Saturday’s Otoe County 4-H Foundation Banquet at the Kimmel Event Center in Syracuse celebrated the positive impact that  4-H programming makes  on the lives of participating students and shined a light upon all of those whose support makes achievement possible.
A full house of 4-Hers and their supporters filled the Kimmel Event Center for a feast which preceded talks by Ashley Baragary, a 10-year Otoe County 4-H member and a keynote address by an Otoe County 4-H alum in Tiffany Heng-Moss, Ph.D. and Dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources.
The crowd also recognized the awarding of four $1,500 scholarships to deserving 4-H students.
The honored students were as follows:
Ashley Baragary of  Unadilla is a 10-year 4-H member whose interests include 4-H foods, gardening and heritage and home environment projects. She plans to major in marine biology at Northwest Missouri State University.
Aprille Johnson of Syracuse is a 12-year 4-H member who enjoys showing cattle and rabbits and decorating cakes. She will pursue an elementary education major with an endorsement in specialized needs and coaching at Doane University.
Valerie Miller of Elmwood is a 12-year 4-H member who enjoys live challenge contest and home environment projects. She plans to pursue a vet tech degree at Southeast Community College.
 Jason Stukenholtz of Syracuse is an 11-year 4-H member. He enjoys 4-H beef projects and being a role model for younger 4-Hers. He plans to seek a degree for diesel ag tech at Southeast Community College in Milford.
Ashley Baragary gave the address for Growing Through 4-H.
She began by talking about the many wonderful opportunities she was granted and the useful skills she gained as a 10-year member of 4-H.
“It has helped me grow into the person I am today,” she said. “I have many happy warm-filled memories from 4-H.”
Some of the areas of Baragary’s experience included projects in forestry, etymology, gardening and baking.
She learned the value of hard work and how to cope with adversity when her plans didn’t immediately yield the desired results.
“I also learned how hard work can pay off,” she said.
In addition to learning, Baragary was given opportunities to lead, both locally as a member of the 4-H Council as a youth director for the 4-H Foundation, and beyond with her trip to a conference in Washington, D.C., where she learned about the inner workings of her government.
Mark Easter, president of the 4-H Foundation Directors, said he enjoyed having Baragary as a youth director and noted that the youth directors often contribute fresh perspectives that lead to new direction for Otoe County 4-H.

Nebraska Extension Educator Sarah Purcell provided the introduction for Tiffany Heng-Moss, Ph.D., the keynote speaker. Prior to that introduction, Purcell thanked the members of the 4-H Foundation Directors for a year of fabulous work.
The mission of the Otoe County 4-H Foundation is to enhance 4-H programming, secure financial support for local 4-H programs, and to develop area youth for future generations.  
The Otoe County 4-H Foundation financially supports 4-H camps, Big Red Academic Camps, special projects through club grants, and college scholarships. In 2018, the Otoe County 4-H Foundation provided over $12,000 to Otoe County 4-H members for these purposes.
All of this would not be possible without the dedication of the 4-H Foundation Directors, who are instrumental in moving the foundation forward in promoting and strengthening 4-H in Otoe County.
Directors are Mark Easter, president; John Crook, vice president; Lacy Johnson, secretary/treasurer; Erin Johnson, Dave Hall, Erin Steinhoff, Lynnet Talcott, and Michael Wieckhorst II.  
Ashley Baragary completed her one-year term as youth director. The next youth director will be Bailey Boitnott of Nehawka.      
Getting back to the keynote speaker, Purcell noted that Saturday’s address represented a homecoming for Heng-Moss.
The UNL Dean was raised on farm near Talmage, graduated from Nemaha Valley at Cook and was an Otoe County 4-H member.
She went on to earn a bachelors degree in horticulture before earning a masters and a Ph.D., in etymology, all from the University of Nebraska.
She recently received the University of Nebraska, system-wide, Outstanding Teaching and Instructional Creativity Award.
This award recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated excellence in creativity and teaching.

Tiffany Heng-Moss spoke about the challenges facing the world community and how those involved with agriculture, specifically 4-Hers, can help to meet those challenges.
Heng-Moss said she was honored for the chance to speak at the 4-H event and said that Nebraska 4-H programming, in all counties, is a source of pride for the state.
The challenges facing the agriculture community are ones with direct ties to the global issues.
Improving agricultural literacy, Heng-Moss said, was critical in meeting the challenges that face  all of us.
While improving agriculture literacy for all might be an aspirational goal and might also seem overwhelming, the reality, Heng-Moss said, is that individual people and small groups of people can make a difference.
She noted that 4-H provides great opportunity to make strides toward agricultural literacy and acknowledged that, when she was a 4-H student herself, she didn’t realize the opportunities available to her and the impact that she could have on others.
In the 100-year history of 4-H, it has become the largest youth development organization in the United States, Heng-Moss said, adding that 4-H programming reaches seven million people world wide, six million in the U.S.
One in three Nebraskans is involved in 4-H.
Approximately 25 thousand Nebraskans are involved in formal 4-H clubs and another 120 thousand take part in 4-H through school enrichment programs.
The involvement leads to impact.
“4-Hers in Nebraska are four times as likely to take action in their community compared to their peers,” Heng-Moss said.
Action is required as the nation and the world face challenges such as feeding a growing population, conserving natural resources, addressing climate change and finding cures to disease.
It can leave folks feeling pessimistic about what lies ahead.
Heng-Moss said she isn’t pessimistic.
“I am betting on the network of 4-Hers in Otoe County, in Nebraska and around the world,” she said.
Why so confident? Heng-Moss said 4Hers are innovators, problem solvers and difference makers.
“I guarantee you, as a member of 4-H, you will be ready to be a difference maker,” said Heng-Moss.
The key to solving problems, Heng-Moss said, is to make connections between people, not just within the agricultural community, but also with people who don’t share a passion for agriculture.
Connecting with people and raising agricultural literacy is key.
That literacy comes in providing an understanding of where food comes from and how agriculture impacts the daily lives of all.
“The bottom line is agricultural literacy is too important to our state, to our nation and to our world to only be taught to those who are pursuing careers in agriculture,” Heng-Moss said.
Common misconceptions about agriculture have consequences.
People may think that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs. Not true.
Or that genetically modified foods are dangerous. Or that food in the United States is unsafe. Both false.
People might also assume that there is no future in the field of agriculture.
Heng-Moss said the opportunities are many and that students pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) should consider careers in agriculture.
With agriculture as a focus in education, Heng-Moss said students will be able to address issues by making food safer and more nutritious, creating stress resistant crops, breeding disease resistant animals, creating resilient ecosystems, providing global water security, putting forward novel bio-based products and finding cures for infectious diseases.
The work of 4Hers is continued through university programs and Heng-Moss said students in the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources are making a difference.
Heng-Moss left the crowd with the message that the sky is the limit when students begin with the knowledge gained thanks to 4-H programs.