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Youth Crop Scouting Competition — Views from VanDeWalle

Connecting Youth with Crops… Looking for a fun club project? Want to unite your club members? Running out of ideas for club meetings? If you answered, “yes” to any of these questions, help is on the way! Nebraska Extension is pleased to present the 3rd annual Crop Scouting Competition for Nebraska youth. Youth interested in […]

via Youth Crop Scouting Competition — Views from VanDeWalle

It’s Fair Time!

orangeout at fair

This week is the Clay County Fair! We hope you will come out to view the 4-H and Open Class exhibits, 4-H/FFA youth showing their animals, family fun night, 4-H Council Bar-B-Q, cattle sorting, mutton busting, Amanda Winter concert, mud drags, and much more! I absolutely love our fair for the focus on youth and families! I also enjoy watching the fairgrounds come alive with excitement from youth and families as they bring their projects and show them. It’s such a blessing to work with wonderful people who desire what’s best for the youth! A full schedule of events can be found at See you at the fair!  (photo is of those wearing “orange out” t-shirts the last day of the fair in 2014-Photo courtesy of Tory Duncan, Clay County News).

Determining Your Needs

In the Clay County Fair Open Class flyer printed in the Clay County News, you will find the middle page pulls out and is a survey. Nebraska Extension in Clay County and our Clay County Extension Board have launched a survey to determine programming/information needs you deem critical to you and your families. We know that we provide crop, 4-H, and some horticulture programming and information, but there is much more that Nebraska Extension as a whole provides that we haven’t necessarily offered as much as we could in Clay County.

The survey is meant for those of you in Clay County, if you’d be willing to take less than 5 minutes to fill it out, we’d greatly appreciate it! You can also fill it out online at: The survey will remain open till the conclusion of the Clay County Fair on July 12 this year. Please pass this information along to Clay County constituents as we’re trying to reach as many people as possible. It really is important that we receive as much feedback as possible. It’s important as the goal is to better serve you-and we can’t do that without your input! Please do take a few minutes and complete this for us as we’ve only had a handful complete it thus far. Thank you and please encourage others to complete it as well!

County Fair Time!

This year marked my 10th Clay County Fair.  It was bitter-sweet in a way as I have watched this group of youth from their pre-4-H Clay County Extension Office shows our Patriotic spirit!  Jenny, Deanna, Rachel, Holli, Cindyyears through graduation this year.  It’s neat seeing the young men and women they’ve become, ready to take that next step in life towards college and careers!  Rachel and Kristen, our interns, helped us greatly in different ways which was a blessing; it was another smooth fair overall!

Also bittersweet is the fact that this was Cindy Strasheim’s last Clay County Fair as a UNL Extension Educator as she plans to retire in December.  We will miss her and if you see her around, please thank her for her 29 years of dedication to the Clay County Fair and serving our constituents here!

I realize I say this every year, but we wouldn’t have fair if it wasn’t for all of our 4-H and FFA leaders, families, and youth-so thank you all for your hard work and efforts with your projects and the many ways you volunteer at fair!  Thank you to our awesome fair board who we greatly enjoy working with and who keeYouth showing meat goats; judge appreciated the quality of their meat goats.p our fairgrounds looking great!  Thank you to Deanna, Holli, and Cindy for the long Greatly enjoy working with these guys and all our Fair Board members! hours of preparation and also during fair in ensuring everything ran smoothly!  Thank you to our 4-H Council and all our Superintendents for working so hard in various capacities during fair and throughout the year!  Thank you to Tory, Kris, Teri, Karla, and Megan with the Clay County News for sticking out all the shows in the heat to cover the fair for us; we truly appreciate your support!  Thank you to Lonnie Stripe for auctioneering, all our auction buyers, plaque and award sponsors, and donors for supporting our 4-H and FFA youth!  Thank you to everyone who made the 2013 Clay County Fair a success!

Dusk at the end of entry night of fair.

Blurry pic but youth competing in Beef Team Fitting Contest.  So cool how youth from different clubs throughout the County are brought together to work together on teams!

Adorable kitchen set made from recycling a tv stand by a 4-Her!  Would love to make something like this sometime!

