Category Archives: Feature

Are you “Up for the Challenge?”

Delaware-4h-up-for-the-challenge Delaware 4-H invites area teens to become a 4-H Healthy Living Educator. On Saturday, October 17, 2015  the first “train the trainer” session will be held and teen participants will learn the skills necessary to pass on and instruct 4-H’s Health Rocks and Up for the Challenge curriculum to their peers and other students across the state. The Up for the Challenge initiative promotes healthy food and fitness curriculum to peer groups. The sessions are open to 4-H teens and non-4-H members alike!

The day-long training, with a focus on fitness and nutrition, will be held at the University of Delaware Kent County Extension Office (Paradee Center), 69 Transportation Road in Dover. The session runs from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Cost is free and lunch is served. Click to view the >>> 2015-fall-Up-For-The-Challenge-Train-the-Trainer-Flyer-1

This free training session is open to anyone 13 years or older who is looking for an opportunity during the school year to do something fun, improve skills and earn a stipend! That’s extra money!

As a 4-H Healthy Living Educator, trained teens and adults help facilitate healthy living skills to other youth ages 10 and older. Teens are asked to commit 10 lessons (about 5 hours) and work with other teens and adults.

“The teens who participate in this program have an interest in health, teaching and expanding communication,” says Karen Johnston, Extension agent and 4-H healthy living program coordinator. “It is a chance for them to showcase their presentation and business schools and earn volunteer hours.”

Johnston said that once trained through the 10 lessons, the youth-educators will teach both 4-H’s Health Rocks and Up for the Challenge curriculum at many sites. Suitable locations can be anywhere youth meet and gather such as community centers, clubs, and churches In the past, teen educators have taught at local schools such as Holy Cross, Seaford Middle School, Smyrna Middle School, Central Delaware Christian Academy and several afterschool programs.

“We will ask our teen trainers for a list of convenient locations, days and times.” Johnston said. “This 4-H curriculum is fun to teach and meets the eight national health standards.”

Up for the Challenge is supported by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP), Snap-Ed, and Delaware 4-H. It is part of the IM40 Asset building initiative and is supported by a grant from Walmart.

To register, please call (302) 730-4000 and leave your name, age, phone and email address. Or you may email Nicholas Nelson at  Download the program FAQs!

4-H Youth In Action Award – a good fit for Delaware youth

YIA-Awards-Hero-2016National 4-H Council’s 4-H Youth in Action (YIA) Award is one of the highest honors a 4-H’er can achieve!

“The Delaware 4-H Program has many outstanding youth that are truly “Youth in Action” and who are deserving of this award,” says Doug Crouse, Delaware 4-H program leader. ” I strongly encourage our 4-H youth to review the award criteria and definitely consider submitting a nomination for their outstanding 4-H work in one of the four primary category areas.”

The YIA Awards:
Click here to >>>(Read and download guidelines and apply for the award)

  • Honor four 4-H’ers who have gained critical life skills through their 4-H experience and have utilized those skills to overcome a challenge, or challenges, they have faced. Each of the honorees are outstanding 4-H’ers who epitomize 4-H youth empowerment and leadership
  • The winners have demonstrated the positive impact they’ve made with their family, peers and community through their 4-H experiences

The 2016 awards will expand to highlight youth in each of our core areas. Through a formal selection process, one awardee will be chosen within each pillar area:

  • Youth in Action: Agriculture and Animal Sciences
  • Youth in Action: Citizenship
  • Youth in Action: Healthy Living
  • Youth in Action: STEM

One overall national Youth in Action Award 2016 winner will be selected from the four pillar winners.

The YIA Awards are presented at National 4-H Council’s Legacy Awards. The 7th annual Legacy Awards will be held on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Washington D.C.

Each YIA pillar winner will also receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education, be featured as the 4-H Youth Spokesperson for their pillar area and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at National 4-H Council’s Legacy Awards. A $5,000 grant will be made to the awardees’ 4-H County as well.

