Friday, September 13, 2013

All Good Things Must Come to an End

It is a common theme for folks to be sad to see the summer holiday drift into a new school year.  I am no exception.  This year I am even more sad to see it go, because it also means the end of my internship.  I wrapped up my time as Giles County VCE intern with a few fun events here and there including Agriculture Field Day at Kentland, a Giles/Bland Summer Beef Field Day, and Childfest at Pearisburg.  These events were fun ways to be involved with the Giles County community before school completely took over my life.

Face painting Iron Man at Childfest

Applying for this internship was almost by chance.  To me, internships were always something that undergraduates were supposed to do, not someone who recently graduated.  I decided to go for it.  You might not hear this often, but I was lucky that I was turned down at two different county offices before I received an offer from Giles.  Cora and Jeannie took a chance on me, and I'm sure glad they did!  Although I have a diploma in hand, I still am not 100% set on what exact career the future has in store for me, but this internship has given me a few steps in the right direction.  Working in Giles has given me a renewed respect and appreciation of VCE and its services.  Working with Cora and Jeannie helped me to build myself as an individual while having a great time, and to them I am forever grateful.

With graduate school in full swing, I miss working in Giles more than ever.  But like Jeannie has told me several times "An education is never wasted."  That, along with many words of advice and strategies I learned from my unit agents, will help me to trek through this whirlwind of a program.   It will help me as I student teach, but more importantly it will help me if I become an extension agent.  Before this internship I was not very sure if I would like to be one, but now I would love to be!  I'll try to keep working hard and hopefully my education and opportunities will lead me down a path filled with agriculture and community development.  Growing in Giles as the VCE intern has been one of the best choices of my life and I encourage any college student to become an intern, especially in Giles.

Beautiful view from Triple R Farms during the Beef Field Day

Thank you for following my adventures in Giles!  I hope you enjoyed learning about Giles County and Virginia Cooperative Extension.  I encourage you to become involved in your local agency and support your county agents.

Outdoor Adventure is Putting it Lightly...

Before and after my summer school session, I got to help with the 4-H Outdoor Adventure Day Camps.  We had great campers both weeks, many who I had gotten to know through Agriculture Camp.  Not only was the camp an adventure and learning experience for the kids, it was for me as well!

As we all know, the weather has been a bit crazy this summer, particularly with rain.  Making adjustments to activities happened nearly on a daily basis for both weeks of camp.  For anyone who works with program planning, this is a key skill to gain.  It involves creativity and awareness of your community.  Therefore, Cora was able to keep Outdoor Adventure...outdoors.  This experience showed me first-hand how "the show must go on" and I am very appreciative to Cora for giving me that insight.

Throughout both weeks we hiked, kayaked, fished, and swam throughout the county.  While conducting these activities, the students got to visit treasured sites or discovered new ones.  I know I personally would not have learned about all the wonderful, natural and free excursions that Giles has.  Any Virginia Tech student knows about the Cascades, but not so many can say they have hiked War Spur and taken kids fishing at Glen Alton.  The campers also learned about wildlife, fishing techniques, and watersheds.

Hanging out off the War Spur Trail during Camp #1

Kayaking with Outdoor Adventure Camp has been a bumpy road for me.  Before camp I had kayaked once before with my dear friend Marge in a bay in Malaysia.  That was a fun, stress-free experience so I really did not think twice about kayaking with the campers down Walker's Creek.  Because the water was too wild from all the rain, the first camp did not kayak the New River.  We discovered the bad things about creeks are all the rocks and the small width of the body of water.  This resulted in camper after camper getting stuck on rocks.  Right and left I kept having to get them unstuck, and eventually got stuck myself...until one of the kayaks collided with mine sending it downstream with me, the kids, and the other kayak stuck.  With help from Cora, we made it to the bank and the other campers helped us get our kayaks back.  But at that point, we needed to pack up and go home, even though we never made it to our final destination.

While loading the kayaks, one of the campers was being very helpful and assisting me.  With my track record for that day, it makes complete sense that the kayak would bounce up and hit the camper in the eye.  She was fine, but I sure felt terrible.  When another camper told me: "It's your fault that everyone got stuck and we had to go home." I officially decided that I did not like kayaking, and questioned my ability to work with kids.  Luckily, Cora assured me that sometimes things go wrong, but it's how you react to them is what matters.  From her perspective, I dealt with the situation fine and that everything was going to be ok.

