Highlands County 4-H teaches youth critical life skills such as leadership, citizenship, communication, and responsibility though the hands-on projects and activities we offer. We provide youth in Highlands County with quality, positive youth development programs. Our programs reinforces skills needed to be successful in school and later the workforce. We work hard to offer a variety of programs to meet the everchanging interests of our youth. We offer traditional agricultural programs as well as S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) programs like rocketry, robotics, computer coding, and as well as healthy living programs that focus on food and nutrition, atv safety, and mindfulness. Our goal is the spark an interest in youth and mold them to be successful citizens in society. While the types of programs that we offer have changed through the years, the focus remains the same.
4-H is deeply rooted in agriculture. It is important for us to educate youth about where food and other agricultural products come from, the work that it takes for growers and producers to get their products to market, and the difference in what an individual pays versus what the grower/producer actually makes. We also work to provide them with experiences and insight to jobs in agricultural related fields. We have several 4-H projects that teach youth record keeping, responsibility, marketable skills, problem solving, and decision making. However, it is the unique programs that set us apart from other 4-H programs.
Lake Placid, Florida which is located in Highlands County is the “Caladium Capital of the World”. It is only fitting that we would offer a horticultural project where youth could learn more about this amazing plant. Every year, with the guidance of Happiness Farms, Highlands 4-H offers a Caladium Contest project. Registered 4-H youth ages 5-18 are eligible to participate in this project. With the support of Happiness Farms and Amerikan, we are able to offer this program completely free of charge.
When does the project begin?
Participants are required to attend a one-day workshop that takes place each December. At the workshop participants learn how to properly plant and care for a caladium. These caladiums are grown during the winter, when caladiums are normally dormant. During the workshop, youth are taught ways to “wake up” their bulbs in order to get them to grow during the winter. Tips such as using warm water or placing them on a heating pad has traditionally worked well for youth.
Once youth plant their bulbs, they take them home to care for them until the county fair rolls around in February. During this time, they are responsible for maintaining their record book. Participants must take photos of the progress of their caladium, log when they water or fertilize their caladium, or when they have to bring their caladium indoors do to weather conditions. A week before the fair, youth submit their plant and their record book to be judged by University of Florida/ IFAS Extension, Highlands County Master Gardeners.
How does the contest work?
During the Highlands County Fair, youth display their caladium plants in the 4-H exhibit booth. These plants are adorned with a colored award ribbon respective to their placement. Youth are also rewarded for their hard work by receiving premium money based upon their ribbon color. Once the fair is over the youth a free to take their caladiums home to plant or gift to someone else. Youth are also eligible to resubmit their caladium project book to receive a horticulture sciences pin at the annual Highlands County 4-H banquet.
Want to learn more?
The caladium project is just one of the many projects that is offer to youth in our community, but it is one that is close to our hearts. Highlands County 4-H has 14 community and school clubs that serve 321 members. Through our programs we are able to reach a total of 5,586 local youth. Many of the programs that we offer are free or have a nominal fee, thanks to the generous support of the Highlands County 4-H Foundation, local businesses, volunteers, and stakeholders. To learn more about the caladium project or how to get involved in the Highlands County 4-H program, please contact our office at 863-402-6540.