Youth in Action applicants should possess the following qualifications:

  • Applicants should be a 4-H member or recent alumni within the United States, ages 16-21.
  • Applicants should represent the passions of 4-H youth nationwide, demonstrate outstanding leadership, showcase the essence of 4-H positivity and possess a proven ability to engage others.
  • Applicants should be able to demonstrate:
    • Personal Impact: How 4-H personally impacted their life and developed them as a True Leader;
    • Community Impact: How 4-H has empowered them to positively impact family, peers and community; and
    • Project Excellence: How they have demonstrated excellence in a 4-H project.
  • Applicants should be able to self-select their pillar area between the four options: Agriculture and Animal Sciences, Citizenship, Healthy Living and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Meet Nosa Akol, National 4-H Winner for Youth in Action, 2015

On social media, Youth in Action will use the hashtag #4HYouthInAction

A duck call for new 4-H members

4-H members of the Junior Duck Stamp Club show off their duck decoys in progress
4-H members of the Junior Duck Stamp Club show off their duck decoys in progress

Delaware 4-H announces a welcoming ‘duck call’ to all Delaware youth ages 8-19 to join the New Castle County 4-H Junior Duck Stamp Club.  The Federal Junior Duck Stamp program is a national conservation program through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that uses art and STEM activities to increase youth interest in and understanding of wetland and waterfowl conservation for kindergarten through 12th grade. The club utilizes activities from the Federal Junior Duck Stamp curriculum as well as nature field trips and art workshops to engage the participants in hands-on experiential learning.

A 4-H member of the Junior Duck Stamp Club observes waterfowl in its natural habitat
A 4-H member of the Junior Duck Stamp Club observes waterfowl in its natural habitat

The end goal for the youth is to create an artwork that will compete in the statewide (and potentially national) competition to become the next Federal Junior Duck Stamp. The artwork features a waterfowl species in it’s habitat exhibiting some behavior, which is why species identification and understanding the roles of habitat and behaviors for waterfowl is so important. Proceeds from the stamp are used to conserve habitat for waterfowl. This program is so great because it incorporates art into STEM and STEM into art – it’s able to engage youth that lean more towards art or those that are more interested in science because it incorporates both topics so well.

Any 4-H’er can attend the club meetings for free (thanks to the generosity of the 4-H Foundation), they only need to fill out the 4-H enrollment form. The field trip is a Science Saturday workshop and is open to anyone with a cost of $10. The art workshop is a NCC 4-H Winter Workshop for 4-Hers and will have a small cost associated with it to cover the cost of supplies (to be determined).

Club Meeting Schedule

Time: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Location: New Castle County 4-H Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, Del. 19716
Cost: None
Ages: 8-19
Enrollment: 4-H enrollment and health form
2015: Oct. 29, Nov. 19, Dec. 3
2016: Jan. 7, Jan. 28, Feb. 25

Nature Field Trip – NCC Science Saturdays
Date: Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015
Time: 9 a.m. to Noon
Location: Mallard Lodge
Cost: $10
Who: Anyone! 4-H membership is not required

Winter Art Workshop
Date: Feb. 13, 2015
Time: 9 a.m. to Noon
Location: New Castle County 4-H Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark, Del. 19716
Who: Registered 4-H members

For more information, please contact Autumn Starcher. Those interested in joining the 4-H club must register by October 15, 2015  Click here>>> to download the Junior Duck Stamp flyer

4-H Family Football Tailgate at UD

What do you get when you mix blue and gold together? Why, you get green of course! 4-H green! We love seeing our green clovers on balloons waving in the wind, or fans waving as they wear the emblem—they look so good with UD’s blue and gold! One thing is for certain, the Delaware 4-H Family Football Tailgate event in September is not to be missed!

Join in the family fun on Saturday, September 12, 2015, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. as Delaware 4-H members cheer for the University of Delaware’s Fighting Blue Hens! We’ve planned an exciting day of fun, science-focused activities under the big tent, followed by UD vs Lafayette football game.

Register here for the >>>>>2015 4-H Family Tailgate Event

Download or read the event flyer >>> 2015 4-H Family Tailgate Event

  • Tailgate at Townsend Hall and science activities for 4-H’ers begins at 3:00 p.m.
  • Game kick off at 6:00 p.m.
  • Tickets are $12.00 per seat (includes game ticket, hot dog/hamburger/water at the tailgate site and activities). UD parking fees ($15 per vehicle, apply).
  • Everyone is asked to bring a tailgate dish to share with the attendees!