The beginning to a successful kayaking trip with Camp #2 
Then came Outdoor Adventure Camp #2.  Like the first, we did hiking and fishing...and kayaking.  This time we were going to be on the river.  I was so nervous, especially since the waters were still high-ish.  Turns out, it made the trip easier and better because what "rapids" we would have hit normally, were barely there.  I am glad that I overcame my nervousness to kayak again.  I had a great time and the kids were awesome!  Like any career, I will have some days that seem like the worst day ever at the time, like my initial camp kayak experience.  What I gained from this opportunity is to learn from those situations, how to better handle it next time and to not give up.  If I had given up, I would still be terrified to kayak again.  The best part of the second go round was not me getting over my fear though, it was the campers who had a great time trying something new, or getting over their own fears.  I know that I am the adult, but I learned so much from the campers.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Got Camp? Agriculture Day Camp!

Following the first week of camp (Cloverbud) Jeannie and I ran the Agriculture Camp.  We began the week learning about horticulture, greenhouses, and direct-marketing at the Green Market, run by Pembroke resident Mr. Ron Holdren.  Ron is a Virginia 4-H All Star, the highest honor a 4-H member can receive.  We had a great time looking around his greenhouses and learning about his business.  Not only does he sell from Pembroke, but he is also a vendor at the Blacksburg Farmers Market.  Ron really made our day when he gave the campers many different types of plants for the campers to pot at the end of the day and take home!
Ron shows campers around his greenhouses

The rest of Agriculture Camp was spent over in Blacksburg visiting several of the agriculture facilities.  Wednesday was spent at the Kentland College Farm.  There Jeannie began lessons on soil, by taking us to a soil pit to learn about soil horizons.  Mr. Dwight Paulette, the farm coordinator, showed us around and gave us a historical tour of Kentland.  At the College Farm there are many different types of research, from silvopasture to crop production.  As a part of our visit, we got to take a look how remote controlled airplanes contribute to agricultural research at Kentland.  Oni, a graduate student, explained to us how the airplanes capture samples from the air that contain fungi, molds, viruses, and bacteria that can contaminate crops.  We even got to practice flying planes in their computer model and watch an actual plane fly!  We finished off our first day at Kentland with yummy "dirt cups."
Campers got to practice their piloting skills with Oni at Kentland

Thursday was my and Jeannie's favorite day, livestock and dairy!  We did a self tour of the livestock and dairy facilities at Virginia Tech.  During the livestock tours, Jeannie taught the campers about different breeds of cattle and horse and how they are shown.  Campers got to a hands-on experience with the equipment used for the animals, including walking through a cattle chute!  From the livestock facilities, we traveled across 460 to the dairy.  Manager Shane Brannock showed us the milking parlor, the milk tank room, and the free-stall barn where the milking cows eat and sleep.  Shane also talked about the silage that the cows eat.  The corn for the silage is grown at Kentland Farms.  Barry, one of the assistant managers, showed us the calf barn and the automatic feeders.  Automatic calf feeders are a newer technology to the dairy industry.  The feeder identifies each calf and mixes up the specific amount of milk-replacer for that individual.  This is great time and calf management tool.

We wrapped up the week by visiting the Farms and Fields project at Kentland.  This time, the raspberries were ready for picking in the demonstration plot, and each of us got our fair share of berries!  We also got to help the farm crew bundle and hang garlic that had recently been picked!
Hailey and Jeannie bundle garlic at Farms and Fields
Agriculture camp was a great opportunity for youth to learn about where their food comes from.  From plants to animals, they were able to see and feel the industry that feeds and clothes us.  By having the students work, by planting or picking, they were able to reap the sweet results of their hard work.  I know they had just as much fun as me and Jeannie; but my true hope is that they came to respect the field of agriculture and continue to be informed consumers and maybe agriculturalists themselves one day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fair Time!

During the home-stretch of my first semester of graduate school, I got to have weekend of Newport Fair activities.  This was my second time visiting the fair, so I was really excited to visit again!  The Newport Fair is Virginia's oldest agricultural fair, so how appropriate it was that I helped with the livestock show.

