2016 Annual Report

Message from the District Director

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to share with you this Annual Report of the impact of Extension programs in Chester County in 2016. This report highlights the many creative and successful educational programs conducted by our staff.  These activities are aimed at helping citizens of Chester County improve profitability, maintain environmental quality, protect their health, build strong families and learn new skills and knowledge. Once again this year we are using slightly different format for the report, with our educators sharing more of a personal experience perspective on their activities. We welcome your thoughts on this approach to sharing our impact.

As the local office of the College Of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, our educators serve as your portal into the assets and information of a major research institution. Penn State Extension provides practical education you can trust, to help people, businesses, and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future. Our experts are scientists and educators who take university research and turn it into practical education that can change your life. When you use Penn State Extension, you can be confident that university and staff experts have reviewed and developed programs to ensure you get the best. You can attend an educational event, take an online course, view a video on the web, read a publication, or speak with an extension educator.

Our educators now serve on state wide teams and all programs offered across the state are available to the citizens of Chester County. Our program catalogue describes all the courses and workshops available from Penn State Extension. Call our office to request a copy or go online to explore programs available. Discover the countless ways we can help you meet your goals.

I am pleased to report we were able to add a new staff member to our team in October. Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch will be serving as a Horticulture Extension Educator with program emphasis on Food Safety, IPM and Water Quality for the Horticulture industry including the Mushroom industry. This position is unique in that it is funded 60% by Chester County and 40% by Berks County and she will have an office in both sites. Maria is a bilingual professional with 18 years of experience in the agriculture field, including almost 5 years with Penn State Extension. We also will be adding a second 4-H educator to the team by the end of the year.

We extend our thanks to the Chester County Commissioners for their support without which our programs described in this report would not be possible. We also thank our state and federal legislators whose support is also crucial. Please take the time to thank our elected representatives for their continued funding.

Penn State Extension programs are enhanced and in some cases made possible with strong volunteer support and I would like to thank our many volunteers. These friends of Extension serve as Association Board members, on the 4-H Advisory Board, as 4-H volunteers and as Master Gardeners.


Leon Ressler
District Director for Lancaster, Lebanon and Chester Counties

Message from Chester County Extension Board President

HaroldDear Friends,

This report of the programs and activities of Penn State Extension Chester County comes to you after a significant year in Extension.  As you read through the report, you will hear about the many programs and educational opportunities Chester County Extension brings to families and business throughout our communities.

It has been a personal and gratifying experience to see this work first hand on many occasions. Much of the work provided by our staff is focused on families providing educational programming in 4-H youth development, horticulture, workforce development, and agribusiness. These education initiatives would not be possible without volunteers who support and administer programs. Our educators touch thousands of lives each year and are committed to helping the community of Chester County.

Through the work of Penn State University our Extension agencies are able to share unbiased research and techniques with the agribusiness community.  This information is one of the leading avenues helping to keep our farmers strong and competitive in this changing economy. I am grateful for Penn State's ongoing commitment to the many county Extension based programs that support a large economic foundation for our community.

Penn State Extension Chester County would not be possible without the strong support of our County Commissioners. As Board President, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Extension staff and our community for your continued commitment to Extension through out Chester County.

On a personal note, 2016 will be my last year serving on the Extension Board.  I have greatly enjoyed working with my fellow board members and the Extension staff over the past six years. I am confident that through the dedicated work of the Extension Team our community will continue to reap the many benefits provided by Penn State Extension Chester County.


Harold Taylor
President, Penn State Extension Chester County Board

Nutrition Links

Cindy Seigafuse, Nutrition Links Educator Advisor

CindyMany of my days start with preparing food for a cooking demonstration later that day as well as packing food and kitchen equipment safely into my car. On my way into the Extension office I stop at the grocery store to pick up an unusual fruit or vegetable like papaya or bok choy for participants to try to encourage eating more fruits and vegetables. My goal each day is to encourage, educate or motivate at least one person to make a positive healthy change like including more physical activity into their day, switching to whole grain foods, or making half their plate fruits and vegetables.

