Category Archives: Feature

Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award

This year’s recipient of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County is
Rita Lofland. 
Rita is a former 4-H member, Club Organizational Leader and former Sussex 4-H staff member.  She has been involved with Delaware 4-H for most of her life.  Rita was chosen for this award because of and her continued involvement and dedication to 4-H activities as a leader and staff member.

Rita Lofland joined 4-H at the age of eight when she became a Peach Blossom 4-H’er in Kent County.  Her parents, Bobby and Ruth Ann Messick were the club leaders.  She was active in the Fashion Revues, Ready Foods, Talent Shows, Camp and even showed sheep and ponies at the State Fair.   After graduation and marrying her husband, Donnie, they moved to Greenwood.  When their two children joined the Greenwood Hi-Flyers, Rita became a Sussex County Leader in 1987.   As the children got older, she applied for a part-time position in the Sussex 4-H office and was hired by Mary Argo in 1996.

Now, 20 years later, Rita is still an active Leader of the East Coast 4-H Riding Club and organizes Breyer Paint Nights, Breyer Horse Shows, and Horse Bowl teams.  Her family’s love of horses led Donnie and Rita to chaperone the 1st Delaware Appaloosa youth team to attend the National Show in Oklahoma in 1998.  They still own two Appaloosa horses and four pet miniature donkeys.

As a staff member Rita had a variety of responsibilities.  From helping with the monthly newsletter, balancing the county bank account and a variety of other activities.   She was always looking for ways to help promote 4-H.  Her positive attitude and smile were always welcoming to staff, members and volunteers.

Rita was awarded the NAE4-HA Award for Support Staff by Mary Argo and the Salute to Excellence Lifetime Volunteer Leader Award for Sussex County.  Rita is looking forward to retirement and plans to be able to travel a little in the future, hoping to visit the Kentucky Horse Park, Dollywood and Nashville.   We will be sure to see Rita helping with county 4-H events as well as the Delaware State Fair!

Please join Delaware 4-H in thanking Rita for her dedication to Sussex County 4-H.  There is little doubt that Rita will continue to inspire “To Make the Best Better.”

Honoring 21 Laureates on October 1

DE4H_HallFame_emblem2C_smallIt’s an event so special to your 4-H heart that you won’t want to miss it!  The Delaware 4-H Hall of Fame will be held on Saturday, October 1, 6:30 pm, at the Modern Maturity Center, 1121 Forrest Avenue, Dover.  Laureates from across the state will be honored this night.  This event is being sponsored by the Delaware 4-H Foundation.  Reserve your seat by calling 302-831-2509.  Credit Card payments accepted.

Please join the Delaware 4-H Family and many others on Saturday October 1, 2016, for the induction of the third class of laureates into the Delaware 4-H Hall of Fame.  This event will be held at the Modern Maturity Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 and will include dinner, entertainment, and a visual history of Delaware 4-H. This event is sponsored by the Delaware 4-H Foundation to honor people who were active and influential in Delaware 4-H. The legacy that these laureates have left and in some cases continue to leave is what makes Delaware 4-H a premier positive youth development program.  On this evening, 21 of the pillars of Delaware 4-H will be honored.  Please come out and honor their achievements.  Nominations for this important honor came in from across the state.

2016 Delaware 4-H Hall of Fame Laureates

Mary Frances Argo – Sussex County

Dean Belt – New Castle County

Helen Blessing – Kent County

Margaret Carey – Sussex County

Patricia Mae Correll – Sussex County

Fred Grampp – Kent County

Dan Hudson – Kent County

Leona Hudson – Kent County

Betty Jestice – Sussex County

Jim Kemble – New Castle County

Sue Ann Clendaniel McClements – Kent County

Virginia Melson – Sussex County

Franklin E. Melson, Sr. – Sussex County

Evelyn Messick – Sussex County

LeRoy Messick – Sussex County

Betty Niblett – New Castle County

Richard Niblett – New Castle County

Harold Palmer – Kent/Sussex Counties

Joyce Simpson – Sussex County

Mary Thomas – Kent County

Barbara Tatman Warren – Kent County

You may call the State 4-H Office (302-831-2509) to reserve your space.  Credit card payment accepted over the phone.

National Youth Maker Summit

National Youth Maker Summit
November 10-13, 2016

Announcement          Application Form         Program Schedule

Do you like to invent, build, or experiment?  Do you ever catch yourself wondering how something can be improved?  Have you ever taken something apart just to see how it works? The Maker National Youth Summit is for the creative and curious young minds of the next generation of innovators.  Participants make what they can with a variety of materials from a range of fields, utilizing their resourcefulness and creativity.