I arrived at the barns to see lambs and a few goats and chickens.  The kids were decked out in their colorful plaid shirts and blingin' belts, something that us dairy show kids, who were required to wear all white, never had the pleasure of wearing.  My biggest contribution to the show was getting the prize money ready and being a copying machine for the classes with my old Giles FFA friends Alisha and Katheryn.  It was great to catch up with them while watching the wee-ones show the critters.

We did run into a snag when it came to judging the chickens.  Although I have some poultry judging in my past, judging rooster-hen pairs was not a part of any contest I did.  It just so happens that the only class I had more than one contestant in was the pairs.  The two pairs were different breeds as well.  The judge for the show was more specialized in livestock, not poultry, so the job of placing them landed on me and Jeannie.  After some creative brainstorming, Jeannie decided to place them into "small breed pairs" and "large breed pairs" so that way, all were winners and no one got to blame the intern...more than necessary.

Toward the end of the show I got to announce the participants in the "costume contest" portion of the show.  It was extra cute because of Jeannie's son, Layton participating along with the goats!  Following the overload of cuteness, we had a nice potluck behind the barn for the participants and their families.  It was a tasty way to wrap up the show and avoid overpriced fair-food.  Even though I missed the horse-pull due to clean-up, I enjoyed the rest of my evening by hanging out with a few friends.
Layton and his lamb, Wesley
(photo by Jeannie)
Bright an early on Sunday, we came back to clean up the grounds.  Never in my life have I more appreciated janitors and grounds-keepers.  People are disgusting.  But we got the grounds cleaned and raised some money for 4-H in the process!

It's been years since I've attended any fair, so being a part of Newport brought me back to my youth.  I loved seeing the 4-H er's hard work paying off.  At the same time, they made friends and saw old ones.  I had expressed my excitement for the Newport Fair for a while, and many Giles County friends wondered why.  "It's really small," they would say.  The Newport Fair celebrates heritage,community, and agriculture things that I love to see anywhere, especially rural southwest Virginia.  This event gave me a fun and relaxing way to appreciate the simplier yet important things in life.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Or not...

When I first began my internship with Giles Cooperative Extension, Cora gave me a project: Pumpkin Planting Day.  In the past, Pumpkin Planting was an opportunity for children in the community to come to the office, learn about pumpkins, go outside and plant some, then go home with seeds of their very own and complete a 4-H Pumpkin Project Book.  I was nervous to take over a project that had been several years in the running, but also excited to hold a community event.  We picked a date in the middle of June, good for planting pumpkins.

So I began by reviewing projects books from the past and doing more research on pumpkins.  I then edited and started adding my own personal touches to the workbooks and flyers.  After a few weeks of getting the word out (even going out and delivering flyers around the county) and preparing the plots and material the day had finally arrived.  Six PM rolled around (the time scheduled) one was there.  A few minutes later, one very active 4-H member shows up.  He had attended pumpkin planting last year and was active on his family's farm.  No one else showed up, and participating in an event alone is no fun.  So we sent him home with some seeds and decided to re-schedule.

Due to the schedule, and getting the word out (again) we had to wait until late July.  Late July is the tail-end of the pumpkin planting season, but it was what we had to work with.  I re-edited the flyers, and e-mails, and re-weeded the plots with Cora.  I spent another day delivering the flyers, which also happened to coincide with the recent heavy rains we have been having the past several weeks.  Finally, the re-scheduled date arrived.  We had finished up a day of Day Camp and were ready for some pumpkin planting.  Six PM, and no one is there.  We waited fifteen minutes and still no one arrived.

I felt terrible for wasting resources for the Pumpkin Day.  I was sad that after two tries no one came to the event.  Cora gave me some advice: "Don't take it personally."  Sometimes even if a lot of work goes into an event, people don't come.  How could I have reached out better?  How could I make it more appealing?  These are all questions I asked myself after the no-show.  One thing I have learned from this experience is that even though kids have more free time in the summer, that doesn't mean that they will be more likely to attend events.  A lot of this depends on the parents and their availability, something that I had not considered as much before.

Although, I wish I was proudly blogging about the success of the Pumpkin Planting Day, I will consider it a success in another way.  Instead of being upset and mad, I will take this as an opportunity to learn and do better on future projects in whatever field I am in.
The before and after weeding of the pumpkin plots

At least weeding was a good stress reliever...

