“There is much we can learn from a friend who happens to be a horse.” — Aleksandra Layland
“Training mustangs is just so much fun,” said Aubrielle, as a chestnut-colored filly named Zuri nuzzled the 4-H member from Shasta County. Six months earlier, the young wild horse was wary of being touched. Now she was sporting accessories in her styled mane that matched the teenager's turquoise jewelry.
Over the past few years, UC Cooperative Extension in Modoc County has partnered with Modoc National Forest to provide public outreach and education to support the placement and care of wild horses from Devil's Garden at the northeastern corner of California. Adopting foals reduces overpopulation of wild horses, which can harm rangeland and the health of the mustangs themselves.
This year Laura Snell, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor in Modoc County, assigned weanling wild horses to 40 youth between the ages of 9 and 19 from all over the state. The mustangs were 4 to 6 months old in January when they were picked up in Alturas and taken home by California 4-H and FFA members, who feed and care for them.
“The moment when I got to touch him for the first time is probably one of the biggest parts of training as well as my progress with him,” said Morgan of Monterey County, who spent hours in the stall with Bowie trying to gain his trust.
“It was really amazing to me that I was able to touch him on day 5,” she said. “In the videos I watched leading up to getting him, most of the time it took one week to three weeks for the people in the videos to touch their wild mustangs. At that moment is when you really start to make that bond with a wild mustang.”
“The moment when I got to remove his tag was a huge part as well because at that moment you know that the mustang trusts you enough that he is letting you get that close to remove the tag,” Morgan said.
The young trainers teach the horses to wear a halter, to load and unload from a horse trailer and to navigate through obstacles. Some participants also work on tricks such as laying their horse down, walking the horse backward and walking under the horse. In June, the participants gathered in Alturas to show their progress.
“It provides them an opportunity to seek out adult mentors who are horse trainers, learn responsibility, and learn a variety of things about caring for a wild horse and learning more about themselves in the process,” said Snell.
“We find that the youth do very well with wild horses. It's really a two-way street, with the horses learning just as much as the youth are in the six months they are in training,” she added.
Sisters Kailey and Maddi in San Benito County both adopted weanling horses. Removing the tag after about three weeks was a turning point for Maddi and her horse Fiona.
“The significance of getting the tag off was we hadn't been able to get near her at all,” said Maddi. “She had some aggression toward people out of fear. So getting past that, getting to the point where she trusted me and I could get that halter on her and get close enough to get that tag off was just a huge achievement. After that, once she trusted me, she started doing really, really well and flying through her training.”
Because wildfires are part of life in California, she taught Fiona to step over flames so she won't be afraid if they need to evacuate, Maddi told KSBW reporter Brisa Colon.
“It has been amazing to be able to share this experience with another very close family,” said Aubrielle's mother Ashley Phipps. “Our daughters have gone through the entire journey together starting with visiting the corrals to pick horses together, all the way through the training process. My daughter is older than Brooklin and has been a great mentor to her, teaching Brooklin and her horse along the way. It has been such a confidence builder for my daughter! Our girls will never forget this experience!!! And I loved every moment of watching them grow through the ups and downs. This program is such a blessing.”
To qualify for the program, applicants must fill out an application which includes being enrolled in a horse program such as the 4-H Equine Project, show they have facilities and feed for the animals, designate a mentor and have their parents' approval.
The trainers and their horses competed in the Devil's Garden Colt Challenge on June 18 in Alturas, vying for awards in halter, showmanship and obstacle course with youth from 13 counties participating. Prizes totaled over $3,000.
- Author: Mike Hsu
Commitment of $690,000 supports UC South Coast Research and Extension Center, 4-H programs
During a “GROW Field Day” when 100 high school students enjoyed harvesting and tasting avocados, the Orange County Farm Bureau announced a $690,000 gift to expand University of California-affiliated programs that introduce young people to agricultural careers.
The students from four schools across Southern California participated in the GROW program on May 13 at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine, a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources facility that organizes and hosts these educational programs.
“Part of the mission of Orange County Farm Bureau is to support the development of the next generation of agriculturalists,” said Casey Anderson, executive director of OCFB, in announcing the five-year commitment that will begin in 2023. “Through our partnership with South Coast Research Extension Center and support of Orange County 4-H, we are thrilled to provide opportunities to young people to directly connect with food production and myriad research and career opportunities in agriculture.”
Hundreds of local youth are served every year by Orange County 4-H, a part of a nationwide youth development and education program, administered in California by UC ANR.