Blue Hen football

4-H announce Science Saturday series

4-H-Science-SaturdayslgNew Castle County 4-H has announced a series of science -focused Saturdays held September through December in different locations in the county. Locations include the New Castle County Cooperative Extension office, White Clay Creek State Park and Mallard Lodge, in Smyrna.

The workshops are made possible from a grant from Dow Chemical Company awarded to New Castle County 4-H. The science workshops are designed to give participants hands-on experiences in entomology, habitat conservation, geochaching, math, wetlands ecology and waterfowl biology, biotechnology, and food science and chemistry.

The workshops are open to any Delaware youth, ages 8-12.  Cost of attendance is $10.00 per workshop. Space is limited. For more information, contact the 4-H Office at (302)831-8965.  View the series flyer.   Applicants need to complete the 2015 4-H Science Saturday Workshop Series – Registration form as well as a 4-H Health/Photo/Conduct form.

October 3, 9 a.m. to Noon – RESCHEDULED DUE TO WEATHER – New Date Sat., April 2, 2016
White Clay Creek State Park
“Treasure Hunt!” Geocaching
What is geocaching? It is a high-tech, fun-filled adventure game! Using GPS devices, attendees hunt for hidden items or containers (geocach) that have been hidden in the landscape. The objects will greatly vary in size and appearance.

November 7, 9 a.m. to Noon
Mallard Lodge  Directions Mallard Lodge
“Migrate with Us!”
Wetlands and Waterfowl Biology

December 5, 9 a.m. to Noon
NCC Cooperative Extension Office
“Be a Food Scientist”
Food Science and Chemistry

4-H teen wins national STEM award

Colleen in lab coat with beakers
Delaware 4-H member Colleen Murray, an incoming freshman at the University of Delaware, has been named the recipient of a national 4-H science innovator award.

As winner of the award, Murray will receive an all-expense paid trip to the flagship 4-H National Youth Science Day event to be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, in Washington, D.C., where she will represent the state’s 4-H program. >>>Read more on UDaily.

Onions – alternative crop for Delaware?

Delaware onions Gordon Johnson
Gordon Johnson, UD Extension fruit and vegetable specialist

Onions. We cry as we slice them, but through the tears, onions remain a favorite staple on salads, sandwiches and in stews. But can they be grown in Delaware? Yes, says Gordon Johnson, UD Extension fruit and vegetable specialist, but with some caveats for First State farmers.

For the past four years, Johnson has conducted trials on overwintering onions and spring transplants. Delaware’s unpredictable weather makes growing onions challenging, but not impossible.

University of delaware onion trial tour
Variety trial and field tours, like this onion tour, are held throughout the summer at the Carvel Center

Approximately 20 local farmers and growers attended an onion twilight tour, held at the research farm of the University of Delaware Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, in order to see what’s up with the underground bulb. Red, white, or yellow, strong or sweet, growers are keen to grow what consumers like. Onions could provide a choice as an alternative crop, and a new opportunity for Delaware farmers.

Johnson’s research has traversed a good deal of trial and error, typically brought on by the unpredictability of Delaware weather. June is especially stressful, weather wise, and combined with weed and pest pressure, the swinging summer  temperatures can wreak havoc on the temperamental onion, which prefers a specific number of sunlight hours and a steady climate.  Although Delaware is “not a hotbed of onion production” investing in onions has potential rewards, Johnson said.

Onions have specific daylight requirements and are generally classified into two major categories, short day and long day. They are cultivated over two growing seasons, those planted in the spring and harvested in the summer, and onions that overwinter.

Planted in late summer or early fall, long-day onions grow better in northern locations. Long-day onions are characterized by a more pungent flavor and have better storage capacity, as long as six months or more, if properly stored in a cool, dry location, Johnson said.

Short-day onions, on the other hand, such as the consumer favorite Vidalia, thrive in southern climates and produce a sweeter bulb, albeit with limited storage shelf life. Short-day sweets are typically sewn from seed, or from transplants started in a greenhouse and planted by hand. These onions are harvested the same season they are grown.