Roasting marshmallows for smores at Family Fun Night :)Family Fun Night at the Fair-beautiful evening and lots of activities for kids of all ages!

Youth Discover Crop Science

An excellent opportunity for youth to become detectives and have fun while learning about crops and science! Consider having a youth you know attend this Big Red Camp and learn more about agriculture careers!  There are also scholarships available to attend!

Views from VanDeWalle

Are you interested in science, agriculture, plants, crops, insects, or diseases? If so, join our team of detectives to solve crop-related problems in the Crop Science Investigation (CSI) Big Red Camp! Become a detective while participating in hands-on sessions to learn about and increase your knowledge of crops, science, and agricultural careers. Youth detectives will interact with agronomic professionals across Nebraska to solve experiments in: nutrient management; managing disease, insect and weed problems; water management; crop production, and much more! Do you have what it takes to become a CSI detective?


There are a variety of careers related to plant sciences such as:Agricultural Communicator; Agronomist; Crop Consultant; Crop Insurance Adjuster; Educator; Co-op Manager; Farmer or Rancher; Farm Credit Banker; Field or Lab Researcher; Plant Breeder; Soil or Water Conservationist; Seed, Fertilizer, or Chemical Sales; or Technical Representative.

Scholarships are available in the amount of $300 to participants who…

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Farming Fun

County Fair-Special Time of Year

Fair time is a special time of year. It’s the one time in the year where people from all parts of the county come together for the youth. Yes, there’s healthy competition involved, but 4-H and FFA are building life skills in our youth. Families congratulate each other and are excited for a youth’s job well done. It’s the one time in the year where people from all parts of the county come together for the youth.  

It’s always fun for me to watch the fairgrounds come alive Wednesday night as youth bring in their static exhibits and livestock entries. People are smiling and most youth-particularly the younger exhibitors-are excited. Many people, including me, checked the weather forecast throughout the fair in hopes of rain. This is the first fair in a long time that it didn’t rain Wednesday night or anytime during the fair. Thursday is a busy day with exhibits being judged, livestock being weighed in and the beginning of livestock shows. Something I always enjoy is family fun night on Thursday night. Clouds appeared and families enjoyed kiddie games, shelling popcorn, an obstacle course, and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Friday and Saturday continued with the remaining livestock shows and plenty of heat. Sunday brought a fun beef-fitting contest where youth of various ages and clubs worked together. It also brought smiles watching the young children tell their stories and show animals in the Rainbow Classic, watching all our top showmen compete in the Round Robin Showmanship Contest, and wonderful support from all our buyers at the Livestock Auction; we’re thankful for your support.

While probably most people are hot and tired by fair’s conclusion Sunday evening, it’s always a little saddening to me to watch the fairgrounds become empty so quickly again. Deanna and Holli in our office spend a great deal of time preparing for it as do all the youth, parents, grandparents, and 4-H leaders; thank you for all you do and the time you all invest in our youth! Thank you to the Fairboard members who spend countless hours preparing the Fairgrounds and always take care of things during fair with a smile-no matter how often they have to plunge the toilets! Thank you to 4-H Council for your help on various committees, your work with the food stand and BBQ, and for all you do. Thank you to all our superintendents and to all our volunteers; without you our 4-H program and fair wouldn’t be possible. Thank you to Tory and the Clay Co. News for all your support and coverage of our fair. We have something so special in our county and I truly feel blessed to work in Clay County! We may not have big-time entertainment at the fair, but I love our fair. I love how the focus is on our 4-H and FFA youth and families; many other counties would love to have that. Our numbers and entries are similar to counties much larger than us and I appreciate the quality brought to the fair each year from our youth. Thank you to everyone for making the 2012 Clay County Fair a success! 

