SAINT AUGUSTINE – Caeli Benyacko of St. Augustine, a member of the St. Johns County Horticulture Identification/Plant Science 4-H Project, recently demonstrated her plant knowledge and creativity at the National Junior Horticultural Association Convention. With the support of St. Johns County 4-H Association, Caeli competed in the event, held in St. Louis, Missouri. The convention took place Oct. 5-8, 2018 and individuals and teams from throughout the United States competed.
Caeli, age 15, took part in a variety of competitions, workshops, and tours including the Gateway Arch, Missouri Botanical Gardens, and Baisch-Skinner floral distribution center. She was awarded the Grand National medal for Creative Writing in Horticulture which ranked her first in the nation for that category. She also scored fifth place individual nationally for the Open Individual category in the Plant Identification and Judging Contest.
Part of the competition required a display to be made to represent the state of the attendees. For Florida’s display, Caeli wanted to highlight the local Datil Pepper Industry. The theme was “Gateway to Green” which Caeli used to show the economic and agricultural impacts the datil pepper has made for the St. Augustine area. With the help of 11 local vendors who graciously supplied datil products, she was truly able to create a display that incorporated the culture of St. Augustine and the datil pepper industry. Throughout the competition, the display held samples of each vendor’s products for visitors to try. Many thanks go out to Minorcan Mike, Datil Yum, Honey Truck, Dat’l Hook Ya, Hayman’s, Old St. Augustine Gourmet, A-Frame, Datil Dave, Dixie Datil, Hurricane Patty’s, and Hagan Ace for donating items for the display.
Caeli’s mother, Tara Benyacko, said that the 4-H Plant Identification Project was integral to Caeli’s success in the NJHA competition. Caeli has been a member of the 4-H Plant Identification Project for seven years. The project is led by 4-H volunteers Richard Highman, Holly Highman and Gayle Prevatt. The group meets once a month at the St. Johns County Agricultural Center.
4-H programming offers educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to youth ages 5-18. The educational experiences in plant science promote life skills to curious youth. In St. Johns County, there are clubs devoted to plants, outdoor skills, agriculture, archery, cooking, sewing and more. The project-focused clubs use hands-on learning in these subject areas. 4-H clubs and projects are led by trained volunteers committed to creating opportunities for youth to develop life skills while learning about the responsibility involved in their projects. Youth have the chance to develop life skills including communication, teamwork, personal responsibility, critical thinking and goal setting. The evidence-based curriculum used in the clubs has been developed by land grant universities from around the country.
Enrollment for the 4-H Youth Development Program takes place each September and is for youth ages 5-18, as of September 1st. Club enrollment opens in September with clubs completing their activities in May. Anyone interested in learning more about the St. Johns County 4-H program may do so by going to http://stjohns.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H.shtml . Caring adults interested in working with youth should contact the St. Johns County 4-H Office (904-209-0430) to learn of the many volunteer opportunities within the 4-H Youth Development Program.