The National Youth Maker Summit takes place November 10-13, 2016.  Summit fees include accommodations at the National 4‑H Conference Center, meals, educational programming and tours including a guided nighttime tour of the monuments and memorials in Washington, DC.  All-you-can-eat meals are served at the Clover Cafe at National 4‑H Conference Center beginning with dinner on Thursday, November 10 and ending with breakfast on Sunday, November 13, 2016.


This Summit is open to any high school student in grades 9-12. Participate as a team (as few as two and as many as 10) with at least one adult mentor/chaperone. Youth interested in participating should contact leaders in their school, scout troop, religious organization or club to identify an adult to register and accompany them at the event.

Calling all Makers!!!
By submitting this FORM, you are entering to win a $2,500 credit towards registration for the 2016 National Youth Summit on Maker, sponsored by JCPenney Cares.  Registration includes:  program fees, materials, lodging, and meals. This credit may be used by youth and/or adult chaperones.  All participants must be accompanied by a participating adult.

Scoring a Winning Tailgate Party

healthy-tailgate-foodWith fall comes cooling air, leaves turning colors, and stadiums across the country filling up with football fans.  It also means the ever popular tailgate party before and sometimes after the game.  You can think of tailgating just like a coach and team approaches a football game.

Know your opponent:  The opponent at your tailgate event is harmful microbes.  Under the right conditions, bacteria multiply to levels that can cause us to become ill.  Symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and in severe cases can result in hospitalization and even death.  Also, viruses can transfer from a human to food by hands that have not been properly washed after using the toilet.

Kick off:  Planning is the key to a successful tailgate kick off.  Think about your menu.  Do you have:

  • enough coolers with lots of ice or cold packs?
  • thermometers to know that your cold food is held at 40°F or below and meat thermometer to assure that those burgers and brats is cook sufficiently to kill any harmful bacteria?
  • lots of clean or disposable utensils for preparing and serving the foods?
  • a way for people to wash their hands if facilities are not close by?

First down:  To make a first down at your tailgate party, you need to follow food safety rules of Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Just like in football, you may encounter penalties before you score a touchdown.  Some of these penalties include:

False start: Keeping food at a safe temperature between home,  store or restaurant, and the tailgate location helps prevent foodborne illness. Carry cold perishable food like raw hamburger patties, sausages, and chicken in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, frozen gel packs, or containers of ice.  Place an appliance thermometer in the cooler so you can check to be sure the food stays at 40°F or below.

If bringing hot home prepared or take-out food, eat it within 2 hours of preparation or purchase (1 hour if the temperature is above 90°F). To keep food like soup, chili, or stew hot, use an insulated container. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. If you keep the insulated container closed, the food should stay hot (140°F or above) for several hours.  If you can’t keep hot food hot during the drive to your tailgate, plan ahead and chill the food in the refrigerator before packing it in a cooler. Reheat the food to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.

Encroachment:  Make sure that raw meat, poultry and fish are separated from ready-to-eat foods.  Separate coolers would be best, but if that is not possible, make sure each item is packaged in such a way that juices from the raw food contaminate the food that will not be heated before eating.

Holding:  “Holding” may be one of the most likely offenses your referee encounters during long football games. Never hold perishable foods out for more than two hours, or for more than one hour if the temperature is above 90°F. Put leftovers back in the cooler promptly to block offensive bacteria from multiplying. When in doubt, throw it out of the game—and your tailgate.

Off sides:  When packing the cooler for an outing, be sure raw meat and poultry are wrapped securely to prevent their juices from cross-contaminating ready-to-eat food.  Perishable cooked food such as luncheon meat, cooked meat, chicken, and potato or pasta salads must be kept refrigerator cold, too.  Also, keep cut up raw veggies and fruits on ice.

Illegal use of hands:  Unclean hands are one of the biggest culprits for spreading bacteria and viruses, and finger foods are especially vulnerable. Chefs and guests should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. If running water is located far away from your tailgate, have sanitizing wipes available.

False start:  Although you may think partially cooking foods before packing them up for the game will speed up things, you are setting yourself up for delays later. Partially cooking meat or poultry ahead of time should only be done if the food goes immediately from the microwave or stove to the hot grill. Partial cooking of food without cooking it to a safe temperature allows harmful bacteria to survive and multiply. Once meat or poultry starts cooking, continue cooking until it reaches a safe temperature as determined with a food thermometer.