“OCFB contributions to our Forever 4-H Endowment will soon provide sustaining funds every year, indefinitely,” said Rita Jakel, Orange County 4-H program coordinator. “And their commitment to our Program Support Fund will help ensure that 4-H will continue to have the capacity to impact the youth of Orange County.”
GROW program introduces youth to agriculture careers
The GROW program, originally conceived by OCFB as a way to make agricultural experiences more accessible to more young people across the region, has engaged over 1,000 students from nine schools – many of them in urban areas where knowledge of agriculture is limited. The program builds on a strong history of collaboration between OCFB and South Coast REC, dating back to the early 2000s.
“UC ANR and South Coast Research and Extension Center are grateful for the trust the Orange County Farm Bureau continues to place in us to not only deliver agricultural education to the people of Orange County, but also to open the eyes of young people to fulfilling careers in agriculture,” said Darren Haver, director of UC South Coast REC.
“To me, it's like a great big outdoor classroom,” said Tammy Majcherek, a South Coast REC community educator specialist who coordinates the GROW program, along with colleague Jason Suppes. “There are so many possibilities of what we can connect to.”
Programs spotlight diversity of agriculture-related fields
Gina Cunningham, a teacher at Westminster High School (part of the Huntington Beach Unified School District), was excited to bring the 20 freshmen in her agricultural biology class to the GROW Day, where they get a glimpse of potential pathways in agriculture that “are not directly farming-related.”
“This gives kids an opportunity to see some things that are available to them that maybe they never have thought of – and there are a lot of things out there that I might not have thought of, either,” said Cunningham, who has degrees in animal science and agricultural education.
Thanks to OCFB's long-term commitment to the program, GROW coordinators Majcherek and Suppes said that in the coming years they would like to bring more students with career aspirations outside of traditional agricultural roles. In particular, they hope to reach out to young people with interests in culinary arts and food service, as well as in technology and engineering, which intersect with food production in the form of drones, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Regardless of their background, however, almost all of the students love harvesting crops from the South Coast REC farm, whether pumpkins, potatoes, or – during the most recent GROW Day – avocados. Majcherek said it's especially rewarding to hear the students talk enthusiastically about older siblings who went to a GROW program and came back with enduring memories – as well as some fresh produce.
“You know it's cool when they're taking selfies with their bounty,” she said.
Community members interested in joining the Orange County Farm Bureau in support of South Coast REC and 4-H programs are encouraged to make a donation on UC ANR's annual Giving Day, which runs from noon to noon on May 19-20./h3>/h3>/h3>
Due to the Dixie Fire, the traditional Plumas County Fair was canceled; however, volunteers are working hard to make the Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Show happen. 4-H and FFA youth will show their prize-winning livestock this weekend at the Sierraville Roping Grounds. The showing of animals is scheduled to take place on Aug. 13 and 14 with the Junior Livestock Auction on Sunday, Aug. 15.
“We really hope junior livestock supporters in the region and beyond will raise their hands often this year to support the youth livestock producers of Plumas and Sierra counties,” said Megan Neer, Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Auction chairman.
“The kids have overcome the challenges of COVID and now face another year of canceled county fair due to the Dixie Fire,” Neer said. “Many of our youth have been directly impacted by the fire evacuations and some even have lost homes to the catastrophic fire. We are really looking to the community and beyond to support our youth during this difficult time.”
Profiles of participating youth can be viewed on the Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Auction Facebook page by clicking on “Photos." Interested buyers can participate in the livestock sale on Sunday, Aug. 15, and help reward the young people for their hard work in raising steers, lambs, swine, goats, rabbits, turkeys and other animals.
On the Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Auction website there is an option to donate to the Dixie Fire Relief Fund. There will be opportunities on sale day to support the 4-H members who were affected by the fire. In addition, there is an option for add-ons to support a child separate from buying an animal – for both 4-H and FFA members – that are in the sale.
“We would like to thank volunteers and sponsors for coming together on such short notice to host the livestock show event for my fellow 4-H and FFA exhibitors as well as myself,” said Kristin Roberti, Sierra Valley 4-H president, who has a steer entered in the event. “I will be joining over 100 other youth exhibiting livestock at the event this year, including a number of friends who have been impacted by the ongoing Dixie Fire and the Beckwourth Fire last month.”
UPDATE Aug. 24, 2021: The auction raised over $500,000.
"It was an amazing day, and life changing for many youth that were impacted the hardest by the Dixie Fire," said Tracy Schohr, UC Cooperative Extension livestock and natural resources advisor in Plumas and Sierra counties.
"Also, the day before the auction I worked with the Plumas-Sierra Cattlemen to host an impromptu dinner and auction to support ranchers impacted by the Dixie Fire - over $30,000 was raised that will go to ranchers who lost feed, hay, fences and many who have incurred tremendous costs the past month while the fire has burned around them," Schohr said.
