Michael's 4-H Update

“I Speak For the Bees”. Drew Harding, Independent 4-H Member
April 29, 2013, 5:22 pm
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Drew Harding grew up in Barre Town, Vermont on a small 36 acre gentleman’s farm.  Strongly connected with the land, he is a true steward.

At the age of 15 this strong connection fed his desire to establish a small apiary for the purpose of pollination and honey production.  His property consists of apple trees, berry bushes and fields of wild flowers.  This desire has since turned into a passion and then a question:  “Can I turn this passion into a profitable return?”  In the winter of 2010 Drew attended Beekeeping Classes with Bill Mares of the Vermont Beekeepers Association.  At the completion of this course his goal was to build 2 hives and purchase 2 nucs from Mike Palmer, a beekeeper from St. Albans, Vermont.  A nuc is a 4 or 5 frame bee colony containing various stages of growth or development.  This nuc is then typically transferred into a 10 frame Langstroth hive.

Drew and John

John Mailloux mentors Drew Harding at his bee farm. During the 1950s John’s father had the largest bee farm in New England

Drew had the confidence to get his hives established, but felt the need to connect with a mentor which would allow him to continue his education.  He feared finding caskets of dead bees instead of thriving colonies, expanding and producing honey.  Drew connected with John Mailloux, a veteran beekeeper from Williamstown, Vermont.  How much did he invest?  Drew’s initial investment was two unassembled Langstroth hives.  The components of each hive consisted of two brood boxes, 20 deep frames with bees wax foundation, hive stand, slatted rack, verroa screen, inner cover, and an outer telescoping cover.  Each of these hives cost approximately $190.00.  The two nucs were $250.00.  Drew constructed these hives in the basement at his home.

Drew’s mom Alice knew that if Drew was going to establish a small apiary, he would need hands on experience.  As a 4-h volunteer with Carol Fleck of a horse club, Alice was enjoying the experience and fun her two daughters were having in their horse club experience.  She was now going to bat for Drew.  My phone rang.  It was Alice.  She explained Drew’s interest in bees and was wondering if I had any contacts for bee producers who would be interested in working with youth.

In a few weeks I would ask Steve Parise of the Vermont Bee Keeper’s Association if I could have a minute to introduce myself at their Annual Bee Keepers meeting that took place at the Vermont Farm Show at the Barre Auditorium.  The meeting attracted more than 150 bee keepers state wide.  Just before their pot luck lunch, I had introduced myself as the 4-H Educator of Washington and Orange Counties.  I invited any bee keeper to meet me in the lobby at the break to discuss how they could work with youth.  Seven beekeepers met me in the lobby.  One of them John Mailloux.  John lived within 20 minutes of Drew and he had lots of experience with honey production.

During the 1950’s, John’s father had one of the largest apiaries in New England consisting of nearly 1000 hives.  Since then his apiary has declined.  John’s love for bee keeping inspired him to attend workshops to get up to date on the latest methods for honey production and to start his own apiary – more as a hobby.  He was happy to share his hands on experience with Drew.  At the Berlin UVM Extension Office, I set up a meeting with Drew, Alice and John.

We talked about goals:  Drew would enroll as an independent 4-H member with John as his mentor.  Drew  goals: he would work with John at his apiary; Build and maintain two hives; Harvest 100 pounds of honey; Study and review certain parts of the 4-H Bee Curriculum; Explore the ecology of bees and how they account for 80% of our food production; Explore diseases and the current research that link genetically modified organisms to the break down the bees membrane and cause death; Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD); Present at our 4-H Regional and State Day communications event.  Drew avoided public speaking opportunities.  His shy nature was best fitted with a table top presentation.   During the summer of 2010, John showed Drew the basics of bee keeping.  Drew caught on quickly.

 Drew at 4-H Super Saturday Regional

Drew’s table top presentation at 4-H Super Saturday Regional 2010.

John recalled how important it was for Drew to get comfortable with the bees.  “I showed Drew how to not wear gloves.  You have to be able to let the bees walk on you.  You have to be that comfortable.”John taught Drew skills that would inspire him to produce more honey during the next two years; proper feeding techniques and how to make sure you have enough space in the hives for the bees to increase in volume without swarming.  If the bees feel their space is limited they will leave the hives and swarm.  By October 2010, Drew reached his goal of harvesting 100 pounds of honey.   His net profit was an approximate $250.00.