Winning touchdown:

To score that winning touchdown, you need to follow your game plan of knowing your opponents and using basic food safety rules of

  • Clean: Wash hands thoroughly using soap and water.  If not possible, use wet, disposable cloths and hand sanitizer.
  • Separate.  Don’t cross-contaminate, which is how bacteria or viruses can be spread from one food or dirty hands to food.
  • Cook: Make sure the internal temperate is reached by using a meat thermometer.  Cook to the safe internal temperature reached (beef, pork, lamb, fish:  145°F; burgers: 160°F; poultry: 165°F) Reheat foods such as soups, stews or chili to 165°F or until bubbling.
  • Chill: Transport and keep foods on ice because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria.  Foods should be kept at 40F or below.

End zone: Getting into the end zone the most means a win.  Have a winning tailgate party by following the directions above.

If you are celebrating the teams win or suffering the agony of defeat after the game, make sure any foods you consume are safe.  If in doubt about the safety of any food, throw it out.

At your next tailgate gathering, have fun and be safe with your food.


Bacterial Leaf Scorch Widespread August 30, 2016

BACTERIAL LEAF SCORCH (BLS) of hardwood trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, is caused by the bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, carried by small insects such as leaf hoppers and sharpshooters. BLS has been very damaging to red oaks in Delaware and the Mid-Atlantic states since the early 1990’s. Northern red oak and pin oaks under environmental stress are more susceptible. Symptoms include marginal discoloration or scorch of leaves in late summer or early fall, often with a yellow or dark band on the inside edge of the discolored area. Symptoms are similar to those caused by drought or root issues that interfere with flow of water and nutrients. Plants may not develop symptoms for a year or two after infection, but then thinning of branches occurs and trees die within 5 to 8 years.  Infection is confirmed with a lab test for a fee, so if confirmation is needed, please arrange to have samples tested by contacting the UDBLS Red Oak 2016 Plant Diagnostic Clinic. Please note that there is a $20 fee for BLS testing. To manage, maintain good tree vigor, and remove infected trees. A UD fact sheet has more info:

NFG 8/30/2016

Feeding America – Your Next Mission workshops available

Learn about programs, tools and resources available to new and beginning Delaware producers.

Held in three convenient locations (click to register), Georgetown, on Tuesday August 30, Dover  and Townsend on Wednesday, August 31, the 2 hour event will review:

  • Farm Business Fundamentals
  • Capital Credit and Cash Flow
  • Break and Networking
  • Beginning and Veteran Producer Resources
  • Risk Management and Crop Insurance
  • Evaluations and Evaluations.

This event is free to the public, and RSVPs are encouraged for refreshments. Funding has been provided by AgRAEIS, the Farm Veteran Coalition (FVC) and the USDA-Risk Management Agency.  Said events will be held at the Georgetown Fire Hall (Georgetown); Tom Foolery Restaurant (Middletown/Townsend); and Dover Downs Casino (Dover). Follow the tiny URL listed on the flyer to register for the workshop.

Feeding America-Your Next Mission

For more information contact Kole Swanser (919) 443-0075

Delaware 4-Hers Compete at 51st Annual State 4-H Horse Show

43 Delaware 4-H Horse project members competed recently at the 51st Annual State 4-H Horse Show held on July 29, 2016, in the Quillen Arena during the Delaware State Fair. Put on by 4-H volunteers on the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the show offers 4-H members the opportunity to show and learn under the guidance of capable volunteers and judges while having fun at the same time.

Judged this year by Amy Whitmore of Westminster, Maryland members competed in the required showmanship classes as well as horsemanship, equitation, trail, pleasure, driving and fun classes like barrel racing, egg and spoon, dollar bareback and costume.
Champion and Reserve Champion Horse Show awards were sponsored by the Delaware Equine Council and the Delaware Quarter Horse Association respectively and were presented to the following 4-H members:

Champion Western Horse– Peyton Ridgely exhibiting Premier Invitation- Kent County
Reserve Champion Western Horse– Sierra Kane exhibiting Chipnotized – Kent County

Champion Western Pony– Samantha Greim exhibiting Arrow’s First April- Kent County
Reserve Champion Western Pony – Dawson Mitchell exhibiting Star – Kent County

Champion English Horse– Ashley Bullock exhibiting Willie’s Lovely Lady- Kent County
Reserve Champion English Horse – Courtney Sarlouis exhibiting Grace’s Whisper- Kent County

Champion English Pony– Alexandria Herber exhibiting Definitely Bold – Sussex County
Reserve Champion English Pony – Olivia Gaines exhibiting GVHA Dreams Come True– Kent County

Grand Champion Walk Trot – Stephanie Strachar exhibiting Confidential – Kent County
Reserve Champion Walk Trot – Rachel Adkins exhibiting Loafer’s Lodge Cinderella – Kent County

The Betty Niblett Perpetual Trophy is presented to the 4-H member who acquires the most points in Showmanship and Equitation/horsemanship classes. Betty was the President of the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee at the time of her death and helping kids with horse projects was a passion of hers. The winner of the 2016 Betty Niblett Perpetual Trophy was Ashley Bullock of the Hearts 4-Horses 4-H Club in Kent County.