"The weekend activities were a true reminder of the support for agriculture, support for youth in agriculture, value of community and the true power of social media."
For more information about the auction, visit plumas-sierrajla.com or contact Jane Roberti, advertising coordinator, at (530) 249-4036 or (530) 993-4097.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in the present moment and accepting it without judgement. Benefits include reduced stress, better concentration, less depression and anxiety and a stronger immune system.
Even before the pandemic, the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Healthy Living leadership team – Anne Iaccopucci, UCCE Healthy Living academic coordinator; Dorina Espinoza, youth, families and communities (YFC) advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties; and Marcel Horowitz, UCCE healthy youth, families and communities advisor in Yolo County – recognized that youth appeared to be struggling with anxiety and emotional challenges. An examination of published research showed that youth programs were successfully using mindfulness practices to help young people who had developmental challenges or behavioral disturbances.
With mindfulness gaining greater mainstream interest, Iaccopucci joined with YFC advisor Katherine Soule, and University of New Hampshire, Durham, youth and family resiliency state specialist Kendra Lewis to investigate the use of mindfulness for growth and development in people without serious conditions, but struggling with challenges of modern life.
“The 4-H Healthy Living team wanted to make sure we were addressing the social-emotional development of young people, so we investigated how we can integrate mindfulness into our programs,” Iaccopucci said.
The team designed an annual weekend UC 4-H Mindfulness Retreat for youth and adults to build skills in mindfulness, stress management, relationship building and community connection. Three-day retreats were held over four consecutive years in Cambria, a peaceful beach community on California's Central Coast.
Lessons in yoga, art and nature exploration were combined with quiet reflection, socialization and emotional-regulation training led by experts with extensive knowledge in those mindfulness methods. “Hangout time” was electronics-free; participants were encouraged to spend time getting to know one another or practicing self-reflection.
A survey completed by participants at the end of the retreats helped leaders improve the activity year-to-year and gauge the program's success. Both youths and adults said they were satisfied with their experiences at the retreat, wanted to participate again and would recommend the experience to others, the retreat team reported in the August 2020 issue of the Journal of Extension.
As part of the completion survey, the youths and adults were asked to provide examples of how their new skills and knowledge in mindfulness can be applied in their daily lives, how it can be applied in 4-H, what they liked best and what they would change.
One youth mentioned, “Giving skills back to my 4-H club, or when I am stressed, going back to what I learned.” An adult said, “More present for my family. I will be more mindful in my daily life! Take at least 6 deep breaths in my daily life or day to day.”
One youth said, “I can pass my new knowledge down to the youth in my county or across the state.”
Another youth wrote that the best part was, “Learning how to stay calm and having fun.”
To read the full report on the retreats, see Engaging Teens and Adults in Mindfulness: The University of California 4-H Mindfulness Retreat.
Hosting a mindfulness retreat is a vast undertaking that may not be practical for individual 4-H clubs or other youth groups. To extend the benefits of mindfulness to more youth across California and the nation, the Healthy Living Team developed curricula that can be used by 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations – such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys' and Girls' Clubs, etc.
For example, one lesson focuses on naming and describing feelings. The lesson explains that feelings – such as happy and sad – visit for a time like houseguests, and centers on a book called “Visiting Feelings” by Lauren Rubenstein. The author suggests that feelings should be viewed with “wide open eyes.”
“Is it bright like the sun, dark like the rain, or is it a look you can't even explain?” says the text. “If you listen to what your body can say, you'll find that your feelings are really OK.”
Each lesson includes a connected activity. For naming and describing feelings, the children can choose a feeling to explore, write it down and draw what the feeling looks like – a prickly plant, a bouncy ball, a present?
The curriculum is available on the Shop4-H.org website for $39.95. Videos were created to accompany the curriculum and are available on the eXtension website with the purchase of the curriculum. (Visit https://campus.extension.org/enrol/index.php?id=1839, create and account and use the enrollment code California to view the videos.)
The curriculum is available on the Shop4-H.org website for $39.95.
A three-page 4-H Mindfulness Project guide is available for free download. The guide is designed for 4-H Clubs, but it is useful for any teacher or leader to share the benefits of mindfulness. Some suggested activities include creating a portfolio of favorite places that help the participants feel relaxed, start a gratitude journal to document the things they are grateful for, explore food using all five senses or host a self-reflective nature walk in the local community.
The publication also suggests how youth can develop leadership skills related to the mindfulness project by becoming a Healthy Living Officer, a junior or teen leader for a mindfulness project and plan and prepare a mindfulness exercise for a community club meeting.