Since the majority of my work is out in the Chester County community I may stop at a church or homeless shelter to discuss partnering with the agency to conduct the Penn State Nutrition Links Eat Smart Move More program. Next I stop at a community meeting to hear what is going on with other agencies and to recruit for upcoming classes. There I learn that currently in Chester County 43,650 people are food insecure and 1 in 14 people lack access to reliable sources of nutritious food and 37,634 people in Chester County are living in poverty.*

Back at the office after handling calls and emails, the prepping for a new class really gets underway. I gather the research based colorful handouts for the day’s lesson about fruits and vegetables. I make or pack any visuals to help engage my learners and any interactive materials I need to reinforce the message. Then I lug bags, projector, screen and cooking supplies back to my car, not an easy feat as the parking lot at Government Services Building seems bigger than a football field!

Once at the site of a program I set up all the equipment and create a welcoming, colorful display of materials. As participants stream in I greet them and start the program. I review last week’s topic on food safety and ask if anyone did things differently throughout the week. Several people share that they remembered how to defrost meat correctly, or used a food thermometer to check for correct temperatures of meats, or remembered to wash fruits and vegetables first. This leads us into the program’s topic and I demonstrate how to wash, peel and cut a papaya. As I pass out a small taste of the sweet fruit I explain the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables. Later during class we gather around the electric skillet and make a vegetable stir fry. The aromas, sounds and sights get participants eager to try the dish and share about their favorite fruits and vegetables. We connect through the preparing and sharing of the food. People get excited at trying something different they thought they would not like only to discover it is delicious. When someone says I really like this or, I can’t wait to make that, I smile and feel a deep sense of satisfaction at knowing impact has been made.

*Sources: United States census bureau, Feeding America, Chester County Department of Community Development, Chester County Food Bank

Delmy Orellana-Baires, Nutrition Links Educator Advisor


This year I started working with Path Stone Housing with the help of Roseline Vasquez, who is the Family Service Coordinator. Roseline is in charge of two residential apartment communities, Cedar Woods and Granite Ridge located in Kennett Square, PA. This program was for women and children. I taught general nutrition, food safety, meal planning and much more, including healthy snack choices in a series of lessons. We also prepared healthy and delicious recipes giving participants hands on experience. We gave them tips on how to stretch their food dollars.

I also conducted a program at the CYWA Samara House Rehabilitation Center where I taught women how to develop life skills that gives them the motivation to eat healthier and learn also how to manage their food stamps. These women make great efforts to rebuild their lives and they enjoy exercising together and preparing healthy meals for their children and for themselves. Women gain knowledge in many areas of their lives.

One of my responsibilities is to recruit participants in the Chester County organizations, agencies, churches, libraries, etc. most of them are Spanish speaking population such as CCIU Path Stone Housing, The Family Center in Kennett Square; Adult Literacy Program in West Grove and Oxford; Head Start in Coatesville and Kennett Square; and Migrant Head Start, La Comunidad Hispana in Kennett Square, PA.

Dining with Diabetes

In 2016, three Dining with Diabetes 4-week sessions were taught in Chester County. Participants learned about monitoring their blood sugar and blood pressure, information about carbohydrates and how to balance eating these throughout the day, how to follow a heart healthy diet and why exercise is important in managing diabetes. The best part of the class was preparing and tasting diabetes friendly recipes! The classes were supported with funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Joslin Diabetes Center and attended by 30 participants (120 contacts). Two classes were taught in Spanish. Dining with Diabetes is a statewide Extension program. Several participants said that they became more aware of portion sizes and were trying to make half of their plate vegetables to control their carbohydrate and fat intake and lose weight.


Nutrition Education Advisers (NEAs) worked with 452 participants in 2016 in low income communities, impacting 1,531 family members, 93% who benefited from improved food choices, 84% from better use of food resources (budgeting), and 50% from improved food safety practices. Our two NEAs also worked with six youth groups, including 92 children who showed improvement in their knowledge of good food choices and increased exercise. EFNEP is federally funded but could not function without partnerships with churches, social service agencies, libraries, Head Start and others where programming is held. Partners recruit participants, market the program, provide space and sometimes, food money, and encourage the participants to complete evaluations that prove that EFNEP participants improve their health and that of their families because of their participation in the program.


Dining with Diabetes Statewide Impact

  • 38% of participants who had baseline and follow-up A1C measurements experienced a decline in their A1C test result at follow-up
  • Upon exiting the program, returning participants increase their frequency of days exercised per week from 2.4 to 4.3 days per week, a 60% increase
  • 50% of participants increased their knowledge and skill based ability to explain their A1C and blood pressure outcomes
  • 34% of participants increased the number of days on which they ate a variety of fruit and vegetables

Four out of five participants (89%) were confident they could explain their A1C results “somewhat well” or “very well” compared to three out of five (70%) at baseline.

