Seaford’s Sarah Bell wins inaugural 4-H Diamond Clover Award

February 7, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

Sarah Bell wins 4-H Diamond Clover AwardDelaware 4-H has announced that Sarah Bell of Seaford is the first recipient of the Delaware 4-H Diamond Clover Award, the highest honor a 4-H member can earn.

The 4-H Diamond Clover Award is Delaware 4-H’s formal acknowledgment of Bell’s achievement in making a significant difference in the community and state through her “Read to Success Delaware!” project, designed to combat illiteracy.

Delaware 4-H has long acknowledged excellence with blue ribbons, trophies and project pins, and has awarded many scholarships to its 4-H members. However, as the largest youth program in the nation, 4-H did not have a signature capstone award to honor members who demonstrated extraordinary, sustained and focused service learning in their community.

Bell, it turns out, was Delaware 4-H’s diamond in the rough.

Before a crowd of adult 4-H volunteer leaders, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and 4-H staff, family and friends, Bell, a member of the Stateline 4-H Club, was officially presented with the inaugural award on Feb. 1.

“The Boy Scout Eagle is the gold standard of youth awards and it was used as the model for the Diamond Clover,” said Dan Tabler, a retired 4-H agent with a long career in Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia. “As with the Eagle, a very small number of members achieve this ultimate level of recognition.”

Tabler authored the concept and first suggested the Diamond Clover Award idea to his colleagues with Maryland 4-H, where it has become the premiere 4-H award.

To attain the Diamond Clover Award, a 4-H member must progress through several stages. Upon completion, each stage is marked with a gemstone award designation – amethyst, aquamarine, ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond. “The sixth level requires the 4-H member to propose a major community service project that must be approved by a local Diamond Clover Committee and the state 4-H project leader,” said Tabler.

Tabler explained the process is completely voluntary, “but it is something that 4-H members choose to strive for.” At present, the Diamond Clover Award has been adopted in Maryland, Delaware and Nebraska, Tabler said. The Delaware 4-H Foundation sponsored the award for the First State.

At the ceremony, Delaware 4-H program leader Mark Manno described the award process as intense, noting that the final level will likely take more than one year to complete. “It is not a race, it is a journey,” Manno said.

After Bell’s presentation, Manno held up his index finger and acknowledged the power of one. “That’s one 4-H’er. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of youth who are capable of making a difference like Sarah has made,” he said.

Manno told the audience that approximately 80 Delaware 4-H youth are presently working on one of the six levels toward a Diamond Clover Award.

Bell’s project

Bell selected childhood illiteracy as her sustained service-learning project after hearing a presentation from Read Aloud Delaware given at Sussex Tech High School, where she is a member of the Class of 2014. She titled her project “Read to Succeed Delaware!” and through exhaustive research discovered that one in five Delawareans are functionally illiterate.

Bell learned that illiteracy rates could be positively impacted if children are reached at a young age. Her examination of the issue also revealed that families with low income had few or no children’s books in the home, a significant contributor to illiteracy.

Bell conceived a plan to establish a means by which families could obtain free children’s books. She partnered with the Delaware State Service Centers, operated by Delaware’s Division of Health and Human Services.

The centers help families in need with a variety of services. “I thought the idea was perfect. I contacted all the service center administrators in the state and all of them wanted literacy centers,” Bell said. “Their passion for helping people was evident.”

All 15 centers agreed to provide space and a table for reading and obtaining literacy resources. Bell then approached Read Aloud Delaware and pitched the idea to permanently sponsor the literacy centers. They were willing to help, Bell explained, on the condition that she first establish an initial supply of books to serve all 15 centers, as well as create or obtain literacy resources and displays for families visiting the centers.

Bell recruited a team of 12 young people and adults, and began the process of fundraising and establishing book drives throughout her community. Bell also took advantage of valuable contacts within her communities at Delaware 4-H, Delaware Girl Scouts and Gethsemane United Methodist Church. Bell credits them for giving her moral support, agreeing to serve as a book donation site, or donating books or the money to purchase them.

