Argo presented Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County

October 10, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Mary Argo receives the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H awardDelaware 4-H has announced Mary Argo as the 2013 recipient of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award for Sussex County.

Argo was honored during the Sussex County 4-H annual achievement celebration held Sept. 28 at the University of Delaware’s Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown before an audience of approximately 150 4-H family members and supporters.

Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award winners in New Castle and Kent counties will be announced at later 4-H events.

Argo, who retired in April 2013 as Sussex 4-H educator, was surprised as her name was called and she was asked to come to the stage. In attendance to support her grandchildren in 4-H and to present the Friend of 4-H Award to volunteer leader William Campbell, Argo was continuing her career tradition of happily handing out awards to others. Her arrival on stage to accept the honor was met with a standing ovation.

“This is a surprise. I had not a clue about this,” Argo exclaimed. “I have been very, very jealous of all the people who have gone before who have won this. This is a wonderful, wonderful award. I can’t think of anyone finer to follow than Joy Sparks.”

The Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award was established in 2009 in memory of the Delaware 4-H program leader who died in February of that year. The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in individuals who exhibit dedication, enthusiasm and embody 4-H values. The four H’s of the program represent “head, heart, hands and health,” which members and volunteers pledge to dedicate to their club, community and country through leadership, citizenship and the furtherance of life skills and community service.

Argo’s career began at the University of Delaware 23 years ago, and she spent the last 18 as Sussex County 4-H agent.

One of Argo’s signature events was coordinating the annual 4-H Spring Farm Tours at Green Acres Farm, an event that invites area school children to visit Delaware’s largest dairy farm, which is owned and operated by the Hopkins family of Lewes.

Each year, for two days in May, this valuable partnership welcomes between 1,500 and 2,000 youth who embark on discovery and participate in the sounds, smells and textures offered as lessons in an authentic agricultural experience — oftentimes receiving their first introduction to Cooperative Extension and the University.

With the help of Argo’s colleagues at the Carvel center, tens of thousands of young students have been reached through this one event alone during her tenure as 4-H agent.

Argo was recognized for her belief in the value of personal visits, through which she cultivated many strong community relationships throughout her career.

A particular favorite program Argo initiated was Fridays with 4-H, an after school program at La Casita in Georgetown. Every Friday, Argo introduced 4-H curriculum and experiential learning activities. The outreach program impacted hundreds of Latino youth in Sussex County and was the direct result of Argo’s networking and personal touch in her community.

“All who know Mary never fail to mention her tireless work ethic, positive outlook and enthusiastic dedication to make 4-H available to every child in Delaware,” said Mark Manno, Delaware 4-H program leader, as he read from the nomination. “She has never missed an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an accomplishment of a 4-H youth member or adult volunteer.”

Argo joined 4-H at the age of 10, as an inaugural member of the Broadkill Kool Kats 4-H Club, a club founded by her mother, Frances Millman. As an adult, Argo served as the club’s organizational leader for 12 years.

In 1986, Argo was inducted into the prestigious 4-H alumni organization known as the Sussex County 4-H Order of the Link. Two of Argo’s daughters are currently Delaware 4-H leaders, and 10 of her 11 grandchildren are currently enrolled in Delaware 4-H.

Argo was joined on stage by members of Joy Sparks’ family, brother Alex Gooden and niece Lindsay Gooden Hughes, who presented Argo with the award.

Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute at UD, was not able to join family members at the ceremony but later said, “Mary richly deserves the 2013 Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Her numerous contributions to Delaware 4-H will be long lasting. I wish her the very best.”

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


4-H, Hopkins Family Celebrate 25 years of Farm Tours

May 19, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

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 train, 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