EFNEP Impact

84% (133 of 159) of participants showed improvement in one or more food resource management practice (i.e. plan meals, compare prices, does not run out of food or uses grocery lists).

89% (141 of 159) of participants showed improvement in one or more nutrition practice (i.e. plans meals, makes healthy food choices, prepares food without adding salt, reads nutrition labels or has children eat breakfast).

50% (79 of 158) of participants showed improvement in one or more food safety practice (i.e. thawing and storing foods correctly).

Percent with any positive change in any food group at exit (Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods, Dairy): 93.1%

  • 65% of youth improved diet quality
  • 49% of youth improved physical activity
  • 63% of youth improved food safety

Master Gardeners

Liz Alakszay, Master Gardener Coordinator

The 2016 year started out as another challenging gardening season—the cold lingered into spring and affected plants and people alike. Undaunted, the Master Gardeners continued to provide research based advice and outreach programs focusing on sustainable horticultural practices that foster ecosystem health, preserve native plants, pollinators and enable residents to grow abundant edibles. Highlights from 2016:

  • Master Gardener volunteers logged 31,800 hours and reached over 2000 individuals by offering educational activities, weekly Facebook postings, the gardening hotline, the popular Speaker Bureau series, the much sought perpetual gardening calendar publication and spring and fall workshops.
  • The Speaker Bureau, lead by Master Gardener Tony Buck, participated in over 20 venues. Popular topics requested in 2016 were edible gardening, bees and pollinators and gardening for wildlife. At the March Community Program sponsored by Penn State Great Valley, Master Gardener’s Nancy Gaspari and Liz Alakszay presented a program focused on soil ecology and gardening with climate change to an audience of over 200 attendees.
  • Farmer Markets, and community organizations requested Master Gardener informational tables and activities and programs. Cloey Devlin – a new trainee lead the Jennersville Farmer’s Market outreach, while seasoned Master Gardener, Dave Jones established both a community garden and a Penn State certified pollinator garden at the Parkesburg Library.
  • The Bournelyf Special Camp at the Church of the loving Shepherd butterfly garden project lead by Barbara Rinehart and a large team of dedicated Master Gardeners continued to generate a positive impact in the community. Additionally, Master Gardeners’ partnered with programs at the Melton Center in West Chester to help children reconnect with nature and understand how to grow edibles.
  • Master Gardener MJ Dougherty and Kris Chappa pioneered the partnership and installation of a historical 1700’s herb garden at Lundale Farms. The farm is an incubator for young farmers starting out in organic farming practices and is also an educational center for the surrounding community.
  • Master Gardeners were present at many other local community events including the Annual Kennett Mushroom Festival, Springton Manor Sheep and Wool Day, Representative Milne’s Kid Fest and the Apple Festival in Oxford.

master gardener

For 2017, the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners of Chester County goals are to continue their mission of bringing reliable, unbiased gardening information to as many county residents as possible. This will include not only a new training class for additional people to join the group but also the ongoing expansion and partnerships with the community by:

  • Answering homeowner questions about gardening via hotline, email, and in-person
  • Assisting with native plant restoration projects
  • Teaching gardening classes and workshops
  • Utilizing, Face Book/social media, and local media
  • Promoting the establishment of pollinator gardens
  • Speaking to community groups 
  • Creating and staffing educational displays
  • Working with children and schools
  • Partnering with organizations to educate individuals on environmental stewardship

Ethics in the Workforce

Brenda Williams, Workforce Development Educator

As we engage one another during classes pertaining to life skills, employment and careers, I make sure to pose this question to my young audiences; “What are ethics?” Most of the time, I see perplexed faces and received a variety of definitions. After listening to their responses, the opportunity is taken to discuss the definition, origin and the importance. I refer to ethics as The Rules of Engagement: Good Ethics in School, Work and Life.


Definition: Ethics are the rules or values influencing the conduct by which we live our lives and make decisions.

Origin: They come from within and reflect values.

Importance: Ethics are more like a jigsaw puzzle that is put together over time, that when complete, makes up who you are and what you believe. As it pertains to work, ethics are deep-seated; skills can be taught, but good work ethics are something the employee must possess. Having the sharpest technical skills cannot make up for the lost productivity caused by poor work ethics.

Employers seek it; performance depends on it; satisfaction comes from it; and career success and advancement is the fruit of it. It is a strong work ethic.

