Esther Boe, LaFargue, Brooke, Benoit, Lisa A., Frey, Brandi Folse
Esther Boe, Brooke Lafargue, Brandi Frey and Lisa Benoit
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges for the LSU AgCenter 4-H program. To meet social distancing guidelines and ensure the safety of youth and agents, many of programming efforts transitioned to a virtual format. However, the need remained for hands-on learning opportunities. 4-H programming is driven by the motto “learn by doing,” and it was paramount that agents provide purposeful and engaging activities.
The 4-H Seed-of-the-Month Club is a project club that emerged to meet that need. Agents created a nine-month seed subscription made available to youth across the region beginning in August 2020. With this project, participating youth were provided seeds of various plants, including pine seedlings, rainbow carrots, easter egg radishes, lettuce, green beans, okra, squash and coneflowers. Agents used the LSU AgCenter Louisiana planting guide to select the seeds to offer each month.
4-H agents distributed seeds either through pre-packed mailers or youth collected the seeds from their local extension office
s. Youth were also provided information on how to plant, maintain and harvest the plants. The agents worked as a team for each featured plant to create a monthly publication for youth to refer to as they navigated through each stage of planting, maintaining and harvesting the respective crops.
More than 300 4-H’ers in fourth through 12th grades participated in this opportunity while buckling down at their homes during the pandemic. Youth learned many new skills and had more meaningful contact with their families. One participant noted that what he liked best about the project was “working with my pawpaw.” Youth learned where their food comes from and how it’s produced. Extension agents also benefited from this project club because they turned their attention to working on virtual platforms and learning new editing software to communicate and collaborate on the project each month.
A member survey revealed that from participating in the club, members learned how to grow a variety of vegetables and that different vegetables have similar needs to thrive. Members said they had fun, learned about responsibility and thought growing their own food was rewarding.
When asked what service they provided by growing the produce, respondents noted that they consumed the produce with their family and shared with others. One mentioned that they fed their livestock the produce that was not edible for the family.
Members reported that they were excited to receive something new each month. Highlights of the experience included learning the steps involved in prepping, growing, harvesting and cooking the food and working with their family on the project.
In the future, agents and youth alike have expressed an interest in continuing to provide horticulture opportunities through the delivery mode of the Seed-of-the-Month Club. Participants were asked to provide top choices for their gardens by receiving carrots, lettuce and green bean seeds for the future.
Acknowledgements: The project would not have been possible without donations from the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, Master Gardeners, local farmers and private donors.
Esther Boe is an extension agent and 4-H regional coordinator, Central Region; Brooke Lafargue is an associate extension agent, Allen Parish; Brandi Frey is an assistant extension agent, Pointe Coupee Parish; and Lisa Benoit is an associate extension agent, St. Landry Parish.
(This article appears in the summer 2021 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Anneliesa Dufour, 9, left, and sister Addyson Miller, 6, pull weeds out of a patch of corn plants while their dad, LSU AgCenter agent Justin Dufour, gives instructions to sister Stella Dufour, 5, in their home garden in Avoyelles Parish. The girls are 4-H members participating in a Seed-of-the-Month Club that provides youth a different type of seed to plant each month. Photo by Olivia McClure