Finney County Extension agents

School enrichment and special interest programming are a big part of 4-H in Finney County. This form of outreach targets youth who are not able to participate in the traditional 4-H club format, which requires parental involvement. Instead, youth "learn by doing" in the same core topics — science, healthy living and citizenship — through school-based, afterschool programs and other out-of-school programs.

Finney County Extension-4-H partners with other youth-serving organizations to build sustainable programs that meet the unique needs of youth and those who teach them. By participating in 4-H programs, participants find new ways to think about and solve challenges of science and nutrition, as well as increasing their vocabulary terms.

The benefits of 4-H school outreach enrichment programs include young people's participation in engaging, exciting programs while developing valuable skills with lifelong benefits.

For more information about booking school enrichment and other youth programs, please contact Barbara Addison, 4-H youth development agent, at 272-3670 or

4-H challenge

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." — President John Kennedy.

An important part of good "citizenship" is asking what you can do for your country, as well as your school, your 4-H Club, your neighborhood, your town and your country. In other words, good citizenship means having responsibility to a larger group of which you are a member. We are all responsible for upholding our democracy and making life better for ourselves and for others.

Citizenship means enjoying certain rights and accepting certain responsibilities. Good citizenship demands learning and action. It is this commitment to learning and action that is implied by "citizenship" in 4-H Youth Development.

Things to learn and do in the 4-H Citizenship Project: Learn about self, family and friends, how to be a good neighbor, how groups and clubs work, study cultures through exchanges, learn about townships, city and county government. The project will lead to opportunities for meeting people and working with groups. Learn about other countries and cultures.

Youth also can explore careers in police and fire protection, health and sanitation, and tourism. Youth might also consider hosting an exchange from another country.

Citizenship is acting with informed concern for self and others.

For 4-H inquiries about the citizenship project, please contact Barbara Addison, 4-H youth development agent, at 272-3670 or

It's pumpkin time

I love growing pumpkins. All kinds of pumpkins from the tiniest mini pumpkins to the large pumpkins that take two people to carry. I normally plant around 20 varieties of pumpkins and gourds. After they are harvested, our kids and grandkids get a large mixture of pumpkins and we all put up fall pumpkin displays.

Hollowed-out-pumpkins, called jack-o-lanterns, can be traced back to the people in Ireland and England who carved out beets, potatoes and turnips to use as lanterns on this festive occasion. They were named for a miser named Jack who could not enter heaven and played jokes on the devil.

No Halloween is complete without the eerie glow of a pumpkin face. This single day has made pumpkin production a booming business. It's doubtful whether large-scale pumpkin production would exist without Halloween. Pumpkins have a lot in common with Christmas trees. They are mainly popular only during one time of the year.

Generally, all pumpkins are edible. One of my daughters usually makes pumpkin soup and uses the pumpkin like a pot. But pumpkins that make pretty displays and decorations are usually stringy and really not very tasty. Some pumpkins are labeled as pie pumpkins, but even these do not make very good pie. My mother liked to use banana squash for her pumpkin pies because its flavor and texture were superior to regular pumpkins.

Nearly all of the pumpkins grown for commercial pie filling are Dickinson pumpkins and do not look like what we think of as pumpkins. Dickinson pumpkins are buckskin color like a butternut squash with smooth, non-fibrous texture. In fact, they are the same species as butternut, Cucurbita moschata and not Cucurbita pepo like most pumpkins and summer squash, for that matter. Since most pumpkins and summer squash are the same species, that is one reason why it is not a good idea to save seeds from a pumpkin to plant next year. The seeds could produce a cross between a pumpkin and a zucchini or between any of the numerous C. pepo plants.

This overgrown squash that we call a pumpkin is in real demand this time of the year. The question always arises, why don't gardeners grow their own? The answer is because they are often hard to grow. First, many pumpkins have large vines, up to 30 feet long, so they take up a lot of garden space. Pumpkins require a minimum of three to four months to mature a fruit. They have some pests that are often problems, including vine borer, squash bug and powdery mildew. You need to have a plan to control these pests if you are going to be successful growing your own pumpkins.

So as you can imagine, pumpkin production often should be left to growers with large acreages. Gardeners still can enjoy the large squash called pumpkin at this time of the year when a mere vegetable becomes a magical item in fall displays.

If you have any questions about pumpkins or other concerns, contact David Coltrain, Finney County Extension agent, at 272-3670 or

Food label confusion

Food packaging contains a wealth of information, from the nutrition facts panel to the ingredient list, and knowing what to look for on an egg carton with an expiration date is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Another valuable piece of information on your food packaging is whether or not the food is still safe to eat.

There are two types of dating that are usually displayed on a food product: "Open dating" and "Closed or coded dating."

"Open dating" uses a calendar date as opposed to a code and helps the store determine how long to display the product for sale. It also helps the purchaser know when to purchase or use the product at its best quality. In addition to the "open-date," there must be a phrase such as "sell by" or "use by" to explain the meaning of the date. "Open dating" is found primarily on perishable foods such as meat and dairy products.

"Closed or coded dating" are packing numbers used by the manufacturer. They primarily appear on shelf-stable products like cans and boxes of food.

Knowing the difference between the "sell by," "best if used by" and "use by" date isn't always easy, but it's a valuable skill in reducing your risk of food poisoning.

The "sell by" date tells the store the last day they should sell that specific package. You should be sure to buy the product before this date passes and cook or freeze the product by the time on the Refrigerator/Freezer Storage Chart or Time To Toss? App page.

The "best if used by" date is not a safety-related date, but instead is the recommended date for best flavor or quality. Even if the "best if used by" date has passed on a food you have at home, it should be safe if stored and handled properly.

The "use by" date is the last date recommended for use of the product at peak quality according to the manufacturer. If a product has a "use by" date, follow that date.

Even if the "use by" or "sell by" date hasn't passed, food-borne pathogens still can contaminate foods that aren't properly stored and handled. Always wash your hands, separate raw foods from ready-to-eat foods, cook to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly.

And remember, if you still aren't sure how old something is or if it is safe to eat: When in doubt, throw it out.

Any questions or concerns, contact LĂ©hisa de Fornoza, family and consumer sciences agent, at 272-3670 or