There are 10 work ethic traits employers consider important:

  • Attendance - Arrive on time and give advance notice of absence
  • Character - Display loyalty, honesty, trustworthiness, dependability, reliability, ingenuity, self-discipline, and self-responsibility
  • Teamwork - Respects the rights of others: A team is a group of people who depend on one another’s skills and expertise, and who are focused on achieving the same goal
  • Appearance - Display appropriate dress, grooming, hygiene, and etiquette
  • Attitude - Show a positive outlook
  • Productivity - Good work habits result in a good work product
  • Organizational Skills - Demonstrate skill in personal management, time management, prioritizing, flexibility, stress management, and the ability to deal with change
  • Communication - Use appropriate verbal and nonverbal skills
  • Cooperation - Display leadership skills
  • Respect - Deal well with diversity and treat everyone with respect
  • Understanding work ethics is not something just for the neophytes, but should also be pondered by the seasoned employee. We all can be refreshed. Stay mindful that children learn what they live, see and are taught. Be a good role model.

Chester County 4-H

Toni Stuetz, 4-H Educator and Coordinator

4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. In Chester County we are proud of the work our volunteers and staff do each day to make a positive impact on the children in the County. Our 240 adult volunteers put in countless hours working with the youth through a variety of delivery methods.  Our club program, which research shows has the most impact on the youth consists of 29 clubs.


Our volunteers are committed to the club members and more than half of the club volunteers have worked with our club program for ten or more years. Animal agriculture remains strength of our program with livestock, dairy, goat and horse clubs. We also have a community club with a strong agricultural focus and a horse club that has diversified to include rabbits and goats.

An area of growth in our program the last few years has been in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) based clubs. We started our 4-H robotics program in 2013 and we currently have four (4) robotics clubs and a First LEGO League (FLL) team. This growth in STEM programming has welcomed new families into our program and offered existing club members other options for engagement. Our outreach clubs are also embracing STEM projects completing the National 4-H Youth Science Day (NYSD) Experiments Motion Commotion and Rockets to the Rescue and several Junk Drawer Robotics activities.

Embryology remains our most popular in school program where 4-H collaborates with school teachers to provide fertile eggs. Our staff introduces the program speaking to the classroom about the care of the growing embryo and the life cycle of the chicks and then the school teacher works with the class to care for the growing chicken embryo and the baby chicks once hatched. I would love to see our program expand to offer additional projects within our local schools; project such as Meet the Plants, any of the NYSD lessons or Junk Drawer Robotics would be great additions to classrooms and meet several Pennsylvania and National science standards.

Our day camp program is another fun way to get involved in our Chester County 4-H program. For nearly 20 years I have been offering 4-H project in short-term as a day camp program, we call them “4-H Summer Specials”. The program is open to existing members and youth new to the 4-H program, and they are able to complete a 4-H project during a 6 -10 hour day camp. Programs included cooking, candy making, veterinary science, engineering science, robotics and Pony Partners. Our program staff has worked hard to bring the opportunities throughout the County to youth that can’t come to us. The staff goes into low income and isolated communities offering day camps and we collaborate with other youth serving agencies to expand the educational enrichment of their programs.

Resident camp – 4-H Camp Shehaqua is a wonderful week each summer for about 65 Chester County 4-Hers. Our teens ages 15 years and older apply in January to be camp counselors. They go through job interviews and 20 hours of training before being selected to volunteer as camp counselors. These teens are part of the theme selection and program planning and gain valuable life skills and work experience. Campers ages 8 – 14 register for a fun week away from home. The program includes various team building activities, recreation, nature, swimming, archery, crafts and even a ropes challenge course. For the 150 campers, counselors and adult volunteers Its Not Summer Without Camp Shehaqua!

The 4-H program continues to excite me after 25 years. I would love to see the program grow and be able to reach even more youth throughout the County. We are always looking for volunteers to help us expand our opportunities and can provide short-term or ongoing volunteer opportunities.

Francine Joyce-Martin, 4-H Program Assistant
My Patch O'4-H

As a program assistant in Southern Chester County, many of my clubs enjoy having the Oxford Library as the club meeting place. The library fosters so many additional support references to subject matter for the clubs, has a safe homey feeling, and is convenient for these once a month meetings.