Inspiring Young Nebraskans-HHD 2011

Last week was busy with Husker Harvest Days-the coldest one I can remember!  It’s always fun for me to see many familiar faces-like a big reunion!  The theme at the IANR booth this year was “Inspiring Young Nebraskans”.  This theme was important  to showcase how IANR is influencing our youth from early childhood development to entrepreneurship activities and future careers.  A statistic that may surprise you is that over 144,000 Nebraska youth (nearly every 1 in 3 youth in the State) is involved with 4-H.  That’s something we would like to continue to grow as I think any of you who have been involved with youth programs whether 4-H, FFA, or scouts can attest they build life skills!  The goal of this year’s exhibit was to show how IANR is impacting youth to hopefully keep more local youth here in Nebraska.  

The first exhibit dealt with UNL Extension’s focus on Early Childhood Development which focuses on youth ages 5 and under by helping childcare providers, babysitters, and parents understand brain development and UNL’s research in this area.  An alarming statistic is that up to 25% of children are not ready to begin school.  The second exhibit was Teaching Science through Soybeans in which an iPad app was created for youth to drag and drop items into grocery carts to learn from where their food comes.  There are many additional activities involved in the partnership between the College of Ag Sciences and Natural Resources, UNL teacher education, and local schools.

The third exhibit showcased the Unique Role of Teachers in Rural Communities and a research grant obtained by UNL to study the best strategies for supporting rural teachers in reading (K-3) and science education (6-12).  Robotics is a curricula exploding with interest amongst youth in the State and was the fourth exhibit.  “Bots are Hot” but they’re not only toys, they’re teaching technology to our youth with Nebraska being the leader in this National Science Foundation initiative.  The fifth display showcased Youth-Adult Partnerships in which youth are encouraged to define and address community issues in addition to helping provide youth a voice and responsibility in their communities by working with adults.  Connecting the Dots for Nebraska Youth was the sixth display in which an iPad app was developed for youth to link actions and personal choice to his/her future success in a college or career.  So often we showcase projects in 4-H, but we’re striving consciously link them with future careers-to show youth how their 4-H projects truly are their first class at the University of Nebraska!

The seventh exhibit showcased Public/Private partnerships in which UNL Extension is working with Nebraska businesses to create opportunities for young Nebraskans across the State.  Entrepreneurship was the focus of the eighth display with the goal of building a strong root system for homegrown Nebraska businesses.   Reid Ely was front and center on that display banner with his asparagus and Ashley Nunnenkamp helped in the booth as part of the Paul Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at UNL.  Market Journal taped their latest show there and the Mobile Diagnostic Lab had interactive displays this year on Soybean Cyst Nematode kits for FFA youth, Pine Wilt Nematode, Biological Invaders, and Crop Science Investigation (CSI) for youth.  I was thankful for the Clay and Fillmore County youth who helped us in our CSI display as youth can better inspire their peers to be involved! 

Like in the past, a Web site was developed and rolled out at Husker Harvest Days.  To find out more about what UNL Extension is doing in the child and youth area, please check out our latest Web site at   

Nebraska State Fair Reflections

Every year I look forward to the Nebraska State Fair.  As a youth, that was often our family vacation.  We would participate in the State 4-H Weed, Tree, and Horticulture ID contests; present 4-H presentations; model our sewn garments; and view all the exhibits that made it to the fair in addition to getting ideas for the following year.  State Fair was always a memorable family experience for me!

This year, I was so excited for the State Fair to begin!  It was exciting seeing so many entries moving into the 4-H/FFA building to be judged and then seeing them displayed!  Walking across the Fairgrounds in Grand Island, one can’t help but feel a sense of agriculture and pride in Nebraska’s agricultural roots.  The facilities are absolutely amazing and our livestock numbers continue to climb.  

The first weekend I enjoyed watching 4-H youth compete in the same plant ID contests when I was in 4-H…contests which provided me a love for plants and ability to identify them which helps me in my Extension career.  These plant ID contests build life skills that these youth can use for numerous jobs but also as future home-owners.  I was so proud of our area youth who placed so high in these contests-all the practicing paid off and they did very well.  But in spite of ribbon placing, the most important fact is that they’re building life skills and learning!

The second weekend started off by catching the end of the Quilts of Valor presentation.  The Quilts of Valor project is one in which Nebraska 4-Hers made and donated quilts to wounded soldiers.  Over 40 quilts were made by Nebraska 4-Hers and it was touching seeing them displayed.  It is neat seeing our youth develop life skills in quilting and giving back in such a special way!

