June 2011 archive

UD demonstration and woodland gardens offer opportunities for little hands to explore

This past May, when Delaware’s flora and fauna were expanding and showing off their diverse vibrancy, the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension staff and volunteers invited pre-school and elementary students to explore their outdoor classrooms. Located on the Carvel Research & Education Center’s grounds in Georgetown, Dot Abbott, state extension agent in Renewable Natural Resources, and Tracy Wootten, Sussex County horticultural agent and liaison for the

Farmer McGregor explains how he and Peter Rabbit get along!

Sussex County Master Gardeners, hosted a variety of outdoor classrooms available to informally teach curious minds. Staffed by volunteer Master Gardeners, the Demonstration Garden and woodland outdoor classroom became a fresh-air venue for everything green and growing – a day of adventure, investigation and hands-on learning that included getting friendly with Delaware garden soil. There’s just no better way to get one’s hands dirty…er…we mean soily!  You can view all the pictures of May’s outdoor classroom activity here!

May is not the only opportunity to explore nature’s garden bounty! Although the Demonstration Garden is open throughout the growing season, Sussex Master Gardeners schedule and highlight specific days catering to parents, teachers, homeowners and students. On these occasions, Master Gardener volunteers and Extension staff are on hand to offer more detailed information, advice and insights into successful gardening in Delaware.  A very popular section of the garden has been especially designed for children to enjoy and participate in the rewards of gardening.

Who knew Delaware soil could be this interesting!

The Children’s Garden welcomes little hands to explore the soil, crawl under a teepee trellis, stick their heads through a blooming photo prop, watch butterflies land on a pink or purple petal and view  splashing goldfish and hear croaking frogs in a pond near the shade garden. Their annual open house,  A Day in the Garden, features opportunities to mix potting soil, plant flowers and vegetables, search for items in a scavenger hunt, and watch a command performance of “Peter Rabbit’s Adventures in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” featuring the voices, puppets and talents of many Sussex County volunteer Master Gardeners.

And while the children explore, learn and enjoy the colors of the garden, adults too, can have an opportunity to learn about what grows best in Delaware. An Accessible Garden area demonstrates that gardening can be enjoyed at any age – even with some physical limitations. Native plants, grown to encourage beneficial insects and songbirds, are clearly identified. Ornamental shrubs and trees, annual and perennial flowers, plants that thrive in shade or sun, are featured and marked with signs. Bring your camera! Back by popular demand, the Master Gardeners will again be holding a plant sale.

Sussex County Master Gardeners welcome the public to this very special, educational, family-friendly day. Let us demonstrate how rewarding any level of gardening can be!

Where: Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown, Del. 19947.  Look for the blue and gold tent behind the Carvel Center.
When: Saturday, July 16, 2011
Time: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free
Parking: Ample and free
Website: For more details about A Day at the Garden

Article by Michele Walfred

UD researchers share weed, crop trial info at annual Weed Day in Georgetown

On Wednesday, June 22, Mark VanGessel, University of Delaware’s extension’s specialist and professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, his team of weed science researchers, Barbara Scott and Quintin Johnson, and Mark Isaacs, director of Carvel Research and Education Center, welcomed growers and those serving in the agricultural industry to tour their research plots at the Carvel Center in Georgetown. Weed Day has become an annual agriculture tradition at UD’s experimental station.

Mark VanGessel explains how a roller/crimper is used for mechanical weed control in organic crop production. Photo:M.Walfred

Throughout the year UD Extension and research staff conducts unbiased studies on more than 70 trials (which amount to more than 700 plots) most are devoted to key agronomic crops, and evaluate their effectiveness of weed management. Chemical, mechanical and cultural practices are evaluated. Their findings are published in an annual guide of trial results that is made available to attendees and the results serve as the basis for educational programs throughout the year and provide the experience to answer questions from farmers and the agricultural industry. More than 50 attended Wednesday’s weed session.

The goal of Weed Day is to deliver the latest research. Communication to the industry is a key component in Delaware’s continued agronomic success and is part of Cooperative Extension’s outreach mission. Many of the plots are identified by signage indicating the particular study and methodology.

The trial studies included a variety of herbicide programs for conventional tillage and no-till production.  Included in the 2011 Delaware Weed Field Day publication are studies in field corn and sweet corn, soybean, watermelon, cantaloupes, winter wheat, peppers, lima beans and snap beans. VanGessel also introduced the tour group to a trial on organic production of corn, soybean and winter wheat. Weed management relies on cover crops and mechanical weed control. A roller/crimper is used to kill the cover crops prior to planting corn or soybeans by crimping the plant stems and rolling it down on the ground so it dies. A high residue cultivator is being used to control weeds after the corn and soybeans have begun to grow.