The Cooking Squad 4-H Club completed the 4-H project book Cooking 101 in July. The club has learned the basics of cooking. Using the library’s old basement facilities, the club set up tables to prepare and cook in toaster ovens, electric fry pans and electric dutch ovens. In September the club started the next level of cooking, the 201 series and have learned about safe food temperatures and food bacteria. The club is working on overcoming obstacles such as uneven cooking toaster oven and dark pans doom desserts with burnt bottoms.

The Textile Tornadoes 4-H Club are a swiftly growing group. During 2015-2016, this group worked with patterns to make a pair of elastic shorts, has made pillow cases and doll quilts to match. With many new members attending the September meeting, the club started with pin cushions and pillow cases. This year going forward, the club is interested in making dresses from pillowcases for a service project, learning to crochet and to make block quilts. This group has teen leaders to provide support to younger members and has lots of greatly excited new members.

The Junior Master Gardeners 4-H Club is a great crop of kids. The members are supported with Master Gardeners that are willing to share their skills and knowledge. The group made door swags and arrangements for the holidays. The second half of the year focused on gardening for birds: the types of plants that birds enjoy eating, plants needed for shelter/creating a bird habitat, and making gelatin bird feed cutouts. The club also partnered with Longwood Gardens and the Oxford Library for a public meeting. First the librarian, Erin Miller read a story called On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole and then the club and the general public made bird houses from recycled bottles. Other projects included topiaries, lettuce in a recycled container and seed propagation. Starting off the 4-H year, the club will be working on a wood burning of botanical plants and varnishing it, along with holiday favorites and other fun horticulture projects.

OV Friends 4-H Club, a weekly club that was initially wholly Hispanic, has now turned into a large multicultural club of members who live within the community of Oxford Village. This is largely a family club with parents sharing foods. The club has completed lots of projects. The kids enjoyed exploring various art techniques, holiday swag and arrangement making, marshmallow catapults, gliders and drones, and candy making, including fudge and caramel corn this summer. The club especially likes science based projects. This year going forward, the club is working on kitchen chemistry, Junk Drawer Robotics and horticulture projects.

I also have two YMCA sites: one at Nottingham School and one at AGIS, Penn London. Both of these groups are new to me. AGIS has a large cache of 4th-6th graders and Nottingham is a smaller group. The groups are benefiting from science based programs including gliders and drones and kitchen chemistry and seem to like participating in the weekly programs.

Audrey Reith, 4-H Program Assistant
4-H Horticulture After School

In Chester County, platforms were needed to provide science, engineering and technology based programs as part of The National 4-H Council- Altria Foundation Funded Growing 4-H Science program. 4-H After school enrichment programs needed to provide youth opportunities to improve their science abilities through experiential learning. The communities involved are comprised of low income families with little opportunity to be a part of paid afterschool enrichment or care through private institutions.

A multi-week horticultural program was initiated in collaboration with local afterschool enrichment program to introduce 4-H plant science curriculum. Late fall and early winter planning allowed youth to sprout seeds in plastic containers, taste a variety of seeds, roots, stem, and leafy produce, as well as construct holiday decorations to share with their families.

Impacts: Over 35 youth at 2 afterschool enrichment programs participated in the multi-week program. Their experiences allowed them to become more comfortable trying new foods, as well as constructing simple “gifts” and home decorations for the upcoming holidays, as well as other family occasions.

Tracy Murdaugh, 4-H Program Assistant
Tales from the Great Blue Tarp

When the school year comes to an end and both students and teachers are looking forward to vacations and long summer days, Chester County Extension 4-H staff kick into high gear to get ready for the summer site camp programs. Weeks of preparation and planning make for busy workdays, and vacation seems a distant dream as we strive to bring educational and fun filled programs to all the youth we serve during the summer months.


The 4-H summer site camp program is a unique model of program delivery in Chester County. We bring the fun of an outdoor camp experience to youth who may not have the opportunity to attend a summer camp. Packing our vehicles with all the supplies we need to operate the program, we usually find there is little to no space left for our own personal items, such as groceries!

Each day we orchestrate two camps in two different communities for four days, and each week for six to seven weeks brings us to two new sites, starting in June and ending in August. Finding the largest shade tree in the community area, we spread our giant blue tarps out for the kids to sit on. Summer temperatures can get in the mid 90’s with humidity pumping it up to over 100 degrees, but we never cancel a program due to weather, except for hard rain and thunderstorms. Since we have no access to running water, gallons of water are brought each day to keep everyone safely hydrated, as well as to use with our activities. Packing up all the supplies and equipment we have hauled out to beat a thunderstorm can be quite a feat, though we realize storms are always a possible weather event during our northeastern summers. The pace is swift between sites as we seek out public restrooms to wash our hands or get a cool drink of water; there are no facilities available in the outdoor spaces we set up in.

