Archive of ‘Sussex County 4-H Youth Development’ category

A beautiful day for “You Just Have to Look”

It couldn’t have been a nicer day for 59 registrants who attended You Just Have To Look, a family friendly Master Gardener workshop!  Before outside explorations, Master Gardener Brent Marsh provided workshop attendees with an orientation of the wonders of insect life in the garden.  One of the highlights was how different mature insects look from baby insects, how insects change and transform, and what is the difference between a good or “beneficial” insect and pest insects that eat crops!

With 10X triplet loupes in hand (children got to take theirs home) everyone went out to the Sussex County Master Garden Demonstration Garden for an afternoon of family, learning, color and exploration.

“You Just Have to Take a Look” at these photos!

Sussex 4-H announce 2012 summer day camps

Sussex County 4-H will once again continue its tradition of offering day camps to area youth in Seaford and Georgetown this summer.

This year’s theme is “A Week at the Zoo!”  Counselors are busy preparing for different classes such as:  Arts & Crafts, Recreation, Food & Nutrition, Animal Awareness, and Dance.  Throughout the week, campers will also hear from guests on topics such as safety, healthy living, and of course, zoo animals!  Come join in the fun at one of the following camps!

  • Seaford Day Camp will be held at the Seaford Middle School, Monday, July 9 – July 13.  Cost for the 5-day camp is $75.00
  • Georgetown Day Camp will be held at the Georgetown Presbyterian Church, Tuesday, July 31 to Friday, August 3. Cost for the 4-day camp is $65.00

For more information, visit the Sussex County 4-H Day Camp page, where you may also download an application.  All camp applications must also include a health form.

Sussex 4-H Day Camps are opened to all Delaware youth ages 5-10. You do not have to be a member of 4-H to Join. Please see our special needs page for more information.  or call Jill Jackson at (302) 856-2585 x 524.


A bootiful two days for Sussex County’s 4-H farm tour at Hopkins dairy, Lewes

In rain and in sunshine, Sussex County 4-H held their annual two-day farm tour at Green Acres Farm in Lewes on Wed. May 9 and Thurs. May 10.  The dairy farm, the largest in Delaware  – milking 550 cows three times daily,  is owned by the Hopkins family, longtime 4-H supporters who have opened their barn doors for agricultural education for the past 26 years.

Luke Hopkins cuddles a baby chick inside his family's animal barn

Wednesday’s rain didn’t dampen this year’s exploration as more than 700 children, visited the farm’s many attractions, such as Pig Alley and Calf Lane and a tractor ride.  Sussex County 4-H focuses this agriculture education outreach for students in preschool to grade two. Students register through their schools. Each preregistered student received a free cone from the Hopkins Farm Creamery, which opened in 2009. Students, well-prepared in slickers and rain boots of many colors, confirmed that ice cream tastes as good in the rain as it does in the sun.

Thursday’s total neared 1,000 youth.  Wednesday’s rain had left a few mud puddles for the pigs to play in, delighting the students who watched them frolic in the soft, gushy Delaware soil.  In all, an estimated 1900 visitors in all,  including teachers, parents, chaperones, Extension staff and 4-H and Master Gardener volunteers, attended the farm tour on both days.

Hollymount 4-H'ers Colleen Anderson, Grace Hopkins and Holly Anderson show off their show cows!

During the tour, students, who leave the bus pinching their noses, eventually forget the farm aroma and begin to  make the connection between the family farm and the final food product – usually referred to as ‘farm to fork’ in this case was ‘farm to cone!’  Teachers and students have an opportunity to meet the Hopkins family; Walter and his wife Jenny; son Burli and wife Allison; and the next generation of Hopkins farmers, 4-H’ers Michael, Jacob, Grace and Luke who can be seen throughout the tour comfortably hanging out with the pigs, lovingly tugging on a cow’s ear and sharing their farm experiences with visitors.

Burli and dairy farm manager Bob Geiman offered tours of the modern milking process.  School children observed firsthand the all the teamwork efforts that go into producing healthy, nutritious and safe food.

Master Gardener Brent Marsh, AKA Farmer McGregor, asks his audience if they saw who took his vegetables!