Kevin Ryan, a planner with the Sussex Conservation District and also a Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) attended the tour to keep informed and maintain his CCA accreditation. Ryan feels the tours provide a valuable visual experience. an important complement to what is shared in printed materials. “Book learning is one thing, but we learn a lot by seeing what does and doesn’t work in Delaware,” Ryan says.  Ryan appreciates the efforts and accessibility of UD Extension staff and researchers.  “They are always available to help any time, and what is learned here can be shared with our customers. It’s great,”  Ryan says of Weed Day.

According to a recent UD study, The Impact of Agriculture on Delaware’s Economy, agriculture in the First State contributes nearly $8 billion to the local economy.  As the study points out, production efficiency is vital keeping Delaware agriculture in the forefront of what is a very competitive sector.

Weed Day began inside Carvel’s meeting rooms with a brief overview of UD’s trials, what methods or herbicides have shown promising results, and weeds that remains challenging- morningglory, speedwell, annual ryegrass, herbicide-resistant pigweed and Palmer-aramanth. VanGessel also acknowledged the valuable contribution of student interns and the Carvel’s farm and administrative staff for the continued success and relevance of Weed Day. Later in the morning, Weed Day visitors were chauffeured on haystacks for a firsthand look at several field trials. View photos of Weed Day 2011 here.


Article and photos by Michele Walfred

Sussex 4-H’er places third in national bee essay, wins $250

Mikayla Ockels of Milton tends to her family's honeybee hive. Photo by Rich Ockels

For Mikayla Ockels of Milton, 2011 has been the Year of the Bee.  In January, Ockels won First Place in the Sussex County 4-H Public Speaking Contest and in May, Ockels was notified that she received Third Place in a national essay contest sponsored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc., based in Georgia. The letter was accompanied by a prize of $250.

When her mother Cindy saw the beekeeping essay contest advertised in the 4-H newsletter, she suggested Mikayla make a submission. Fresh from her public speaking win, Ockels was in bee-mode and eager to do more research.  Essayists were asked to investigate the local/regional honey of the United States and see how they differ in taste and color. In all, 23 essays were submitted.

“Whoa!  I won. That was really exciting!” Ockels says of her reaction to opening the envelope that was waiting for her after school.  “It is in the bank right now and I am saving up to buy a second horse.”

Ockels is an eighth grader at Sussex Academy of the Arts & Sciences and an 8-year member of the Harbor Lights 4-H club. Her interest in honey bees began in 2010 when her father Rich decided to try beekeeping as a hobby. Producing honey and wax for candles is  part of the family’s goal to be self-sustaining and produce different types of food on their farm. The first hive, consisting of one nursery and two supers, produced 36 pounds of honey in its first year. The value of the honey harvested paid for the initial investment.

Their 8-acre homestead sits on a larger family farm where wildflowers and native plants bloom uninterrupted, and assisted by some seeded red clover, produce the nectar that the bees turn into honey. Ockels’ prize-winning 1,000 word essay, U.S. Honey: A Taste for Every Preference, researched and compared how the different regional flowers affect the taste and color of honey.

“Our honey isn’t a specific type – it is light sweet and has a mild favor. We use it in a lot of our recipes like muffins and pancakes,” Ockels says. It is often used as a replacement for sugar whenever possible, she says.

“Our honey comes from a variety of nectar sources. One thing we did was stop mowing our lawn for a period of time so the bees could get the nectar,” she says.  “The flavor changes throughout the year!”

Mikayla is learning at her father’s side and her interest in beekeeping expands as the family invests in a second hive. The bees have the entire Ockels family buzzing too. Her younger brother Ben and mom Cindy are all in the bees’ business!

The honeybees were obtained via the Internet. They received a queen and 15,000 bees. “It was cool! They come in a little box with a wire screen. The post office called us and we went and picked them up.” The bees are attention-getters. Some humorous conversations have occurred at the post office, Ockels says.

“It’s a lot of fun to see the process used for harvesting honey and seeing a huge pot of honey on the kitchen counter,” Ockels says. “We have given honey as gifts too.”

Despite being stung a few times, Ockels is still buzzing with enthusiasm. “It was scary,” she says of the first time a bee sneaked inside her protective gear. “Now it’s not a huge deal. Getting stung once a month is good for you,” she adds, nonplussed.

Fortunately, Ockels is not allergic to bee stings.  In fact, she credits the family honey in helping her with her own seasonal allergies. “I just had a spoonful this morning for my allergies and I take some whenever my allergies are acting up!”

Mikayla has begun practicing to reprise her county winning 4-H speech, The Buzz About Bees, at the Delaware State Fair on Friday, July 22 at 6 p.m. where she will compete on stage at the 4-H Centre with New Castle and Kent County 4-H’ers for the state public speaking honor in her age group, 10-12. Her speech is packed with fascinating tips and good advice:

“Bees are an amazingly important and beneficial insect for our environment.  The bee population world-wide is declining.  More people need to get interested in bees and start their own colonies so this important insect can flourish!  If having a bee colony isn’t an option, there are other ways to help.”