Collaborators from service agencies contribute to the camp experience so it becomes much like a multi ring circus, with Girl Scouts activities going on in one area, Avon Grove Library activities in another, a pickup game of soccer in another, and Paws for People bringing wagging tails and joy with their canine therapy dogs. The Chester County Public Health Department provides dental and health education to each site we visit and our campers love the free toothbrushes provided by the agency!

Due to being outside in a community setting we have no control over ambient noise and environmental conditions. We strain our voices over the pounding of jackhammers, idling eighteen wheelers, and traffic whirring by. Each day before setting up, staff will scan the ground for hidden dangers like glass and rocks, and clear the area of rubbish and plastic bottles. Biting flies come looking for an ankle to bite, and ants march across a tarp errantly placed upon their hills. The 4-H campers excitedly settle down on the great blue tarps, and despite all the distractions and obstacles, become engaged in the process of learning by doing—the 4-H way!

Summer of 2016 brought Chester County Extension 4-H staff and volunteers to 12 unique sites, delivering educational 4-H activities and just plain fun to over 300 youth in financially distressed and underserved communities. The kids at every site enjoyed the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) activities which explored the “cool” science behind magic tricks, building 3-D sculptures with biodegradable packing peanuts, and the learning about the fascinating, yet unseen world of molecules.

Cheryl Fairbairn, Animal Science Educator
4-H Families

There is no better way to build character in a young person than to give him or her a 500lb six-month-old steer or heifer calf and allow him or her, with the help of parents or older siblings to train that calf to tie, walk on a halter and eventually be shown in a show ring.


Through this process the young person learns patience since it takes weeks to break a calf, perseverance since some days are successful and others are not, financial management since he or she has to figure out how to pay for the calf and how to pay for the feed, and finally responsibility since someone has to feed and care for the calf each day.

Young people involved in the livestock project develop a work ethic not often seen in many of our youth today. They rise early in the morning to feed their horse or lamb before school and take care of their needs before homework is even tackled in the evening. Our horse members take lessons from trainers at least once a week and must ride their horse every day to make sure that horse and child are in sync with each other. They learn time management skills so they can complete this training along with keeping up with school work and other extracurricular school activities. What a better way to prepare a young person for the real world than a livestock or horse project that demands all of the above.

Through the Chester County 4-H Livestock and Horse projects youth learn these life skills, plus a number of other production skills that they will use throughout their life. All members are required to go through a Quality Animal Management Training where they learn how to feed and care for animals plus work with a veterinarian for the animal’s health. They are also given presentations from industry representatives to provide updates on new technologies and management techniques. They are given the opportunity to participate on the county livestock judging team where they learn how to select a good animal from a lesser one, while learning how to defend their placing through a set of oral reasons given one on one to an expert in that particular species. This year the Chester County 4-H Livestock Team won the state contest. They will represent the state and county at the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest in Louisville Kentucky. They will also attend a number of other regional contests in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

The 4-H Livestock and Horse programs conducted by Penn State Extension Chester County and a number of dedicated 4-H Leaders are providing the opportunity for 4-H members to gain a variety of life and production skills that will allow them to succeed in the workforce of their choosing. Many will end up working in the agricultural field and will work to finding ways to feed an every growing world population! All youth ages 8yrs to 18yrs are welcome to attend. There are programs available for youth with an interest in these projects who do not live on a farm. It just takes the willingness to learn and work at it that makes the project so successful!

4-H by the Numbers

4-H membership October 2015 - September 2016

Organized 4-H Clubs - 732

Overnight camping - 54

Short-Term & Special Interest Programs 2061

School Enrichment 4-H Programs - 872

Collaborator led Afterschool Programs - 25

Independent Study Members - 8

Total 4-H Youth Enrollment - 4752

Number of 4-H Projects Completed - 4994

Animal Science Projects - 2534

Technology and Engineering - 1093

Plant Science - 143

Leadership & Personal Development 480

Food and Nutrition - 150

Consumer and Textile Science - 88

Health - 91

Visual Arts - 80

All other project areas - 335

4-H Growing Science Initiatives for Middle School Youth

Middle school youth with 20 or more hours science 358

Youth with more than 6 but less than 20 hours 214

* 6 or more hours of 4-H education is a quality standard

4‑H’s work is enhanced by local donors, foundations, and organizations that have committed to supporting America’s youth. Thanks to their financial support we are developing and providing programs for young people to learn real-world skills that prepare them for the challenges of today and tomorrow. 4‑H appreciates the support of its funders.