In the winter of 2011, Drew became more independent.  With the knowledge he now had he was able to manage his hives and feed the right consistency of sugar and water when needed to get his bees through a cold winter.  During the winter, Drew found an on-line beekeeping chat group through Yahoo.  Members focused on either asking questions or provided advice.  Drew became a frequent visitor, contributing advice or information.  On one particular evening Drew was assisting an individual into the early morning hours.  Drew continued to expand his knowledge of beekeeping by attending workshops sponsored by the Central Vermont Beekeepers’ Club and webinars offered through Brushy Mountain Beekeeping.  These educational opportunities allowed him to become knowledgeable in creating nucs, divisions, assessing colonies for a variety of reasons including disease control and prevention of swarms.  He and John stayed in touch and exchanged experiences, but for the most part Drew was now solo.

By the end of the summer of 2011 Drew had extracted 160 pounds of raw honey.  He sold everything he produced.  In the winter of 2012, Drew was a senior in High School.  He added 2 more hives which brought his total number of hives up to 6.  At a workshop offered by Mike Palmer of St. Albans Drew learned the in’s and out’s of creating his own nucs.  He purchased two queens and by dividing two of his strong hives, created two nucleus colonies.  His new hives survived the winter.  By not having to purchase two nucs, he saved $220.00.

2012 was a banner year for nectar flow.  Drew worked his hives on a regular basis, monitoring their build up and providing them plenty of room to expand.  “I had strong colonies, and I was always making sure I stayed ahead of their expansion by giving them room to grow.”  During the summer of 2012, Drew took on mentoring Dave Martineau, an individual from Washington, Vermont interested in beekeeping as a hobby.  In addition to this mentorship he offered advice and assistance to others.  The knowledge he had gained from John, he was now sharing with others.

Honey Harvest

Drew and his honey harvest

By the fall of 2012,  Drew harvested 623 pounds of raw honey from his small apiary, consisting of 6 hives.  He knew selling this amount of honey locally would be challenging.  John Mailloux referred Drew to City Market in Burlington, Vermont.  After meeting with Michael Thomas and Lynn Ellen at City Market,  they negotiated a price for his honey.  Drew would be selling his raw honey to City Market, providing 3 different size quantity jars.  As of March 2013,  Drew has sold approximately 250 pounds of honey wholesale to City Market and approximately 200 pounds retail.

In the fall of 2012 Drew entered his first year of college at the University of Maine, majoring in Wildlife Ecology with a minor in animal science.  His parents, Alice and Charlie Harding have taken over the management of his hives in his absence.  In January of 2013 Drew experience his first hive loss.  He lost 2 of his 6 hives.  His goal for the spring is to create 2 splits from his existing hives, replacing the lost hives with his own stock.  Upon returning from college in May, Drew has plans to attend a queen rearing workshop in which he hopes to learn the process of raising his own queens this spring.  In addition to these 2 splits he will plan to purchase 2 nucs from Josh White, of Northwood Apiaries in Northern Vermont.

Honey Extraction

Drew harvested 623 pounds of honey in 2012

In just a few years, Drew’s dream of establishing his own apiary has become a reality through a partnership of a parent, mentor and 4-H Educator.  He learned the ropes from John Mailloux who mentored him on the basics.  Independently, he continued to expand his knowledge by attending webinars and workshops which gave him the knowledge to successfully expand and maintain his own colonies of honey bees.  This experience has allowed him to become a much better communicator by giving presentations, contributing to on-line forums and sharing his knowledge with novice beekeepers.  His profound respect for the environment was the driving force behind his quest.  It has also led him to greater understanding of the challenges and threats that face the honey bee population and how critical these natural pollinators are to the sustainability of our food sources and the land on which that food is produced.


Washington County 4-Her of the Year: Emily’s Passion Turns Into A Personal Goal
January 15, 2013, 4:22 pm
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Emily Campbell with 4-H Horse Leader, Carol Fleck

Congratulations to Emily Campbell who was chosen the 2012 Washington County 4-Her of the year by the Washington County 4-H Foundation.   As a member of the Partridge Hill Horse Lovers 4-H Club, Emily excelled in the Horse project and participated on the State 4-H Judging team that competes each year in Kentucky.   She also served on the Teen Congress  board and provided leadership as a club officer.   Emily credits the many life skills she has learned in 4H as one of the reasons she was selected to represent the United States as a delegate to the International Earth Science Olympiad (IESO) in Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina in October, 2012.