Varieties of red, white and yellow onions are on display, together with signs that provide general results from the trials
Varieties of red, white and yellow onions are on display, together with signs that provide trial results

Strong shifts in temperatures, such as a cold snap in April or May, triggers an undesired “bolting,” the process by which an onion detects stress and flowers to reproduce. Johnson has pushed back planting dates to counteract the bolting sparked by a volatile Delaware spring. Johnson and his team keep a close eye on the varieties that are susceptible to bolting.

Not surprisingly, as a mid-Atlantic state, Delaware does best meeting the crop somewhere in the middle,  with a lesser-known intermediate-day onion. In Delaware, direct seeding of onions is difficult, Johnson concedes. “After four years of research I still can’t tell you when to sow,” he told his guests.

Onions grow well in rows of soil covered in plastic
Onions grow well in rows of soil covered in plastic

Onions grown from transplants fare better, and grow better in plasticulture – rows of mounded soil covered in plastic to reduce weeds and raise soil temperatures. For the past 10 years Pennsylvania and New Jersey have had good results growing onions in plastic, Johnson said.

For onions to be an attractive alternative crop for growers, farmers must commit to starting their own transplants from seeds or ordering transplants from southern suppliers, Johnson said. Growing transplants requires a lead time of 8-10 weeks before going into the ground in March. Farmers must be willing to invest in the higher energy costs to heat their greenhouses in January and grow enough onions to make it worth the investment.

plastic trays for growing onions
Johnson’s onion trials examine all types of seed and transplant trays for greenhouse productivity

Unlike other crops, growing onions cannot be automated. Johnson evaluates the seed trays – noting the best practice of sewing a single seed in one cell. The size of the cell tray, the number of cells per tray and labor to hand plant each cell or transplant in plastic rows are important economic and practical considerations, Johnson noted.

“Intermediate day onions reach their maximum size in June,” Johnson told growers, as he guided them through the various results of his trials. White onions do well in Delaware Johnson said, producing medium and jumbo sizes at a consistent rate.

A market for local onions exists, Johnson explained, and noted that local and frozen markets are in demand for the crop. Delaware onion growers could be poised to capture a short window in July and August when competing onions are not in season, Johnson added.

Johnson identified thrips as the major pests for onion. “Thrips will need to be kept in control if you are growing onions,” he said. “Lighter foliage color is more susceptible to thrips,” Johnson observed.

Norman Pierce, of Townsend, traveled south for a close up look at onions as an alternative drop
Norman Pierce, of Townsend, traveled south from New Castle County for a close up look at onions as an alternative crop

Delaware farmers Gwen and Norman Pierce traveled from their farm in Townsend, Delaware to attend the tour, their first visit at the Carvel research farm. Primarily goat farmers, Gwen Pierce said her husband devotes acreage to vegetables and is considering an alternative crop like onions. “We grow for local restaurants, “ Pierce said. ”My husband wanted to come here and check this out.”

Variety trial field tours, such as this onion twilight tour, provide an opportunity for growers and potential growers to taste, feel, smell and assess a potential crop. In addition to the information signage, attendees were given spring transplant and over wintering onion trial results. For more information visit the small vegetable and fruit resources.


Article and photos by Jackie Arpie and Michele Walfred

4-H Summer Evening of STEM

2015-stem-flyer-434x600Experience an interactive and engaging evening using Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) on Monday, July 13, 2015, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Delaware Aerospace Education Foundation (DASEF), 585 Big Oak Road, Smyrna, Delaware 19977.

Dinner is provided for all participants and a free t-shirt will be provided for all youth participants!

Cost is free for 4-H youth members statewide. Parents/guardians are welcomed to attend. The fee for adults are $5 per adult.

Registration is due July 2, 2015.  For questions, please contact the NCC 4-H office at (302) 831-8965 .

Return the 2015 Summer Evening of STEM_Registration Form, payment (if applicable) and health/photo release form to:

New Castle County 4-H
Attention Autumn Starcher
461 Wyoming Road
Newark, DE 19716

Open kettle canning is no longer safe

canning-photoHave you ever heard that some methods of canning are not recommended but don’t understand why? Just last week at Ag Day someone asked me about these methods. Please, keep reading to end the mystery. Or come to one of our upcoming programs to learn to safely can Jellies and Jams (June 6, 9:30am-12:30pm) and Water Bath Canning (June 13, (9:30am-1pm) at the NCC Extension office. Kent county will offer as session August 5 from 6:30-8:30. Preregistration is required and a small fee will cover supplies.

