Do you remember your favorite summer camps? Maybe there was hiking, swimming, first-aid training, horseback riding, or just tons of sweating, but also lots of learning and fun! One of our 4-H summer camps this year, Food Systems Day Camp, included Junior (8-10 year olds) and Intermediate (11-13 year olds) 4-H’ers learning about where some of their food comes from and how they can grow that food in fun, different ways. The three areas we focused the most on were chickens, aquaponics, and honeybees.
In 4-H we use a learn by doing approach for teaching youth. While there may be short periods of sitting, listening, and discussing, hands-on activities have proven to be a better option for retaining information. With this in mind, we headed out to Good Earth Farms where Len and Linda Freeman graciously hosted and taught us. Along with our Putnam County Agriculture Extension Agent, Wendy Mussoline, they helped us learn about chickens and how the kids could have their very own chickens, right in their
backyard with minimal space. Mr. Freeman has repurposed items to build a mobile chicken coop. The kids were thrilled to step into the coop offering the chickens a cool treat of watermelon rinds on a hot summer day. They collected and learned about eggs including the variety of colors chickens lay. From the white and brown eggs we see more often to the blue and green eggs seen from such breeds as Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers, which are what we call all the hybrids that lay blue eggs in America. Then, we finished up there with Chicken Poop Bingo, creating our
own clay chickens, and some chicken trivia.
We also visited Worldwide Aquaponics owned by the 2021 Florida Woman of the Year in Agriculture, Angela TenBroeck. As a fourth generation farmer, she has been a pioneer in the world of commercial aquaponics all over the world. Aquaponics is a method of food production which combines the best aspects of aquaculture and hydroponics to create a highly productive living ecosystem for sustainable agriculture, by cultivating fish and plants in a re-circulating agriculture system. Fish waste can be converted to plant food using natural bacterial cycles (Worldwide Aquaponics). We were welcomed to her farm and given a tour by employee, Michael Lay. The 4-H’ers were able to feed the fish in their environment and then follow the lines that flowed to the greenhouse, where they were growing several varieties of lettuce and celery. The youth then went on to visit the walk-in refrigerator and packing house where food is packed up for delivery to people and places suffering from food insecurity. Recycling a 2-liter bottle, some water, rocks, a couple of fish, and a lettuce seedling, the youth were able to create their own aquaponics system, back at the extension office, providing a new way for them to learn how to grow their own food.
So, when next summer rolls around and the kiddos are itching to get out of the house (and maybe you’re ready to get them out of the house), give us a call at the UF/IFAS Putnam County Extension Office and see what 4-H has in store for our youngsters. Helping to make our youth self-sufficient is just one small part of what we love to do in 4-H. For that matter, reach out today and find out what 4-H is up to in Putnam County. We love to provide opportunities for the kids in our community that they may not find anywhere else. When we can help our youth find their spark, what they are passionate about, then the future of Putnam County will be very bright and no one will be able to stand in the way of our leaders of tomorrow.
*Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog from Dr. Mussoline on the honeybees portion of our camp with Tilton Honey Farms.*
The author is employed by UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture – An Equal Opportunity Institution.