Hardee County 4-H Agriculture Camp
In Hardee County, the agriculture industry generates over 73 percent of our job market. What is unique about the agriculture in Hardee County is that it heavily varies from where it was twenty years ago. It used to be that anywhere you went, you would see beef cattle production or citrus, there wasn’t much in between. What we wanted to show our 4-H members over this past week was how much we, as a community, have grown.
We started our week off at the Industrial Development Authority’s test plot in Hardee County where we met with Dillard Albritton the farm manager. He showed us how the county is testing different varieties of crops from olive trees to pomegranates and even a new biofuel plant called pongamia.
After lunch, we toured Florikan which is a relatively new fertilizer company in Hardee County. They engineer and manufacture fertilizer that is encapsulated, which we had never seen before. A fun fact about Florikan that our youth enjoyed was that they are working with NASA to help grow food in space!
Tuesday was all about getting into nature and how to utilize sustainable energy. First, we started off our morning by learning about solar cookers. We used Ziploc bags and foil to cook hot dogs for a snack. While our hotdogs were cooking, we went on a 2.5 mile hike to learn about different insects and animals that can be found in the wild.
That afternoon, we came back to the County Extension Office, where the camp participants along with our Ag Agent and County Extension Director, Jona Bosques got to catch mosquito fish and learn about why they are important to have in our ponds and water troughs in Florida.
On Wednesday, we toured Krause Grove Services to learn about the citrus industry and how greening is affecting them. The 4-H members got to see the different equipment they use every day and learn about two different types of oranges (Valencia and Hamlin). We ended our tour with a bottle of Tropicana Orange juice which, just so happens, to get their oranges from some of the trees we visited that day.
Wednesday afternoon was one of the 4-H member’s favorite activities of the whole week: Honeybees! Jona Bosques did a demonstration with the help of Matt Warren about the ins and outs of beekeeping and all of the work that the bees put into making honey. The 4-H members even had the chance to get up close to the bees. One of their favorite parts was being able to put a honeybee under the microscope to try to see if they could find any mites. While, they weren’t able to find any mites they thought it was neat to see all of the pollen that covered the bees.
Thursday was our last day for Ag Camp. We toured the UF/IFAS Research and Education Center in Ona, FL. First, we met with Dr. Brent Sellers who taught us about plant and weed science, along with invasive species. We learned why it is important to pay attention where we walk, so we do not transfer non-native plants.
Next, they learned about wildlife biology that shares their home range with cattle, such as feral swine, owls, coyotes, gopher turtles, etc. The youth were especially interested in the measures that are used
to track the different animals such as drones and GPS collars. From there they went to visit Wally, the cannulated steer. Wally and his microbe field rumen fluid
help UF researchers to determine the nutritional value of livestock feed. The 4-H members even had the opportunity to use the microscope to see the microbes in Wally’s rumen content.
After lunch, they learned about plants and what they need to survive in our environment. The kids also got to clone sweet potato plants and seed lettuce. They also got to see how the pond plants produce oxygen bubbles in the presence of light.
Overall, this year’s agriculture camp was one of my favorites, I can’t wait until next year!
To learn more about 4-H Programming in Hardee County, please visit our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HardeeCounty4h