Grants include:

  • National 4-H Council - Altria 4-H Growing Science Grant
  • Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation
  • Phoenixville Community Health Foundation
  • The Agnes C. and Robert L. Bard Foundation
  • Applestone Foundation

And many private donors...

Thank You!

Livestock and Horse

Cheryl Fairbairn, Animal Science Educator

The year 2016 has presented the farming community across the nation with many new challenges. Never in the history of agriculture have we seen every commodity priced so low.


In the past there was always a commodity or two that producers could turn to for added profits. For example, when corn prices were low beef prices were high. Never have we seen such depressed prices in every segment of agriculture. Not a very good time for the country’s food producers. Dairy producers have taken the biggest hit with milk prices very low and remaining low for a very long time. If you look at the number of dairies left in Chester County you can see the toll these factors have taken on farms both large and small. We are lucky to live in the richest county in the state so entrepreneurial producers are adding a few niche markets to their operations in search of profits. But even niche markets are becoming vulnerable as consumers are becoming more and more money conscious, and niche markets are becoming over supplied.  Supply and demand still plays a role even in niche markets.  

Penn State Extension programs help keep producers up to date and informed about new regulations and assist them in finding solutions that will maximize profits in unprofitable times. Farming is not an easy profession and it takes smart money management techniques and vision to work through this period of low commodity prices and increased regulations.

A survey done by Penn State University this past spring was conducted to document practices already implemented on farms which contribute to improved water quality. This was verified by follow up on-site visits on a random selection of participating farms. Data from this survey will be available to improve computer modeling of Chesapeake Bay water quality.

Our calf fed dairy steer project which combines a research trial plus various educational tours and meetings has helped dairy producers turn that unprofitable bull calf into a profitable fed steer. We have conducted listening sessions to determine need right from the producer and then followed up with meetings such as the Lancaster Cattle Feeders Day to address those needs. Speakers such as Dr. Derrell Peele, Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist from Oklahoma State University, and Colin Woodall, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, NCBA, have been brought in to address these issues. Helping landowners understand that with $3.00 per bushel corn, farmers can no longer pay the extravagant rental prices they paid when corn was at $8.00 per bushel is an ongoing process. Penn State Extension will continue to assist producers as they make their way through this trying time. Assisting with nutrition questions, cash flow issues, and other pertinent topics that relate to profitability will be on the agenda for this coming slate of winter meetings.

Many will weather this perfect storm of regulations and low prices but there will be those who will choose to call it quits. When they call it quits, farm ground is often turned into housing developments and the landscape of our county changes again. We will continue to assist producers towards more profitable times so they can maintain the rich heritage we have as a farming community.

Ag Business Management

John Wodehouse, Ag Business Management Educator

Ag Business

During farm visits, and in Extension programs this past year, the agribusiness discussions I experienced largely revolved around five key principles; 1) how to raise the capital needed, 2) how much and what types of assets to acquire, 3) how to operate the farm to maximize the triple bottom line--relating to maximizing both the true and intrinsic value of the People, the Planet, and the Profit, 4) how to respond to changing technologies, 5) and trends and patterns within the industry. The Agriculture Entrepreneurship Team focuses on providing resources for these topics and more by.

Improving Business Management Skills

We offer skill building study-circles, workshops, roundtable meetings, online courses, and evening producer and public events. I co-taught the short-course Food For Profit to a group of aspiring food entrepreneurs. Start-up considerations, capital planning, and marketing were topics of discussion. A month after the course, survey results came in, they indicated that the participants were employing skills they learned at the workshop. One producer said, as a result of the workshop, she plans to write her own business plan. Another participant indicated that after the class he began an external market analysis, and, based on those results, he is in the process of finding a location to house his energy bar business. Food For Profit is scheduled to come to Chester County in early 2017.

