YOUTH THRIVE THROUGH THE 4-H BERRY PROJECT
J. Perez, UF/IFAS Extension, Putnam County, East Palatka, FL, W.Lynch, UF/IFAS Extension, Putnam County, East Palatka, FL, C. McCazzio, UF/IFAS Extension, Putnam County, East Palatka, FL.
Situation: Blueberry production in Florida has increased to encompass around 5,100 acres with a value of utilized production estimated 62 million dollars (USDA, 2019 Blueberry Statistics). The 4-H Berry Project provides participants with insight into the horticultural needs of blueberries as well as experience budgeting, marketing, and selling a product. Youth participating in this project experienced an increased awareness of an agriculture crop leading to a greater appreciation of blueberry farming and a possible career in agriculture. Educational Methods: This annual 4-H project starts in October and ends with the Putnam County Fair in March. This is a multifaceted project focused on multiple educational meetings, demonstration of abilities to grow the issued blueberry plants, and a project book to record their ongoing activities. These facets required youth to gain knowledge of horticultural practices, set goals and keep records. Additionally, youth learned of the nutritional value of blueberries which helped them to market their product that they have the opportunity to auctioned at the fair. Results and findings: The 2019-2020 4-H Berry Project started with a group of youth (N=22). Participants were observed demonstrating proper pruning techniques and guidance was given. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic only 3 completed the project but were awarded blue ribbons. These three youth auctioned off their plants for an average $95. In 2020-2021, participants (N=15) have experienced the project differently as all meetings were via Zoom and demonstrations recorded to YouTube. Participants in for the 2020-2021 project plan to conclude their project in March and are reporting positive outcomes. Conclusion: By participating in this project, 4-H youth gained knowledge of the complexities of growing healthy blueberries and the challenges of being profitable. This project also provided elements for youth to develop critical life skills such as responsibility and problem solving.
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