“By planting flowers and shrubs that bees like, and not using insecticides in the gardens.Without bees, we wouldn’t have many types of plants and fruit that we enjoy.  Bees have affected our lives in many ways, giving us delicious honey, pollinating the plants, and definitely making life a whole lot sweeter!”

Article by Michele Walfred
Photo by Rich Ockels

UD to hold Weed Science Field Day on Wed. June 22

Anyone with in interest in weed management is invited to this year’s Weed Field Day at University of Delaware Carvel Research & Education Center in Georgetown.

Delaware growers receive training at the 2010 Weed Day at the University of Delaware in Georgetown

The day will begin with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Grove near the farm buildings and new office building on the north side of the road.  Plots will be viewed beginning at 9 am.  Coffee, juices, and doughnuts will be offered in the morning.  Sandwiches for lunch will be provided.

According to Extension Weed Specialist Mark VanGessel, the program will consist of “a variety of herbicide programs for conventional tillage and no-till are being evaluated.  Many of the registered corn and soybean herbicides are being tested, herbicide evaluation for watermelons, weed control programs for snap and lima bean, and a number of studies with traditional soybean herbicide programs are included.  Credits are available for Pesticide Credits and Certified Crop Advisers (CCA).”

Carvel Research & Education Center is located on Route 9 (16483 County Seat Highway), Georgetown. Click here for directions. View photos from the 2010 Weed Field Day.

Sussex 4-H, Hopkins family celebrate 25 years of farm tour

Fluffy yellow chirping poultry puffballs are always a main attraction inside the Hopkins' family barn

Each May in Lewes, Sussex County Cooperative Extension, 4-H and the Hopkins family (owners of Green Acres Farm, Delaware’s largest dairy operation) swing open the farm gates and welcome busloads of young students eager to discover what really goes on at authentic dairy farm.

Two gorgeous days provided the backdrop to an estimated 1900 youth, teachers and parents.

Unaccustomed to farm aromas, many young students arrived pinching their noses, but soon little hands relaxed and began to explore – holding chirping, yellow poultry puffballs, petting a young, well-behaved Holstein cow and peeking through a slatted fence to watch pigs snort, and sometimes sleep, in their pens.

It is an agricultural classroom without exams or textbooks. The experiential learning component of 4-H allowed students and adults to explore the many ways a family farm brings food to the table. Under the blue and gold tents, Extension staff offered entertaining and educational interactive displays, helping the young visitors make the agricultural connection to nutrition, safety and fitness. Sussex Master Gardeners provided a theatrical show and Extension staff directed bus traffic, assisted in the tractor rides and kept the lines to the popular milking tour moooving!

In addition to the herd of Holsteins and 4-H project pigs that are kept full time at the farm, 4-H volunteers brought in other animals that one might typically see around the farm grounds. Goats, small horses, rabbits, barn kittens, and a few ducks, delighted the students. Volunteers were assigned stations and filled curious minds with fun facts about the display animals.

In recent years the Hopkins family has added new playground features to their pasture to coincide with the opening of their Hopkins Creamery in 2009. Many climbed aboard a wooden tractor, milked a display cow the old fashioned way, savored complimentary cones at one of the picnic tables and poked their head through a farm photo prop.

The farm tour has been conducted at the Hopkins’ location for 25 years and Sussex County 4-H Educator Mary Argo has coordinated the last 16 of them. Argo feels at home with the hustle and bustle of the two-day event. “The weather was great, animals were perfect,” Argo says. “We are always delighted to partner with the Hopkins family for this unique educational opportunity for Sussex students. This was a picture perfect farm tour.”

Visit the Sussex County 4-H Flickr page for more photos of the event.

Article by Michele Walfred
Photos by Tammy Schirmer

Sussex Master Gardeners invite public June 16 to evening garden walk

Daylilies in bloom in the garden. Photo by Bobbie Ranney

The Sussex County Master Gardeners are pleased to invite the public to a Garden Walk at the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden on Thursday, June 16, 2011, 5 – 7 p.m.   The garden is located behind the county Extension office, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown. The event is free.

Master Gardeners will feature a look at a June garden filled with flowers.  In addition to enjoying the garden, a number of Master Gardeners will be available to provide information and help on a wide variety of gardening topics including an exhibit of Accessible Gardening Tips and Tools.