At the 2012 4-H Achievement event last November, Emily showed how 4-H played a major role in being selected as a member of the United States team for the IESO.  In addition to demonstrating a deep knowledge of the earth sciences through competitive testing, each potential delegate had to receive positive recommendations through their participation in the Governor’s Institute of Vermont, and compose a personal essay that answered the question: “ What qualities should the person we choose have and why do you think you have them?”  Emily clicked through a series of slides that highlighted  several life skills that she developed in 4-H:   leadership, planning; organizing; teamwork.


Emily shares the importance of her 4-H experience

In a separate presentation, she shared that it has been her dream to go to the 4H Eastern Round-Up in Kentucky since first learning of the opportunity when she first joined 4-H at the age of eight.  Her passion to be on a State 4-H Horse team and attend a National contest in Kentucky transformed into a personal goal that she attained.   4-H Volunteer, Carol Fleck, presented the award to Emily, “It’s fun watching Emily gather self-esteem, confidence and courage. It’s not so much fun to watch her grow old enough to drive herself to the barn.”

To learn more about the University of Vermont Extension/4-H Horse Program,  contact 4-H Educator, Michael Wilson at 802-223-2389 x205, email: m.wilson@uvm.edu.


Emily’s Trip to Kentucky

Why a 4-H Beef Club?
January 7, 2013, 3:26 pm
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Why a 4-H Beef Club?

I love questions like this.

Vermont’s agriculture businesses are unique. The people who run them are smart and hard working. We are not mega-producers and we are proud of that. Imagine driving down Rte. 110 and staring at a 20,000 head dairy farm. That scale doesn’t work here. Our mid-scale farms produce the pasture land the pleases our eyes. Take away the natural pasture land and invite a major home developer to build 2000 track homes? Not here. So what does this have to do with a 4-H beef club?

The beef business is part of the Vermont small business economy which provides jobs. Vermont produces high quality beef with local businesses like Hollister Hill Farm, Vermont Smoke and Cure, Sharon Beef to name a few. One who has an old barn can now fix the barn and start producing beef. Why? There is a market for good beef.

Youth in a 4-H Beef Club are learning how to raise beef. This knowledge can lead them to develop their own small scale beef farm. But that’s not all. The parents also may be interested in raising beef. “Hey, Johnny, let’s do this together. Let’s learn how to raise beef. Good Beef,” says dad. Johnny’s dad now becomes a volunteer. There is also an ‘expert” on the team who has a beef farm. The barn transforms into a classroom for hands-on learning to take place. The leader also turns the barn into a classroom and staples a 2ft x 3ft paper on the barn wall and explains in detail keys point about breeding, feeding etc.

Now exchange any 4-H animal club in place of the word beef? For example: 4-H Poultry, Swine, Dairy, and Horse. Matt Whalen and his father Michael, who lead the Blue Ribbon 4-H Club in Chelsea, have a great side business of producing high quality pork they sell to markets in Massachusetts. They also raise poultry and now they are sharing their expertise with the next generation of 4-H Youth. Nice going.

We haven’t had a beef club start up in quite a while. We now have 4-H leader of the Four Corners Clovers Club, Bonnie Heath, whose mother led a beef club years ago and now it’s Bonnie’s turn. Do you want to learn about beef?

Contact me and I’ll get you in touch with Bonnie.

Does 4-H Quiz Bowl Prepare Youth for Jeopardy?
January 5, 2013, 4:09 pm
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Not really…..except for one important skill. To be able to think fast on your feet, push a buzzer and answer the question asked by the moderator.

Our 2013, 4-H Central Region Horse Quiz Bowl inspires youth to study the “Green Books” (Horse Science and Horse and Horsmanship.) The quiz questions are based on these books. At the practice quiz they get a sense of what it’s like to answer questions within a group. When they arrive for our Central Region 4-H Horse quiz, they are prepared and know what to expect.

Our 4-H definition of competition is to do one’s personal best. Forget about the bizarre and destructive mentality that our pro sport leagues promote i.e. decimate your opponent, kill em’, destroy! This mentality cultivates a culture of violence. Our leaders teach youth how to do one’s best, build positive relationships and and to learn from their experience by asking our 4-H Power Question: “What would you have done differently?” The quiz experience is also about connecting with friends and moving onward and upward.