Open Kettle Canning

Since the late 1980’s we have been teaching that open kettle canning is no longer safe. Open kettle canning involves heating the food to boiling, pouring it into the jars, applying lids, and allowing the heat of the jar to cause the lid to seal. Many years ago, it was commonly used for pickles, jams and jellies, and sometimes used for tomatoes and applesauce.

The reason open kettle canning is no longer recommended is that the food is not heated adequately to destroy the spoilage organisms, molds and yeasts that can enter the jar while you are filling the jar, and it does not produce a strong seal on the jar. Processing jars in a boiling water bath or in a pressure canner drives air out of the jar and produces a stronger vacuum seal.

canning-photo-2Open kettle canning is not safe! It is especially dangerous when used for canning tomatoes or tomato products where the acid level may be low enough to allow bacterial growth. Never open kettle can low acid foods (meats, vegetables, soups) that should be pressure canned.

Just because a lid “pops,” it doesn’t mean the contents inside the jar are safe. The time saved with open kettle canning is not worth the risk of food spoilage or illness.

Oven Canning

Occasionally people ask about processing jars in the oven. They claim a friend or neighbor promotes it as a simple method of canning. What they fail to understand is that oven heat is not the same as heat from a boiling water bath or from steam in a pressure canner.

First of all, placing jars in the dry heat of the oven may cause the glass to crack and shatter causing injury to you. The Jarden Company that manufacturers most canning jars in this country states emphatically that it is not safe to heat glass jars in the dry heat of an oven. Jars are not designed to withstand oven temperatures and can break or even explode causing injury from broken glass.

Secondly, dry heat is not comparable to the moist heat of a boiling water bath. Processing in an oven will not heat the contents in the coldest part of the jar in the same way as boiling water.

Thirdly, oven heat will not increase the temperature inside the jar above boiling to be adequate to destroy botulism spores in low acid foods. Only in the enclosed conditions of a sealed pressure canner will you be able to increase the internal temperature to 240°F. So, oven canning is not recommended!

For more information, visit the University of Delaware website or call your local UD Cooperative Extension office. To find out more about the upcoming programs go to:


By Maria Pippidis


Enjoy Gardening? Become a Master Gardener

14689523276_cd98b1c14c_k-300x201Who: Anyone who enjoys volunteering and sharing their gardening knowledge
What: 2015 Delaware Master Gardener Training
When: Wednesday, September 2 – Monday, November 23, 2015 Classes are Monday’s and Wednesday’s 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Applications should be postmarked by June 4, 2015)
Where: Local Delaware Extension Offices
Why: The goal of Delaware Cooperative Extension MG Training is to prepare volunteer educators to enhance the ability of Cooperative Extension to provide science-based educational programs in home horticulture to the citizens of Delaware.

The 2015 Delaware Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Training Program is scheduled for Monday’s and Wednesday’s, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Wednesday, September 2 through Monday, November 23.

Most training will be held at your county Extension Office. Some training sessions will require travel to another location to learn with your fellow trainees from the other two counties. Carpooling is encouraged.

As a member of the 2015 Delaware Master Gardener training class, you are expected to complete the course of study, volunteer 40 hours, and gain an additional 5 hours of advanced training by November 1, 2016, to become a Master Gardener.

An application may be emailed to Tracy Wootten at or mailed and postmarked by Saturday, May 30, 2015. If you are accepted into the class you will be required to pay the training fee and complete a background check facilitated by the University (see introductory letter). Applicants will be notified by Monday, July 6, 2015 (by telephone, if possible) whether they will be seated for the class of 2015.

All applicants are encouraged to attend an evening open house event on Thursday, June 11 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Sussex County Extension Office. This is a great way to meet other master gardeners, ask questions about the program, learn more about current educational outreach programs and see if this is a great fit for you as a volunteer.

Click here>>How to become a Delaware Master Gardener