Fairfield County program for all your support. Below are a couple of links that FIRST posted on their sites (Twitter and Instagram) because our design was so unique.”
We have jobs open at Jobs.UConn.edu – an Assistant Extension Educator with UConn 4-H based in Torrington, an Assistant Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, and a Research Assistant 2 – Connecticut Farm To School Specialist based in Vernon. All positions will have statewide responsibilities. Apply today, applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis.
Every summer, New London County 4-H provides programming to our local libraries. These partnerships benefit the libraries as 4-H provides technological equipment that are not affordable to individual libraries (especially the rural libraries in our county) and a range of experiential learning activities not readily available to libraries with limited staff. 4-H activities are easily adapted to fit any age group and is beneficial to every individual, regardless of their learning abilities. The theme this summer, 4-H Libraries Rock!, was a 7-session summer program giving participants the opportunity to do STEAM-related activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
Instead of taking a two month break from school, participants continued learning over the summer, promoting greater learning at school, more enthusiasm in the classroom, and a desire for experiential learning outside of the classroom. 4-H Libraries Rock! encouraged youth to work as a team, taught how problem-solving leads to success, and gave a general understanding of STEAM concepts.
A successful experience from the Janet Carlson Calvert Library (Franklin) involved young adults with special needs. These individuals were able to take part in the activity “ROCKets to the Rescue”. Together they assembled rockets made out of cardstock and launched by stomping on a soda bottle connected by PVC piping to the rocket (aka air propulsion). It was a challenge for the special needs participants using large motor skills to stomp on the soda bottle. However, with patience and assistance, they were thrilled to see their rockets shoot into the sky.
4-H Libraries Rock! programs at Groton Library and Otis Library (Norwich) reach a diverse community. The central locations of the libraries make them available to children and families who do not have transportation and need to depend on public transportation or walking. The majority of the youth participating in these programs make up urban demographics and may not have caregivers who are able to enroll their children in costly summer enrichment activities. 4-H’s involvement in these communities encourage and enhance youth’s cognitive development through the summer.
Today’s youth rely heavily on technology to solve problems and for some youth, experiential learning is intimidating. The first week of 4-H Libraries Rock!, youth made foil boats. They pulled out their cell phones, googling the best way to make a boat that will hold the most pennies before sinking. The 4-H instructor asked “Why would you use someone else’s knowledge when you have a brain of your own?” The phones were put away, and never came out again for the rest of the summer. Other kids engaged in negative self-talk: “This is stupid.” “This is not fun. Can I leave?” “I can’t do this.” Encouraging positive remarks, from the 4-H leaders and from kids to each other, such as “Let’s try again.” “That’s so awesome!” “Can I have help?” were game changers for the youth. They brought family members into the library to see what they were doing, and started each week with a ‘can-do’ attitude, no matter the activity or how challenging.
Garret Basiel was a 4-H member in Middlesex County and is a freshman at UConn this fall in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. This is the college essay he submitted with his application.
My fingers felt raw, but I once again pulled back the bowstring and aimed down range at the target. After my quick lesson on safety and proper form, I spent at least four hours at the archery range that day in 2010 during my local 4-H fair. The arrows skewed across both the target and ground alike, but every time one hit anywhere near the center of the target, I was delighted. This single positive experience led me to learn not only about fletchings and points but about myself too.
As a novice 4-H club member, I made a very small contribution on the range when we brought our equipment out to local fairs. After hauling out the targets and setting up a safety line, I might chip in information on a shooter’s form every once in a while, telling them to “straighten your feet” or “keep pulling back,” but I still lacked the confidence to address the masses that poured through our setup. Despite these crowds, I managed to find time to shoot for myself. I would launch as many arrows as I could, reducing me to sore set of fingers and a pair of tired arms trembling, just as they were my first time there. A year rolled past and, thanks to my club leaders, I was able to consistently nail the bull’s eye.
Yet as my skill increased, my confidence and courage did too, and I came to discover how much I enjoyed assisting others. By the 2014 4-H Fair I felt ready to impart my knowledge onto others. For the first time I was able to walk someone through all of the steps of an archer. I would always begin by strapping an arm guard on them and showing them how to position their feet. Then I would go on to explain how to hold the bow, nock an arrow, and pull back the string. What surprised me was adults’ willingness to learn. Although towering over me, they politely listened while I taught them what to do, letting me know that my voice mattered. I shared their excitement as their skill progressed having heard “Look what I just shot!” and taking part in high fives more than a few times. My shyness was clearly on the way out.
As I matured and gained more experience over the years, I was able to fulfill assorted jobs on the fair ranges. Older club members, who used to help people put on their arm guards or teach them how to shoot, aged out, leaving me with more responsibility. I felt comfortable walking adults and teenagers through the process, but my hardest challenge was helping young children, who struggle to listen to instructions and even to pull back the bow string. I still remember the first girl who I knelt next to. I helped her straighten her arm and adjust her feet before I helped her tug back the bowstring. I urged her “Keep pulling, you’re almost there” as I had heard my club leader say so many times before. We both smiled when her arrows hit the target. Each year I have helped at the archery range I have become more dependable. Now I even run the range, not only teaching but announcing “Begin shooting” or “Go get your arrows” whenever my leader is busy.
I am very grateful that teaching archery helped me come out of my shell. Addressing the groups of people coming through our archery range gave me new found courage that has carried over into my other parts of my life. I now take on leadership roles in class, finding myself leading groups through trigonometry projects, and at cross country meets I feel more comfortable conversing with other runners. I feel ready to bring this same confidence over to my upcoming college years.
UConn 4-H is one of 10 states selected for a pilot program to implement Common Measures program evaluation. The evaluation instruments Common Measures 1.0 and Common Measures 2.0 were created by National 4-H to help 4-H staff with planning and assessing local, state, and regional programs. Common Measures are designed to measure the impacts of 4-H programs in science, healthy living, citizenship, college/ career readiness, and positive youth development.
Common Measures goal is to establish a common core of youth outcomes and indicators consistent with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Plan of Work system. This includes using information from a national database for evaluating, improving and reporting on programs and their impacts.
The 2012 study conducted by Payne & McDonald, Using Common Evaluation Instruments Across Multi-State Community Programs: A Pilot Study, examines the benefits of using a common set of evaluation instruments. Read more about it online at joe.org/joe/2012august/rb2.php.