Youth can attend the State Horse Quiz and if they do well enough, they will qualify for the State Horse Quiz Team that competes at the National Quiz event that is held each year in Kentucky.

We’ve had many of our local youth attend the nationals: Kate Harrington, Willa Neal, Bethany Towne and just recently, Emily Campbell who qualified for two state teams: Horse Judging and Hippology. She chose judging and did really well.

Our 4-H Horse Clubs have a history of excellence that the leaders continue to cultivate in their members. Carol Fleck, Alice Harding, Rita Towne, Bethany Towne, Callie Streeter, Kate Williams, Sally Coffin, Amy Cook, Suzann Audette, Kim Thornton, Jenny Hewitt are some of our present leaders who are carrying on a tradition of excellence.

So if there is dust on your Green Books, now is the time to dust them off and start reviewing, practicing and preparing for our February 8th, Central Region Quiz Bowl at Berlin Elementary School.

Do you know youth who could benefit by our 4-H Horse experience? Give me a call. You don’t have to own a horse to participate and it’s free.

Meanwhile, I’ll see you at the Central Region 4-H Horse Quiz and Feb 8th.

I Am Your Wake Up Call
January 4, 2013, 11:52 am
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"I am your wake up call"

“I am your wake up call”

The last thing I want is a wake up call to begin a 4-H public speaking project that is due on April 13th at Barre Town School. It’s cold and dark outside. My bed is warm and the down comforter hugs me tight. Do you really think I am going to abandon my down comforter for you?

Okay, call me the bad guy. I am your wake up call, your Darth Vader on a cold, dark winter morning. I’m calling on parents, volunteers and all 4-H youth to start planning and practicing your demonstration, public speech, action exhibit, table top exhibit, poster, stage presentation, fashion project today. If you haven’t figured out what you are doing, now is the time to do that.

If you have chosen your project, now is the time to build it, write it, sew it or play it. I want you to make this the best project you have ever done. Work at it, deliver it and you will be developing a habit of mastery and receive a personal congratulations from “Darth.”

4-H Horse Farm Fire Towne-Ayr Farm Update
January 2, 2013, 6:35 pm
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Last week a  fire devastated the home of the Towne Family at the Towne-Ayr Horse farm in Berlin.   Rita, her daughter Bethany and Callie Streeter are 4-H volunteers who lead the 4-H Horse of Course Club at the farm.  The club members and a few parents are planning to keep the club going while the Towne’s deal with this catastrophic event.    The Towne Family lost their entire home.  They are in need of supplies that I’ve listed below.   If you are able to assist, here is how:

1) They are in need of barn/stall help.  2 hours a day are needed.  This would be a much needed community service project for our 4-H Clubs.   Contact Bethany Towne:  cell: 522-5599

2) Drop off bottled water at the Aubachon Hardware Store in Montpelier.   The RV is small and can not store much food.

3) They are still in need of clothes: women’s large/14 for Rita, juniors size 10 for Bethany, men’s xxl for Brad, who is also tall, and men’s large/34×34 for Nathan.

4) Make a Contribution to assist with food and supplies:

  •         Go to the Vermont State Credit Union:  They have several branches throughout the State.  There is one in Montpelier and Berlin.
  •         Make a check out to Rita Towne or contribute cash.   You can say: I would like to make a deposit into Rita Towne’s Savings Account.  Rita and family are located  onThree Mile Bridge Rd, in Berlin VT.  Branch Locations listed below:

Central Vermont

Branch Location Lobby Hours
Berlin Branch 365 Paine Turnpike North
Berlin, VT 05602
M, T, W, TH 9:00 am – 5:00 pmF 9:00 am – 6:00 pmS 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Montpelier Branch One Bailey Avenue
Montpelier, VT 05602
M, T, TH 8:00 am – 5:00 pmW 9:00 am – 5:00 pmF 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
Waterbury Branch 27 S. Main St.
Waterbury, VT 05676
M, T, TH, F 8:00 am – 5:00 pmW 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Use our branch locator for map and driving directions.

Burlington Branch 86 Pearl Street
Burlington, VT 05401
M, T, W, TH 9:00 am – 5:00 pmF 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Williston Branch 1755 Essex Road
Williston, VT 05495
M, T, W, TH 9:00 am – 5:00 pmF 9:00 am – 6:00 pmS 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Use our branch locator for map and driving directions.