To learn more about the 4-H Youth Development program in local communities across California, see http://4h.ucanr.edu/
As many students continue online learning due to COVID-19, 4-H hands-on learning activities are keeping them excited and engaged in education. The University of California's 4-H Youth Development Program has created several learning activities that allow children to interact within COVID-19 guidelines.
“Despite constraints imposed by the pandemic, 4-H has adapted to continue engaging young people in hands-on STEM learning,” said Steven Worker, Ph.D., UC Cooperative Extension 4-H advisor for Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.
Students build motorboats for Engineers Week
During Engineers Week, Feb. 21-27, 4-H is challenging kids age 5 to 18 to design, build and test a motorboat.
The activity is intended to spark students' interest in engineering and technology and to exercise their creativity. The boat kit is basic, allowing children to use their imagination, repurposing things around the house to customize their boats.
Starting with a rectangular foam block (2"x2"x8"), youths carve out the body of their toy boats, then install the motor, power switch, propeller and battery holder.
Fifth-grader Sarp Akalin assembled his battery-powered motorboat, which featured a colorful column of white, blue, yellow orange and purple beads, then tested its water worthiness in an outdoor, large stone fountain in Mountain View.
Sarp, who assembled a 4-H Mars rover for a STEM project last year, said the boat was more challenging because the rover kit included all the pieces required to operate the vehicle. To build a functional boat, he had to figure out how to mount the batteries and motor and balance the center of gravity, connect them with electrical wires, then make sure the propeller had the right amount of space spinning freely the right direction to thrust the boat forward.
He learned a few adjustments were needed to float the boat. For example, whenSarp first placed the boat in the water, he let out a yelp as the weight of the battery pack sank the back end. With some guidance from his fatherEmre,Sarp balanced the weight by strapping two batteries to the front end and placed it back in the water. After the boat listed to one side, he converted the boat to a trimaran – a type of sailboat which is mostly used for racing – which stabilized the vessel.
“The best part was seeing it go,” Sarp said of watching his boat propel itself around the large rocks in the turbulent water in the fountain.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, nearly 150 4-H youths from 22 California counties will gather online to show their completed boats, maybe demonstrate them in a bathtub or pool, and describe their design experience.
Participating counties include Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, Napa, Riverside, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura and Yolo.
“While meeting virtually is not the same as meeting in person, thankfully we have technology to connect us by sight and sound over long distances,” Worker said. “On Saturday, I am eager to see the creativity, ingenuity and persistence young people display in their completed motorboats.”
More information about the boat challenge is at https://ucanr.edu/boat.
Drive-through animal science presentations
In Petaluma, 4-H members learned about animal science at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds on Feb. 20. More than 130 participants drove to presentation stations within the fairgrounds. From the safety of their cars, the youths learned about livestock production. Poultry, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and goat experts from UC Cooperative Extension and local organizations gave presentations.
Randi Black, UCCE dairy advisor, and Amy Housman of Santa Rosa Junior College provided tips for biosecurity to keep animals healthy. Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist, and 4-H members Carson Hay, Frances Marshall, Jessica Waterman and Zoey Haines shared information about raising chickens, egg production and broiler production. Sonoma-Marin Cattlewomen and North Bay Dairy Women discussed raising beef and dairy cattle, cattle byproducts, the use of cattle grazing to help reduce wildfire fuel. Sheep and goat production were covered by Erin Monahan of Two Willow Club Lambs, Riggs Lokka and Emily Dulany of Top of the Hill Boer Goats, and Janet and Rebecca Kracker, Sonoma County 4-H leaders.
Members of the Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers and Ranchers and Napa County Young Farmers and Ranchers discussed animals' nutrition needs. “They showed the kids different feedstuffs, broke down the different ingredients that animal feeds contain, and explained what the different feedstuffs do for the animals,” said Suzanne Amaral, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H program coordinator for Napa County.
Julie Atwood of the Halter Project gave suggestions for planning for evacuating livestock in the event of a wildfire.
Join Discovery Day on March 13
Children, teens and families are invited to join 4-H and other Bay Area organizations for North Bay Science Discovery Day on Saturday, March 13. Events are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time.
Discovery Day is a designed to spark curiosity and excitement about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A Kaiser Permanente physician will describe how the COVID-19 vaccination works. Kids can learn how rockets launch and make their own at home. They can learn about wildlife conservation from the Petaluma Wildlife Museum. They can design, build and test a 4-H scribbling machine that will make drawings on paper. These and many other activities are planned. For more information and to register, visit https://www.northbayscience.org/2021.
The virtual public science festival is free and open to youth of all ages across California.