Bell put the donations to efficient use and became a book bargain hunter, finding suitable children’s books for as low as ten cents apiece at yard sales and thrift stores. Her church community led in donations for the approximately 3,000 books needed to get the literacy centers in operation. Read Aloud Delaware now oversees responsibility.

The 15 centers, along with new parents at the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, now have access to bilingual materials that stress the importance of literacy and point to where literary resources are available.

In pursuit of the 4-H Diamond Clover Award, Bell soon realized her ultimate goal was less about the award, than it was about making a lasting difference. “It taught me that I can be capable of leading adults as well as youth, and that I can achieve things that I previously thought were beyond my abilities,” she said.

In addition to 4-H, Bell has received numerous recognitions in the Girl Scouts, is a 2014 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and is active in her school and church organizations.

Bell plans to one day become an elementary school teacher, saying, “I look forward to helping my students achieve high literacy levels so they can become successful learners, which will help them become successful adults.”

Click here to view Bell’s presentation at the award ceremony.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by William Campbell for Delaware 4-H

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Share

Delaware Ag Week draws record numbers

January 24, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

Delaware Ag Week draws record crowdsA successful Delaware Agriculture Week, held from January 13-17, attracted record attendance at the Delaware State Fairgrounds, home to the event for the past nine years.

An estimated 1900 visitors, up from 1700 last year, drove to Harrington to attend their choice of 97 sessions offered on a variety of topics crucial to Delaware agriculture. Topics included poultry, equine, nutrient management, fresh market fruits and vegetables, production crops, irrigation, forestry, horticulture, safety, ACA health insurance, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), weed and disease control in agronomic crops. Additional presentations covered equine, small ruminants and beef cattle.

‘Ag Week’ as it is known in the First State is planned in collaboration with the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, Delaware State University Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Department of Agriculture. In addition to invited experts from around the country, more than 30 sessions were taught by experts from the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and college staff served as session moderators.

Cory Whaley, Sussex County agriculture Extension agent and chair of the Delaware Ag Week Planning Committee, was pleased with the number of people who attended and the 81 vendor exhibits offered during the week.

“Ag Week is great event where the ag community can come together for continuing education, to catch up with friends, and talk with local vendors,” said Whaley. “Much of the success of Ag Week can be attributed to the individual session chairs who identify topics that are relevant and timely and then match these topics with expert speakers from our area and from across the country.”  A complete listing of this year’s program sponsors and exhibitors is available on the Delaware Ag Week website.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension, attended many of the sessions throughout Delaware Agriculture Week. Rodgers commended her Extension colleague’s efforts and teamwork for developing an event that positively impacts the agricultural community. “Hat’s off to the entire team for an excellent Ag Week.” Rodgers said. “We have had record crowds as well as top-notch speakers from Delaware and across the country. Feedback has been very positive,” Rodgers said, adding that attendees especially voiced appreciation on hearing the current research, the breadth of topics offered, and a venue to network with others in the agriculture sector.

Ed Kee, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture, thanked everyone who organized Delaware Ag Week. “We are really connecting. Good job to all the farmers and industry people who participated,” Kee said.

During Delaware Ag Week attendees were able to earn nutrient management, pesticide and certified crop advisor continuing education credits.

It was the first Ag Week for Nathan Kleczewski, UD Extension plant pathology specialist, who was hired in May 2013.  Along with Dan Egel and Shubin Saha, colleagues from Purdue, Kleczewski felt the collaborative nature of the sessions gave other experts the opportunity to share their research and expertise. “It gives growers an outside perspective and builds collaborations,” said Kleczewski.

Kleczewski was pleased to see 250 people attend the high tunnel and agronomy sessions and received positive feedback. “It was a great way to introduce myself to many people and now that they have a face to put to the name, I expect to receive more calls during the course of the growing season,” Kleczewski said.

A new exhibition for 2014 was the Hazards of Flowing Grain demonstration. Mike Love, agriculture safety Extension agent, coordinated the presentations, equipment and resources. Twice a day, Love conducted a workshop on the dangers of grain entrapment and rescue best practices via a mobile unit developed to scale by Penn State.