Following the Garden Walk, Master Gardener Vicki Thompson will be presenting a workshop on ‘Hostas’ at 7 p.m. in Conference Room 3 of the Extension Office.  Pre-register for this workshop by contacting Tammy Schirmer at (302) 856-2585 ext. 544 or tammys@udel.edu

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices. It is Delaware Cooperative Extension’s policy that that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or handicap status. If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

LEADelaware graduates second class of agriculture fellows

2010-2011 LEADelaware graduates:First row: Judith Leith (Camden), Maryann Reed (Felton), Karen Breeding (Bridgeville), Bill McGowan Standing: Mark J. Davis (Georgetown), Tom Ilvento, Jeff Chorman (Greenwood), Laurie Wolinski, Ron Lindale (Milford) , Kristin Pusey (Seaford), Darryl Moore (Smyrna), Jennifer Walls (Milford), Cory Atkins (Laurel), Jennifer Volk (Smyrna), Jayme Arthurs (Houston), Mark A. Davis (Harrington). Photo by Anne Camasso

Thirteen participants in the second class of LEADelaware celebrated a graduation ceremony on Friday, June 3, at the USDA State Service Center in Dover, capping two years of agricultural leadership training which began in Seaford, helping to raise a Habitat for Humanity residence and culminating with a tour of Peru’s agricultural industry (click link for photos). In between, the fellows enriched their personal style of leadership with a variety of experiences that broadened their interaction with Delaware agriculture – an industry, according to a recent University of Delaware study, that contributes $7.9 billion to Delaware’s economy.

LEADelaware fellows met regularly over a two-year period. The participants brought diverse agricultural backgrounds and experiences to inspire each other to implement new ideas to benefit the industry.  Among the 13 fellows were three farmers, others were agency personnel representing USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource and Conservation Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Delaware Department of Agriculture and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, MidAtlantic Farm Credit, an aerial applicator, high school agriculture teacher and commercial agricultural industry professionals.

Their agenda over two years, coordinated by Tom Ilvento, chair of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Food and Resource Economics, Bill McGowan, UD Community Development Extension Agent in Sussex County and Laurie Wolinski, UD Extension Associate in Food and Resource Economics Department included:

  • Examination of public perception of agriculture by viewing and discussing the documentary Food Inc. within the college and with LEADelaware alumni
  • Touring animal and crop farms in Delaware including UD’s farm
  • Visited the Delaware Biotechnology Institute in Newark
  • Met with local media
  • Visited Washington, D.C.
  • Developed and practiced leadership skills including conflict resolution, communication and decision-making.
  • Developed stretch goals with Mike Nally, of Lead Your Way Solutions.

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, who led the first LEADelaware class while serving as a UD Cooperative Extension Specialist, noted the importance of leadership for this industry. Delaware agriculture is a significant and diverse economic force.  Change is constant. The class of LEADelaware II fully recognizes the challenges and rewards ahead and looks forward to playing their part.

LEADelaware seeks to build the next generation of leaders within the food, fiber and natural resources industries in Delaware.  Sponsors include the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, UD Cooperative Extension, Delaware Department of Agriculture and MidAtlantic Farm Credit.

Sussex 4-H announce summer day camps in Seaford, Georgetown

Sussex County 4-H is pleased to continue their tradition of providing affordable and quality summer day camps for Delaware youth ages 5 to 10.  Each camp is carefully planned and introduces children to a wide variety of 4-H curriculum – educational activities that have helped to make 4-H the largest and one of the most admired youth programs in the country.   Children will participate in hands-on classes such as Food & Nutrition, Arts & Crafts, Recreation and Environmental Education. 4-H membership is not required to attend camp, however space is limited and camps fill up fast!

The following camps have room available:

Seaford 4-H Day Camp – (Five Day- Mon. – Fri.)  July 11-15. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $75.
Located at Seaford Christian Academy,  543 N. Bradford Street, Seaford, DE 19973.
Registration Form. Directions.

Georgetown 4-H Day Camp – (Four Day- Tues.- Fri.) August 2-5. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $65. Georgetown Presbyterian Church, 203 N. Bedford Street, Georgetown, DE 19947.
Registration Form. Directions.

Additional information and photos of the 2010 camps can be found on our 4-H camp website. We welcome any questions or inquiries. Please contact 4-H camp director Jill Jackson at (302) 856-2585 ext 524.

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning citizenship, leadership and other life skills.  Sussex County 4-H is part of the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension System. It is the policy of Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex. disability, age or national origin. All reasonable efforts will be used to meet accessibility requests. Please contact our office two weeks prior to the event to request assistance.

4-H day camps are staffed by UD Extension staff. All adult 4-H volunteers undergo a state background check as an eligibility requirement before becoming a 4-H leader. 4-H teen junior leaders receive leadership training and are interviewed before assisting staff as camp counselors. Everyone at Sussex County 4-H is dedicated to making your child’s day camp experience a memorable, fun and wholesome experience!  We hope you will make 4-H a part of your summer plans. We look forward to meeting you!