Engaging in Farm Financial Management

The goal of the Farm$en$e program is to provide farm managers with a course series to improve their business management knowledge, skills, and abilities. I was part of the teaching staff for five, four session Farm$en$e workshops held in East Earl, Gettysburg, Lewistown, Slippery Rock, and Somerset Pennsylvania. Participants ranged from dairy and livestock farms, greenhouse and nursery operations, to a specialty herb grower and a custom hire operator. Of the 130 participants last year, many were borrowers of the Farm Service Agency. The Farm$en$e course focuses on business skill development, recordkeeping, and farm financial management. During 2016, I also contributed in the writing of a new farm management book available to public, and for use next year as the course textbook. Participants learned to prepare and analyzed their own set of financial statements. Eighty percent reported they would be using financial ratios to analyze liquidity, solvency and profitability in the future. Class discussions revealed that most of the loan recipients were younger and beginning farmers.

Growing Markets…And Farmers

I championed a series of summer At-Market vegetable producer workshops. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Fruit and Vegetable Association (PVGA). The evening At-Market workshops focused on direct marketing and managerial decision-making. Multiple local meetings were held on suburban farms in our region, where I, along with peers, connected with over 36 producers and participants. At each event, the host farmers highlighted and shared their marketing goals and plans. They also provided a brief business history and a walking farm tour. I presented segments on managerial functions and a shared decision making segments on to how operate your business lean, and how to create a successful CSA distribution model.

Building Local Relationships, Individual Consultations, and Farm Visits

Throughout August, I visited directly on-farm with 32 Chester County farm producers. Traveling to three, sometimes five farms a day, I visited face-to-face with dairy operations, equine facilities, vegetable producers, fruit producers, and CSA’s. Not only did I conduct a conservation practice survey, I also had one-on-one discussions with producers on production and business challenges, market projections, production, weather, industry trends, future yields and more. The visits were held primarily to conduct the survey for conservation and natural resource management. The most apparent trend I observed was that every farm I visited had actively engaged, above the mandated conservation practices already in place to steward natural resources.

Pony Partners-A Year in Review

Amy O'Grady, Pony Partners Coordinator

We had a busy year! Starting off last fall we were at After-the-Bell in Kennett Square, Pa. We completed three programs with After-the-Bell during the 2015-2016 school year. We worked on a new project, making Pony Partners even better. We introduced a “getting to know you” project. Students make paper dolls (based off the book Flat Stanly) of themselves that they share with a partner. The partners must work together to discover what they have in common, as well as, what they don’t have in common.

Pony partner

Once they have a chance to get to know each other they share with the group what they learned. This project helps students work on developing interpersonal skills as well as public speaking skills.

This past spring, we brought Pony Partners to The Technical College High School on Boot Road. The Animal Science and Vet Tech Students enjoyed a hands-on experience with large animals. Students learned to take temperatures, listen to heart rates, lead, and groom the horses.

The summer was also very busy. We started out the summer at the Romano 4-H Center. In addition to the Romano Center we had programs at Regency Park, Indian Run and two new programs at The Point in Parkesburg and Kangaroo Land Day Care in Coatesville PA.

We Welcome Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, Food Safety, IPM, Water Quality

Maria just recently joined Chester County Extension as a Food Safety, IPM, and Water Quality Educator.

MariaMaria Gorgo-Gourovitch will continue her work with the Ag community in Chester and Berks Counties as she joins the Penn State Extension Horticulture Team as its new Extension Educator to identify strategic educational objectives, develop educational events and materials, and evaluate the program impact. Primary program emphasis will focus on the food safety, integrated pest management and water quality issues for the horticulture industry including the mushroom industry.

She recently worked for USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service as a Soil Conservationist assisting farm owners in the planning, application and maintenance of a variety of agronomic and engineering practices that address natural resources issues including water quality. She previously worked for Penn State Extension until January 2015 where she served as outreach coordinator, educator and trainer for the PA IPM, Farm Safety and Food Safety Programs. Gorgo-Gourovitch also collaborated with other Extension programs including Mushroom Food Safety, Plant Pathology, Horticulture, Family and Consumer Sciences and Ag Entrepreneurship, assisting in the development of programs for various audiences and clients. She also worked closely with university-based research faculty and the horticulture industry in conducting applied research that was relevant to industry needs. 

Maria is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina and has a BS in Agronomy and an MS in Animal Production from the Pontifical Argentine Catholic University.

Visit our office at the Government Services Center

601 Westtown Rd., Suite 370
West Chester, PA 19380

Our hours are Monday-Friday 8:30 AM-4:30 PM

For more information on programs and events in Chester County call 610-696-3500

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