The annual horse show is open to any 4-H member on the Delmarva Peninsula or Delaware 4-H members. Major sponsors and supporters of the 2016 show included the State 4-H Horse Advisory Committee, the Annett Farms Family, the Delaware Equine Council, the Delaware Quarter Horse Association, Delwood Trailer Sales, Inc., David and Victoria Elwood of Agile Rendering, Ltd., Jennifer Warrington and Toby O’Bryan.
4-H is a community of young people across Delaware learning leadership, citizenship and lifeskills. Join the revolution of responsibility! For more information on becoming a 4-H member or volunteer in Delaware please contact your county extension office:

New Castle County: (302)831-8965
Kent County: (302)730-4000
Sussex County: (302)856-7303

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

If it’s Saturday, think 4-H Science Saturday!

Are you interested in learnDelaware 4-H Science Saturdaying about the importance of pollinators for the health of the environment, or about how chickens develop inside eggs? How about competing to become the best engineer, or learning about forensics while touring the Delaware Biotechnology Institute?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then register today for the 2016 4-H Science Saturday Workshops. Science Saturdays are for youth ages 8-12 and are the first Saturday of September-December from 9am-12noon (see registration form for more details). Workshop cost is only $10, and registration is limited! You do not have to be enrolled in 4-H to register.

If you are 13 and older and would like to get involved, please contact Autumn Starcher for more information on volunteer opportunities.

2016 4-H Science Saturday Workshop Series – Registration Form

Parking at Lums Pond State Park is covered by 4-H for the September 3rd Science Saturday. Enjoy other park activities following the workshop, including hiking, canoeing, and zip-lining (additional fees apply).

Be a Citizen Scientist!” Entomology and Habitat Conservation Workshop
September 3, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
Lums Pond State Park

Build It, Don’t Break It!” Engineering Workshop
October 1, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
NCC Cooperative Extension Office

Chick It Out” Animal Science Workshop
November 5, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
UD Fischer Greenhouse

The Science of Investigation” Biotechnology and Forensics Workshop
December 3, 2016
9 a.m-12 p.m.
Delaware Biotechnology Institute

UD researchers examine best irrigation practices at Warrington Farm

James Adkins at the Warrington Farm, where UD scientists are conducting irrigation research using the latest technology, including sensors that monitor soil moisture content.
James Adkins at the Warrington Farm, where UD scientists are conducting irrigation research using the latest technology, including sensors that monitor soil moisture content.

When James Adkins started working at the Warrington Farm just south of Milton, Delaware, in 1999, the farm was plagued with poor drainage, noxious weeds and poor soil fertility.

Now, 17 years later, steady improvements to the soil and the drainage system allow University of Delaware researchers the ability to study irrigation and fertigation treatments for plots of soybean, wheat and corn and to make recommendations to regional growers on how to best irrigate and fertilize their crops.

Those issues are exceptionally important to farmers — in both Delaware, which boasts around 128,000 acres of irrigated cropland, and around the world — who must balance use of the correct amount of water and fertilizer to produce the best crop yields from the soils they are working.

Given to the University by Everett Warrington in 1992, the Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable rate center pivot irrigation system, which was upgraded in 2012 from a previous version that Adkins, associate scientist for irrigation engineering at UD’s Carvel Research and Education Center, built with Ian McCann, an irrigation and water management specialist, in 2001.

“At the time, it was like VHS and Betamax, and I built a Betamax,” said Adkins, who explained that before getting the new system in place, researchers would have to stand on the pivot point and wait for the water to hit a flag and then turn a combination of toggle switches to make the machine do what it needed to do.

In 2016, the irrigation system was upgraded to reflect the latest advancements in irrigation management and technology.

Now, researchers are able to use geographic information system (GIS) software to map where and how they want certain research plots irrigated. The primary goal is to evaluate and identify the most effective and efficient water management strategies to enhance crop production and nutrient management.