“An individual entering a grain silo can be entrapped in seconds,” Love said. Attempts to move can bury the victim deeper in the grain. Love illustrated the physics behind grain movement within silo storage, explaining how a 165-pound individual effectively becomes 300 pounds when the grain reaches waist level. Love emphasized that knowing how to safely respond is critical. The exhibit was enthusiastically received and plans to feature it during the Delaware State Fair in July are being discussed.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings during Ag Week, Love conducted Grain Rescue workshops at the Quillen Arena where first responders utilized best practices for the unique rescue challenge inside a full sized silo mock-up on loan from Perdue Agribusiness Grain Emergency Response Team. More than 100 first responders from Delaware attended and worked in teams as they entrapped a volunteer and practiced the rescue techniques and equipment. “The grain rescue workshops were offered to first responders and farmers so they may learn the characteristics of flowing grain, the causes and best practices for rescue,” Love said.

Philip Russell, 1st Assistant Chief of the Magnolia Volunteer Fire Department attended the training Thursday night and found the experience extremely valuable. “This was an eye opener for us. We need to make sure we have the right equipment to make the proper rescue.”  Russell said.

Robbie Roe, Russell’s colleague, volunteered as a victim and agreed the training was necessary. “It would be the worst way to die known to man,” Roe exclaimed. “I couldn’t breathe.” Fortunately, their fire department has not been called out to a grain entrapment, but Roe was grateful for the opportunity to become better prepared. “We have silos in our district we never had before. This [training] is what we need to do.”

Held in January every year, the 2014 event was an opportunity for Rodgers and her Extension colleagues to mark Cooperative Extension’s 100th year of providing research-based information to the public.

Click here for additional photos of Delaware Ag Week

Article by Michele Walfred

Photos: Michele Walfred, Cory Whaley, and Heather Baker

Share

UD’s Cooperative Extension unveils a new way to connect with experts

July 16, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

havequestion-ask-expertDelaware residents with questions related to family and health, community development, food and agriculture, programs for young people and gardening will now have a new way to connect with experts on those topics thanks to the University of Delaware and Delaware State Cooperative Extension’s Ask an Expert website, which will be unveiled this week at the State Fair.

Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD’s Cooperative Extension, said that Delaware Cooperative Extension is “excited to bring our areas of expertise to Delawareans through a simple request on your web browser.”

Rodgers added, “The unique aspect of Extension’s Ask an Expert is that all of our responses are based in university research, and if we don’t have the research experts here, the system has the capacity to connect with Extension experts across the country. It is information you can trust through a simple question entry on your browser.”

Ask an Expert is as simple as clicking on the Cooperative Extension website and asking a question about a problem related to the topics above. The people with questions will then be connected with a Cooperative Extension, university staff member or volunteer expert who will be able to provide them with a timely and regionally specific response electronically. The goal is to have a response within 48 hours.

Images can be attached to the question to help further explain questions, such as attaching a photo of an insect or a spot on a plant.

Questions and answers can be made publicly or privately, depending on preference.

To check out the Ask an Expert page, visit the following link.

Share

Rieger, Rodgers and Allen attend rural economy summit in Washington

May 1, 2013 under CANR News

Chris Coons talks with Mark Rieger, Michelle Rodgers and Melanie AllenMark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of University of Delaware cooperative extension, and Melanie Allen, a senior studying wildlife conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, recently participated in a half-day summit on issues of importance to rural communities across the nation. The event featured U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), and was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured two moderated panels focused on rural economics, infrastructure, and access to critical services.

The panel highlighted the economic conditions facing rural communities and the agriculture industry, and what role the federal government can play in ensuring long-term support for the communities. Issues discussed during the summit included the importance of investing in the health of farmland, natural resources, and infrastructure. Another topic of discussion was connecting farmers and ranchers with consumers, including individuals, schools, hospitals and businesses.

“Our rural communities are central to our identity, our economy, and our values,” said Coons. “Between our agriculture sector, environmental conservation, and tourism, it’s no surprise that Delaware’s rural communities are thriving. It’s important that we continue to facilitate an open dialogue between our rural communities and our elected officials to ensure we aren’t hindering their growth and development. I thank the members of the University of Delaware for attending today’s event and sharing their views on how we can strengthen our state’s rural areas.”

More than 200 rural development advocates attended the summit.

Share