Southern Vermont

Branch Location Lobby Hours
Rutland Branch 72 Seward Road
Rutland, VT 05701
M, T, W, TH 9:00 am – 5:00 pmF 9:00 am – 6:00 pmS 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

4-h Youth Experience The Power of Story
January 24, 2012, 4:34 pm
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Public speaking continues to top the list as the number one fear that people experience in the United States.    We know that practice and readiness lessens that fear but studies show that most people really don’t put the kind of time required to give a top-notch speech. 

 So how do we prepare youth to get up and speak?   It’s easy.  Just ask.   That’s what I did.  I asked youth to share their experience in 4-H at our annual 4-H achievement events in Orange and Washington Counties.  But that’s not all.   Youth presenters  had the opportunity to practice their presentation with me in a classroom before they went up to speak.  Feedback is good.  Practice is good.  

 But that’s not all.    We need the event.  This is where a big change took place this year.  Instead of honoring youth at our traditional achievement night, I decided to try an “upside down cake” and turn our achievement night into a  Youth Leader Presentations night.  Easy, right?  Why not?   Think about this for a moment:  Kids who never thought of speaking or of being asked to speak were now going to headline this event by preparing and delivering an experience they had in 4-H.  It could be practically on anything.   The audience would serve as a positive support system that included family and friends.

Quick 4-h Quiz:  How do you achieve excellence in 4-H?  A: In 4-H we only recognize excellence if   a youth shares something about their project outside the club level–which means in a public setting. 

 Q: Why does 4-H honor excellence by sharing what you know in public?  

A:  I can answer this by a quote from Douglas Miller, former CIO of Google.  “Knowledge isn’t power, the sharing of knowledge is power.”   In the new work force, youth who are able to breakdown information, synthesize it, package and deliver it—now that is a skill that will always be in demand.   Information is so easy to get these days, I’m just waiting for the day that our  big cat, Max,  googles “cats” to find other  like- minded cats who like to eat all day and sit by the fire.  

Here is the question for all of us as we tune in— or tune out of –the Information Revolution: what do we do with all this information?  What will probably not change is this– it will always take people to make sense of it all, to break it down, share and communicate the deeper meanings of our experience with others.  The power of your story– our story– will always require a story-teller.

At our 2011 Youth Leader Presentations and Achievement, twenty-four 4-H youth gave public presentations that ranged from introducing themselves and their clubs to detailed aspects of our Teen programs.

Here are some of the highlights that took place in November of 2011.  In Orange County, Jocelyn Hewitt of South Royalton, emceed the event. 

Mariah Conant and Haley Hammond shared their experience at Mini Congress, a 2 day event for youth ages 10-13 held at University of Vermont each June.  

 Eight year old Keenan Thygesen shared  key facts about the 4-H dairy project; Eliza Mabey, Laura Vaillancourt and Jocelyn Hewitt gave a presentation on how to prepare an illustrated talk;

 8 year old Alex Taylor shared his experience at the Tunbridge 4-H and Open Horse Clinic; Tara Collins and Eliza Goddell of the Topsham Pony Pals spoke about how their club’s performance called “Dancing through time”  started at the county level and advanced all the way to the Eastern States Exhibition in Springfield Massachusetts.

 In Washington County, Caitlyn Santi of emceed the event. 

 Ada Rohan and Frances Kaplan shared how they created their blue ribbon table top exhibit at our annual Super Saturday and State Day events;

Abbi Manning, Emily Campbell and Ashley White shared their experience at Teen Congress; a fun and educational,  2 day Teen event held each year in June at the University of Vermont; Logan Metcalf shared her experience at the State 4-H Show and Tunbridge Horse Show;  Mariah Harding shared what it is like to be on a 4-H horse judging team  that competed the National 4-H Horse Judging Competition in Kentucky.   Mariah also received the 4-Her of the year award.    

4-H Alumnus, Bethany Towne shared her experience as a former delegate to Eastern States 4-H Horse Show;  her message: do not give up; stand up to bullies; persevere,  work with others and do your best.

Congratulations to all of these youth who took the challenge to reflect on their 4-H experience, right it down, practice it out loud, and share it with an audience.   Oh, I almost forgot….youth were also recognized for their excellence in many projects that completed during the 2011 year.