To plant the crops, Adkins uses a tractor equipped with real-time kinematic steering that can be set up to drive plus or minus an inch one way or the other for each pass so that all the rows on the farm are planted perfectly straight. He then takes that map out of the tractor and uses it with the pivot to determine how the farm plots get irrigated.

“We’ve got the farm randomized into about 300 individual 60- by 60-foot squares and we categorize the soils based on a range of factors such as electrical connectivity, which is a proxy for soil moisture holding capacity, and clay content. We’re categorizing them in such a way that we’ve got five tiers and we plant each of our treatments in each tier. We want to make sure that ‘Treatment One’ doesn’t always end up in the best soil and make sure it gets into all five tiers,” said Adkins.

Each square is irrigated differently, and every morning the researchers collect data from sensors that monitor soil moisture content at 6, 12 and 18 inches.

The data comes from watermark sensors that are hardwired to a wireless transmitter that sends data to a tower where 11 machines record all the information.

The researchers look at soil moisture values daily and can see how soil moisture values change throughout the day.

“We’ve got about 200 stations with three sensors each that log each hour so we’re looking at a large volume of data each day. We can tell where the roots of a crop are by looking at the soil moisture values because when the sun comes up, the plant starts using water so we’ll see that soil moisture profile start to drop. When the sun goes down, the plant is no longer using water so it will level off. By watching each depth, we can get a good idea where our root zone is and thus change how we irrigate,” said Adkins.

By analyzing the data for each plot, the researchers can prepare a prescription for how the machine will run for the day.

“If we have a treatment triggered by a sensor that reads 20 centibars or above – for instance, if we get in one morning and we have one plot at 21 centibars – that square gets irrigated,” said Adkins. “It’s a mechanism to be able to evaluate whether sensor-driven irrigation has an effect on yield and water use efficiency.”

Trevor Aldred, who is working on the farm for the summer before heading to medical school after graduating from UD with an honors degree in biological sciences, enters the data every morning into a spreadsheet that is color coded to tell the researchers which plots need to be irrigated and how they need to be irrigated.

With the soybean research, Adkins said the study is mostly devoted to the timing of application.

“We find that soybeans respond to water at a very particular time and if you just water based on conventional methods, you’ll actually hurt yield because it will result in a plant that is too big and that falls down,” said Adkins.

With the corn, they are looking at fertigation, mostly in regards to nitrogen use efficiency, with 11 different treatments replicated five times for a total of 55 treatment blocks.

Subsurface drip irrigation

In addition to the above-ground center pivot irrigation plots, there is a section of the farm devoted to subsurface drip irrigation (SDI).

For SDI research on a randomized population study on soybeans, Adkins uses a variable rate planter to put seeds in the field and color codes each section of the soybean crop, with each color representing a different population.

“There are four different populations and as the planter draws across the field, it’s planting an orange section with 180,000 seeds, the yellow area goes up to 220,000, then back to 180,000, then to 140,000, and then it turns around. The planter responds to a map that I drew and uploaded to the tractor,” said Adkins.

All four populations will be irrigated with SDI and end up in each irrigation treatment so the researchers have the ability to compare population with irrigation rate.

SDI is exactly as it sounds, with water running underground in order to irrigate a crop. The Warrington Farm is equipped with a variable frequency drive, a pump in the ground that changes speed to match the flow demand that can reach up to 475 gallons a minute. A control box handles 42 zones that are roughly a quarter of an acre each.

“Each zone can be timed to come on whenever we want so we’re taking the information on soil moisture values and we’ve got schedules in there for all kinds of different ways that we’re irrigating,” said Adkins.

Adkins said that SDI is a good option for irregularly shaped fields that don’t have room to fit a pivot and that it works well in heavier soil types, like loam soils and clays, because there’s enough hydraulic connectivity in those denser soils to wick moisture away from the drip tape and get it to the soil surface. For sandier soils, however, it’s hard to get the water to move vertically in the soil profile.

“When we bury the tape at 16 inches – and we have to do that in order to prevent it from being damaged by farm equipment – we don’t get a lot of it to come up to the surface. Early in the season when there are no roots down to that depth, we end up pumping considerably more water to try to get that water to move vertically in the profile so the efficiency we gain on the tail end doesn’t overcome the inefficiencies we get on the front end,” said Adkins.

Still for those who have the right soil types to utilize SDI, Adkins said that it is a good system.

“There are parts of the world, because of water use efficiency and lack of water, they’ve taken down pivots and put in subsurface drip, but I don’t see that happening here. We get enough recharge that it’s not really an issue. It has its place, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Adkins.

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.