I also enjoyed working with the swine show again and was also superintendent of the livestock premier exhibitor contest.  We were anticipating 60 4-H and FFA youth competing in the 4 large animal species but around half of them actually competed due to so many shows at the same time.  Premier Exhibitor allows youth to showcase their skills and knowledge in areas besides showing their animal.  For instance, the majority of their score comes from an interview in which they share their knowledge of their livestock project and are asked questions about the livestock industry.  They also take a written exam and participate in a skillathon in which they ID livestock breeds, feeds, equipment, and conduct other related activities.  I was so proud of these youth for working so hard and participating in these events.  Again, these are life skills that they are building-the essence of what 4-H and FFA programs are about.  

While many long days and late nights were involved and much walking which was great exercise, the 2011 Nebraska State Fair was a great experience and huge hit with attendance numbers projected to be up 8%!  Our 4-H and FFA youth overall did an excellent job representing 4-H, FFA, their families, their knowledge and skills learned, and Nebraska in general.  Regardless of ribbon placing, they made us proud and while I’m glad this year’s Fair is over, I will be ready for next year’s Fair when it rolls around!

County Fair Reflections

A HUGE thank you to all the Fair Board members, 4-H Council, leaders, youth, parents, volunteers, Clay County News Staff, and Extension staff that made the 2011 Clay County Fair a success!  Words can’t really express my appreciation.  Driving home every night, I had time to reflect on each day so I decided (for all you farmers) I’d give you a break from irrigation scheduling : ) and provide some reflections from the county fair.
     I love watching the fairgrounds come alive…to see the barns and buildings filling up and the excitement of the youth and parents.  While it’s a lot of work, I really love fair week and I’ve always appreciated our county fair in Clay County.  I appreciate that the focus is on the youth and families-exactly where it should be; we truly have something special here!  There was several times in conversation a person this week would say “I haven’t been to the fair in X years” to which I’d respond “Welcome back!”.  For those of you reading this and can identify with that statement, I’d really encourage you to come out next year-because you truly are missing out on something special. 
     Every year different things stand out as I’m sure they do for the youth and parents as well.  This year, these are some of my reflections looking back: 
*Deanna and Holli working so hard to prepare before fair while Cindy and I continued programming right up to fair.  Everything was ready to go and we felt prepared for everything this year!
*The Fair Board Members working so hard before fair, deciding not to run me over before fair : ), and cheerfully picking up trash each morning and doing various tasks throughout fair.
*All the Superintendents, 4-H Council members, and Leaders pitching in wherever needed-how you all organized your volunteers to make the shows, exhibit judging, and the food stand run so smoothly.
*Kurt and Amy-the FFA Advisors from Sutton and Sandy Creek becoming so involved this year-it was great having them as a part of our team!
*The adults and youth who pitched in to clean out horse stalls Wednesday night before the fair.
*The beautiful day for the poultry/rabbit show outside and the youth excited to show their bucket calves and do their interviews on Thursday.
*The family fun night on Thursday night-I love seeing all the families come out and see what the 4-H clubs come up with each year!  Games, face painting, campfire, and all the work that went into pre-cutting the wheels and blocks to make small vehicles out of wood-a really cool and fun night!
*Beautiful morning for the hog show and the horse shows running so smoothly.
*The sheep and meat goat judge working so well with the youth –frankly all our judges did a great job with this-it’s where the focus should be-but the sheep/meat goat judge was exceptional!
*The beef judge commenting the quality of our breeding beef can compete with any show anywhere; just watching our youth building their herds for the future with hopes of coming back-that is exciting!
*The awesome buyers at the livestock auction, the excellent job that Bruce McDowell did as always and that Lonnie Stripe did as well, and a smooth-running auction!
*The dedication of the Clay County News staff-especially Tory who endured all the shows in order to capture those special moments and feature stories!
*The way so many swine families stuck around at the end to clean up the swine/sheep barn and help me put things away this year so I didn’t have to do that myself.  I really appreciated that!
*There are many moments but for the sake of space, THANK YOU ALL for making the Clay Co. Fair a success!

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