Three Wakulla 4-H youth members are blazing a trail for other Florida 4-H youth all the way to Dallas, Texas this October. Cayle Rogers, Brooklynn Green, and Noah Pearson will represent the state 4-H program as the first Florida team to compete in the National Food Challenge held at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. The teens have named their team “The Wakulla 4-H Disaster Masters” and will compete in a “Chopped-style” cooking challenge that will test their ability to think on their feet, show knowledge of nutrition and food preparation safety, and skill as cooks.
The three teens were introduced to disaster ready pantries and cooking techniques during the 4-H Community Emergency Response team camp weeks held in summer 2021 and 2022. Wakulla County Extension Director Samantha Kennedy, who also serves as the Family and Consumer Science faculty member (otherwise known as agent), taught the youth basic principles of food safety while leading the youth to complete cooking activities with charcoal and propane.
Be Creative in the Kitchen: Cayle Rogers
Cayle first experienced 4-H at summer camp in 2018. He attended a 4-H day camp that focused on computer coding and robotics. Later that same summer, he attended a week-long overnight experience at Camp Timpoochee. In summer 2022, Cayle completed the 4-H Teen Leadership CERT camp week and also served as a teen volunteer leader with 4-H day camp. Cayle credited his experience in the CERT camp for expanding his food safety knowledge, “The Teen CERT program taught me the safe temperatures of food when it is being cooked, such as chicken. I also learned that I can prepare several dishes on a grill, that not everything has to be cooked on a stovetop or in an oven.”
He shared that his favorite foods to cook are fried chicken and homemade pizzas. According to Cayle, the secret to good fried chicken is buttermilk. Cayle offered the following advice to potential youth cooks, “My advice would be to just start cooking. Be creative in the kitchen, you never know what you can come up with.” He said his “best 4-H Memory is when the police and firefighters came to CERT. It was an inspiring presentation and encouraged me to join the fire cadet program. I hope to become an EMT.”
Stay Calm and Take Charge: Brooklynn Green
Brooklynn got her start in 4-H at age seven. She joined the Chicken Champs Club in Sopchoppy led by Becton Roddenberry and said, “it was so much fun!” She credits her time in Teen CERT with teaching her how to calmly respond during disasters and to be ready to take charge in an emergency. She says she loves to cook. She offered this advice to youth who want to learn to cook, “cook the things you love!” Brooklynn shared that one dish she especially loves to cook is “creamy mushroom chicken. It has a creamy base sauce and sauteed mushrooms and spinach. It goes well with garlic bread and ravioli.”
During Brooklynn’s time in 4-H, she has been involved in Cooking, County and District Councils, as well as Chicken Club, and has served as a day camp volunteer for the last two summers. She shared, “4-H has given me so many memories! My favorite memory would be spending the summer as a youth volunteer with my friends who are also part of my National Cooking Team.
Learn by Doing: Noah Pearson
Noah Pearson’s time with 4-H began in South Carolina at age 11 when he joined a shotgun club. After moving to Wakulla County, he joined the 4-H Shotgun Club and became active in County Council and Teen CERT. Over the past year, he has served on the 4-H State Executive Board and has been part of 4-H Day at the Capitol and 4-H University.
Noah credited the Teen CERT program with teaching him “to be adaptable as a cook. You cannot rely on a proper heat source for cooking during a disaster. You may need to use a fire or grill for cooking instead of an oven.” He shared that he loves to cook ramen noodles, mainly because he likes to eat them. He had this advice to offer other aspiring young cooks, “Start at home by helping your parents prepare meals. Learn by doing!”
Noah shared that choosing a single stand out memory of his time in 4-H is a challenge for him, “For me there is not just one. I have so many memories of 4-H. I really enjoy it when the younger members look up to me. I enjoy being a leader in the community, learning new things and spending time with friends.”
4-H Disaster Masters Travel to Dallas
The Wakulla 4-H Disaster Masters will travel to Dallas for the National Competition scheduled on October 4 with their coaches Christy Pearson and Samantha Isaacs as well as 4-H agent Rachel Pienta. The team is hard at work preparing for the challenge, cooking together under challenge conditions twice a week. The youth are also working to raise $3000 to offset the cost of travel for the trip to the national competition. Donations to support the youth can be sent to the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 84 Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville. Donations can also be made online at this link: 4-H Food Challenge.
For more information about the Food Challenge or other Wakulla 4-H programs, please visit https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/wakulla/4-h-youth-development/.