Under blue and gold tents Cooperative Extension educators provided additional learning, including exhibits on corn and corn products, healthy beverages and the importance of exercise.  A popular puppet and people show, the Adventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Garden was performed numerous times by volunteer Master Gardeners.

Local 4-H youth members brought their project animals, providing a talkative tom turkey, horse, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits for young students to interact with and pet. UD Poultry Extension provided a chick hatchery and baby chick display, the inhabitants of which are now taking a much needed rest after being gently cupped by 1700 little hands.

Any area school or daycare center up to the second grade are invited to attend, with registration opening in late January before the May tour. The event is free.

For more information about the Sussex County 4-H Farm Tour contact the 4-H office at 856-7303.
Additional photos and videos of the farm tour may be found at 4-H’s Flickr site:  where photo sets for both days can be found, or visit Sussex County 4-H on

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

Delaware Cooperative Extension awards excellence at annual conference

Mary Argo, 2011 Director Spirit of Extension Award

Cooperative Extension professionals from University of Delaware and Delaware State University met on Tues. Oct. 18, for their annual conference in Dover, to celebrate their unique partnership and excellence in Extension outreach programing that serves Delaware’s families and agricultural constituents.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Linda Kay Benning, executive director of Northeast Cooperative Extension Director and associate director for Extension and Outreach at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, located in Washington D.C. Benning remarked on Extension’s rich history, the value of its current programming and the future of Extension funding at regional and national levels in the 21st century. Benning addressed the importance in raising awareness of the diverse programming that Cooperative Extension delivers to families, farmers, businesses and industry.

In recognition of Delaware’s Extension contribution the past year, the 2011 Cooperative Extension Awards of Excellence were announced:

Integration of Extension and Research Award:

  •  Gordon Johnson, Maggie Moor-Orth, Richard Taylor, Phillip Sylvester, Rose Ogutu, Brigid McCrea, Megan, John Clendaniel, Dahlia O’Brien, Mike Wasylkowski, Lakhe Paudel, and Joann Walston.

Positively Outrageous Service Award for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Individual:

  •   Carol Scott – 4-H Educator Afterschool program “Moving Youth Ahead.”
  •   Mary Argo – 4-H Educator in Sussex County.

Positively Outrageous Service Aware for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Team:

  • Tracy Wootten, Maggi Moor-Orth, and Sussex County Master Gardeners:  Brent Marsh, Jessica Clark, Jane Casazza, Susan Trone, Tracy Mulvaney, Mary Perkins, Mary Noel, Mary Hall, Marge Lewis and Linda Peters for:  “Peter Rabbit’s Adventure in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” a mobile theatrical presentation for children.

Outstanding Programming Award:

Bill's program, The Resourceful Leader, was recognized as an Outstanding Extension Program

  • Tracy Wootten, Laurie Wolinski, and Maria Pippidis – for “Annie’s Project” which supports and empowers women in agriculture.
  •  Maggie Moor-Orth, Tracy Wootten, and Brian Kunkel – “How Do You Like Me Now – Insects and Their Damage” and;
  • Gordon Johnson, Maria Pippidis, Kathleen Splane, Phillip Sylvester, Anne Camasso, Tracy Wootten, and Cory Whaley – “Food Safety on the Farm”
  • Karen Johnston, Michelle Ernst, and Amelia Uffelman – “4-H Health Rocks Program – Youth tobacco prevention program.”
  • Bill McGowan, “The Resourceful Leader”-Community development and economic gardening initiative.





Recipients of the Director’s Spirit of Extension Awards: Ernesto López, Rhonda Martell, Kathleen Splane and Albert Essel.

Ernie Lopez recipient of the 2011 Director's Spirit of Extension Award and Dr. Jan Seitz

Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) the association of Extension professionals presented the following awards:

  • Adult Outstanding Volunteer Award- Hetty Francke.
  • Youth Outstanding Volunteer Award- Terra Tatman.
  • Group Outstanding Volunteer Award- Emerson Farms.
  • Friend of Extension- Agilent Technologies.
  • Meritorious Support Service Award- Sharon Webb.

