The Flagler County Extension Office has been working very closely with an elementary and middle school on the east side of the county to ensure the youth are properly educated on crops grown on the west side of the county.


Agriculture Agent (Dr. Wendy Mussoline) and 4-H Agent (Alisha Hutchinson) introduced the 4-H Crop Citizens Science Potato Project to classes at Indian Trails Middle School and Belle Terre Elementary. Most of the kids were not aware that Flagler County grows nearly 3,000 acres of potatoes on the west side. Extension provided seeds, pots, soil, fertilizer and a thorough educational program with a curriculum to get the kids rooted in our local crop.


Each classroom planted 20 potato seeds – five pots in four different fertilizer treatment groups. The goal is not only to educate the youth on the growth cycle from seed to harvest, but also to highlight advanced technologies used in the field by researchers. We are teaching the kids how to measure nitrogen concentrations in plant tissue using petiole sap meters and special software that can link images of leaf color with nitrogen.


The younger generation is very comfortable with advanced technologies that can assist farmers with their crops such as specialized apps, multi-spectral images taken with drones, field screening tools and automated soil moisture sensors. Though most of them lack the multi-generational experience of growing crops, they are comfortable with learning how to use advanced technologies. It is absolutely essential to get the youth involved in agriculture at a young age in order to sustain our local agricultural industry.


As a follow-up to the classroom potato project, Ms. Colindres and Ms. Diaz (Indian Trails Middle School) organized transportation and brought the kids to the UF/IFAS Hastings Agriculture Extension Farm. Dr. Mussoline led the tour through fields planted in potato, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and artichokes. They learned a little about crop science and physiology, but mostly enjoyed harvesting their own cabbage and broccoli stalks. Only a couple students were able to identify the artichoke crop, despite the many artichoke heads on the large spiny plant. They were all surprised to see that the Brussels sprouts grew on a tall stalk and had to be plucked off one by one.


Based on the pre- and post-tests administered by the agent, the class knowledge on crop science and local ag statistics increased from 49% to 97%. UF/IFAS Extension believes that planting knowledge is just as important as the hands-on learning experiences with growing and harvesting crops.


Dr. Mussoline has also partnered with Flagler County Food Service Director Angie Bush to obtain locally-grown produce for Flagler County Schools. They worked cooperatively to obtain an award for $10,000 from the FDACS Florida Farm to School Sponsor Program. Through their partnership with Extension they are able to purchase produce from local farmers directly and serve them as part of the school lunches throughout the county. Purple sweet potatoes were a big hit in January, and local cabbage and potatoes will be on the menu in the coming months.


Wendy Mussoline PE, Ph.D., is a UF/IFAS Multi-County Extension Agent II for Flagler and Putnam counties. For information, contact the Flagler County Extension Service at 386-437-7464. The extension service office is at 150 Sawgrass Road, off County Road 13.