Youth and Community Involvement

While in the extension office I have had the opportunity to participate in several of the 4-H club activities and other events in the community.  It has been a long time since I was involved in 4-H clubs and community activities so it was great to see what other possibilities there are for 4-H youth.

With extension, I was able to be a part of Pearisburg Festival in the Park several weekends ago.  By attending planning meetings with Cora I was able to network with community members who were not necessarily in agriculture, which I have done by working with Jeannie.  It also gave me insight on how planning for community programs and events works.  There is so much that attendees of events take for granted that goes on behind the scenes.  During the event I help with traffic control during the inaugural 5K for the festival.  I hope that maybe next year I can be around to participate!  During the festival I helped set up and man the booth for the Ag Explorers Club.  I got to meet some of the members and parents, the adult volunteer Kelly, and some cute critters!
My new friend at Pearisburg Festival in the Park
I also tagged along for the Rich Creek June meeting.  Although the turn out was small, it was fun getting to know some of the older 4-H members after my first day with 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp.  Even more exciting for me was that the topic was June is Dairy Month and I was able to talk about my favorite agriculture industry!  Since then, I have done the educational program for the Ag Explorers meeting for July on beef cattle, and will be attending the July Rich Creek meeting tonight.

Another aspect of youth development that I got to participate in was a livestock judging trip to Augusta County.  The 4-H/FFA Livestock judging team got some great live practice at different farms.  I even got to brush up on my own judging skills...which are still in need of some work.
The three little pigs

My classes for graduate school started today, so my time working with extension will be limited.  I am really looking forward to helping with the Newport Agricultural Fair next month!  Newport is Virginia's oldest agricultural fair and will be a fun break from the busy class schedule.

I know my posts have been far and few between, but look out for some posts about 4-H Day Camps soon!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Just Another Learning Experience: 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp

Internships are all about learning and real-life experience while being out of your comfort zone.  While assisting with 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp, I had all of those aspects.  Not having much experience with very young youth I was nervous to work with Camp, even though I was mostly helping supervise instead of facilitating.

Robyn shows the campers chive to pick

For day camp we had ten youth, ages 5-8 for a week.  Each day had a different focus on topics that they have/will study in school and can also be a part of 4-H curriculum.  The first day was about geology where we went to Whitt-Riverbend Park in Pembroke.  There, we went on a trail walk and learned about the different types of rocks and their uses.  Day two was a real treat because we got to tube down the New River at the New River's Edge.  Following that the students learned about watersheds and how runoff and pollution affect water through hands-on models.  Wednesday was my turn to facilitate the activities.  We visited Virginia Tech's Farms and Fields project at Kentland.  Robyn and Alison, farmhands, showed the students around.  Robyn led the students through the demonstration plot where they were able to pick mint, chive, and raspberries, among other things.  Alison finished the tour of the actual plots and then let the students be farmers for a day and plant a row of corn.  In the afternoon we learned about Virginia agriculture through VA agriculture maps.  Even though it stormed something crazy, we didn't let that stop us from making delicious homemade ice cream!  Thursday's topic was on citizenship.  Ken Vittum, the Pearisburg town manager along with a town police officer taught the campers how a town council works and duties of an officer to protect the public.  They had a nice surprise for us and allowed the kids to explore a police car and the town digger!  We wrapped up citizenship day with a little history lesson and GPS exercise by hiking up to Pearis Cemetery.  The week ended with a lesson on financial management after visiting Dismal Falls.

Pearisburg officer and the students with the police car
I'll be honest, day one was a shocker.  A handful of young kids running around is not my normal environment.  After the initial shock, as the week passed my observations helped me to be a better chaperon and facilitator.  The kids grew on me and I gained a better understanding of how they learn and play.  There are still plenty of areas of youth program management that I could really work on.  Effective discipline was and still is the biggest hurdle for me when it comes to young children.  From this week, it did concrete the concept of establishing rules and always enforcing them.  During my facilitation time when I upheld my rules about interrupting, the lesson went better.  I really hope that I can take my experience from Day Camp into the classroom or wherever I may end up.  This opportunity made me further value in experience for education, because the books can only tell you so much.

Keep following for more of my learning and self growth experiences in Giles VCE!