Delaware State University recognized two Extension professionals:

  • Brigid McCrea – “1890 Administrator’s Award” for Extension Agriculture and Youth. Development.
  • Andy Wetherhill – “1890 Administrator’s Award for Diversity” in Agricultural Extension programs.

Earlier in the morning, the conference’s 100 attendees separated into agriculture, family and consumer science and 4-H youth development groups and discussed initiatives and exchanged new ideas on how to effectively reach their constituents’ future needs.

The ag group focused on how to enhance an $8 billion agriculture industry given current economic challenges.  Items of note included the ability to understand and anticipate the needs of the ag community, the capacity to engage those needs in a timely fashion and development, and implementation of a strategy that creates an understanding and support for the value of Cooperative Extension.

Family and consumer science and EFNEP agents discussed what they see as emerging issues in nutrition, food safety, financial management and family well-being and how best to effectively communicate revised guidelines and research to local constituencies.

Through their diverse programming, 4-H reaffirmed that effective outreach to Delaware’s youth must rest on eight principles: a positive relationship with a caring adult, a safe emotional and physical environment, an inclusive environment, engagement in learning, opportunity for mastery, opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future, opportunity for self-determination and opportunity to value and practice service to others.

Tuesday’s gathering marked the last Extension Conference under the tenure of Associate Dean and Director of Cooperative Extension, Janice Seitz, who is retiring in the spring, 2012. The ninth conference however, will not be Seitz last. In 2003, Seitz established the Lighthouse Award as a special honor bestowed to an Extension professional who “lights the way for others.” Each year, the holder of the Extension beacon has the sole responsibility to pass the award onto a deserving colleague. Doug Crouse, 2010 recipient, carefully considered his many options, but concluded on one obvious choice, Dr. Jan Seitz, the founder of the award.

The award assures Seitz’s  return to next year’s conference to once again confer the award. But Seitz’s future participation with Delaware Extension was never in doubt.  Though stepping out of her leadership role, Seitz plans to lend support and resources whenever needed.   “This is the greatest job I have ever had,” Seitz said. “I love Extension so much.”


Images of the conference are available on UD Flickr site:

Sussex 4-H celebrates ‘excellence’ in volunteer leaders

At a recent Sussex County 4-H Leaders’ Meeting, Delaware 4-H and Sussex County staff and members recognized Kathy DiSabatino of Frankford, and Bo Waller of Georgetown, as Sussex County recipients of the 2011 4-H Salute to Excellence Award.  The National 4-H Salute to Excellence is supported by National 4-H Council and is sponsored by the Monsanto Corporation.

Kathy DiSabatino, right, 2011 Sussex County Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer and Bo Waller, left, 2011 Sussex County and Delaware 4-H Volunteer of the Year, receive congratulations from Ernie Lopez, Delaware 4-H volunteer coordinator and Extension specialist, at a recent 4-H Leaders' meeting.

Each year, through the submission of heartfelt essays authored by their 4-H volunteer peers, individuals are nominated for excellence in 4-H volunteer service and are sent to the Delaware 4-H Office who determine the finalists for the county and state honors.  The 4-H Salute to Excellence recognizes exemplary service in two categories – “Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer” for service over 10 years, and “Volunteer of the Year” for individuals who have served as 4-H leaders for 10 years or under. In Delaware, a total of six county winners have the chance to represent Delaware as a state winner. In addition to his county honor, Bo Waller was also named 2011 Delaware 4-H Volunteer of the Year.

All 4-H volunteers are treasured assets of the Delaware 4-H program. With more than 120 volunteers to rely on, Sussex County 4-H staff readily concur that their volunteers are “the engine that runs the successful 4-H program.”

For the past 18 years, Kathy DiSabatino has been a 4-H leader of the Lord Baltimore Helping Hands which serves the greater Delaware southeast communities of Ocean View,  Bethany and Frankford.  An elementary school teacher, DiSabatino’s dedication to education made her a natural for 4-H’s experiential learning programs. DiSabatino first became involved with 4-H as a parent of two young 4-H members. With more than 140 project areas to choose from, DiSabatino gravitated to leadership in 4-H’s Clothing and Textiles and Food and Nutrition projects.  Subsequently, DiSabatino became a co-organizational leader of the club, a member of the 4-H alumni organization- Sussex Order of 4-H Links, a representative of Delaware 4-H during a unique exchange trip with students in Bosnia/Herzegovnia, and much more. As her nomination letter sums up, “her tenacity, faith, organizational and interpersonal skills, and love of youth development have been the cream that has made her rise to the top.  Problem solver, excellent role model, dedicated 4-H leader- Kathy DiSabatino is a great example and very deserving of the 2011 Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award.”

Bo Waller’s dedication to 4-H is multi-faceted, providing Sussex County 4-H youth with a positive role model and enthusiastic cheering section for 4-H’s wildlife, ecology, small animals and fishing projects.  Waller synthesized all of these interests into the formation of a new Friendz, Finz, Furz and Featherz 4-H Club. Waller is also a certified archery instructor and teaches 4-H archery on a regular basis.  If it involves the outdoors, Waller is usually involved as well!  Waller also serves as organizational leader of the Clover Knights 4-H Club in Georgetown, and is a committed parent-partner in the 4-H Bike Club and teaches several wood science workshops at the county and state level. His endless zest for 4-H is matched by an equally bottomless reserve of green energy – the four-leafed clover kind.  As his nomination noted,”Bo Waller is a treasure for our county, for our state and for the national 4-H program.” Waller is the facility manager of the Carvel Research & Education Center and is instrumental in the set up of many 4-H events.

DiSabatino and Waller’s nomination letters were released in a recent 4-H newsletter.  Please read more about Kathy DiSabatino and Bo Waller here: STE_bio

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension System. Delaware 4-H is supported by University of Delaware and Delaware State University. 4-H welcomes the participation of all individuals. No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex. disability, age or national origin.  For more information about becoming a part of Delaware 4-H please visit their website:


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

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 4-H youth wake up early to cook and compete

Georgetown Middle School will serve as host for the annual Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods Contest and Foods and Nutrition Judging Contest, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. More than 80 Sussex County youth from the ages of 5 to 18 will wake up early on their day off and present their knowledge of food groups, menu planning, food and nutrition basics, food safety and healthy food choices. An estimated 250 visitors are expected to attend in support of 4-H youth contestants.

The Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods and Judging Contests presents a terrific opportunity in a fun learning environment, and children receive tools of the trade and valuable experience in making wise consumer and healthy choices that will last a lifetime.

Highlights of planned events include:

  • Children prepare a food item of their choice provide the recipe. They suggest a meal plan to accompany that recipe, which is showcased before judges and visitors.
  • Contestants learn to properly preserve and display their food entry for judging and interviews. Food safety is stressed.
  • Youth design a presentation place setting for maximum appeal.
  • Judges sample the prepared food and interview each contestant.
  • In a separate Foods and Nutrition Judging Contest youth test their knowledge in such areas as consumer education, cooking terms, MyPyramid and measuring math.
  • Workshop stations designed to educate and entertain, and staffed by experienced professionals, 4-H Junior Leaders and other 4-H volunteers will present:

o   Make it and take it crafts
o   Judging Training Station for  upcoming Wood Science and Photography competitions will also be available to keep youth engaged while they are waiting for the awards
o   Kids Corner – Community service and children’s activities

Sussex County 4-H Extension Educator Mary Argo and 4-H Volunteer Chairpersons Gina Anger and Marian Carey coordinates the day’s events, judges, presenters,  educational materials and volunteer base to make this contest a great success.

Awards, presented in different age and food categories, will be presented at 1 p.m. All attendees afterward are invited to sample the delicious recipes the children have prepared and participants take home a cookbook of all submitted recipes.  Awards are sponsored by the Delaware 4-H Foundation and ribbons are sponsored by the Sussex County Leaders’ Association

When so many children sleep in late and have developed fast food and junk food preferences, these motivated Sussex County 4-H youth act as terrific role models for other children. The Sussex County 4-H Favorite Foods and Food and Nutrition Contests provide the opportunity for youth to learn that many factors go into our food choices – and learning all the components of making wise choices can be presented in an educational and entertaining way.

4-H is a community of young people in America who are learning leadership, citizenship and important life skills. For more information about this event contact 4-H Educator Mary Argo at 856-2585 ext 559.