students and instructor on an archery range

The Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports program relies heavily on adult volunteers to take the lead in teaching the disciplines and management of the local clubs. It is the volunteers who ultimately make the county program successful. Mason County 4-H Shooting Sports archery instructor Ted Snider is an instrumental part of the team that makes it an outstanding program.

profile pic of Kaytlin Beekman

The success of a program starts with the instructor who delivers it. University of Illinois Extension has recently hired two new Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) instructors who are sure to lead successful programs in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit. Kaytlin Beekman and Elexus Hampton joined the local SNAP-Ed team this fall.

A learning garden with a gate and colorful displays

Everywhere you turn in the 4-H Learning Garden at Wildlife Prairie Park there is something inspiring to see and new to learn. The 4-H Learning Garden is a colorful and productive garden that grows food for the park’s animals while serving as a demonstration and learning tool. University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) lead a 4-H special interest club at the park that focuses on gardening and art lessons.

A senior citizen with a child in a garden

Take a moment and think about an adult who was influential in your life when you were young. What did they do that made a difference to you? Chances are, their actions constituted a developmental relationship, though they probably didn’t know this at the time.

4-H teen in arena with cow

There are some things that you can’t learn from a book or in school. You need to experience it firsthand to understand the full scope, and farming is one of those things. For the past nine years, Peoria County’s Neighbor Kids Dairy 4-H Special Interest (SPIN) club has taught youth of all ages life skills such as work ethics, responsibility, safety awareness, communication, problem solving, caring for others as well as a better understanding of the agriculture industry and where our food comes from.

People talking at an information table

There is no better place to learn more about gardening than in the garden.

Picture of canned food on shelf of food pantry

When your grocery shopping is limited to food pantry selections, eating healthy can be a challenge. A local coalition, Healthy Eating Active Living– Food System Partners (HEAL-FSP), understands the need for additional healthy food options within the charitable food system.

Extension Master Naturalist in a field of native plantings

From the perspective of University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists, the new prairie project at the Peoria County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) is an excellent way to increase native plant and pollinator populations. To the JDC administrators, the project is an excellent way to save a lot of money and time mowing grass. Both reasons are making a positive impact in the community.

Field of pumpkins

Two Tazewell County 4-H clubs recently participated in piloting lessons for an agricultural commodity curriculum, Focus on Commodities, developed by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences students Hannah Spangler, Fulton 4-H alumna, and Emma Robbins.

four people standing in front of building and new landscaping

When Therkildsen Field Station at Emiquon requested assistance with renovating their landscaping, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) Carla Presnell, Allie Goudy, and Lisa Davis stepped in to help and brought their knowledge of native plants with them. The team created a native plant demonstration garden that will educate visitors and provide ecological benefits and beauty.

Picture of contents of Connection Corner Kits

The social and emotional health of youth and families are critical pieces of overall health, and never more so than with the unusual challenges of 2020. CEO of the CASEL Initiative (Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning) Karen Niemi stated, “when physical distancing is deemed necessary, social and emotional connectedness is even more critical.” University of Illinois Extension 4-H staff in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties responded to thi

Person gardening

For many years, University of Illinois Extension has utilized social media to share educational content. Last year, the state horticulture team started the Illinois Extension Horticulture Group on Facebook that has taken this approach to the next level. Extension educators across the state synergize their areas of expertise to moderate the group and provide information and resources to thousands of people.

Profile shots of retired employees

Retirements are bittersweet. It is a special time to reflect on the impact of someone’s career while having to say goodbye. Seven University of Illinois Extension staff in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit finished up their lengthy Extension careers this summer. The group combined has over 200 years of work invested in impacting the people and communities in our unit.

Janis Blout, Sheila Bolliger, Kathie Brown, Margaret Cover, Deb Donaldson, Irene Edwards, and Cathy Ludolph are now officially Extension retirees.

child trying on fireman's gear

Accidents can happen in a split second. It is never too young to start learning how to be situationally aware and safer. For the past 30 years, University of Illinois Extension and Illinois Farm Bureau have made it a priority to teach area youth how to be safe around the farm and beyond.

wall of engraved bricks

The opportunities are vast when it comes to inspiring others to enjoy nature. University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist (EMN) Pam Tomka uses her grant writing skills to help Wildlife Prairie Park make facility improvements, which in turn will draw more people out into nature.

girl holding ribbon wreath

Hands-on, experiential learning is at the core of the 4-H program. When programs were transitioned to virtual, local 4-H staff developed an innovative program called 4-H Spark Camp that upheld the 4-H learning style that youth and their families could do together at home.

Picture of a landscape with a lone tree and the title, Joy Project

After months of being sheltered in place in 2020, Mason 4-H Federation teens were feeling the emotional effects and decided to do something to help others who may be feeling the same. Combining their leadership and program planning skills with their creative skills and empathy, they launched The Joy Project 2021 in April.

People filling out paperwork on a desk

Rural communities throughout Illinois and across the nation struggle to maintain population, jobs, and schools. The COVID-19 pandemic created even more challenges; however, a collaborative group of community leaders in Fulton County was already at work addressing the challenges, positioning their communities for growth through the challenges. That advance work helped obtain state and federal funding support, that yielded four grants worth more than $8 million.

Extension Master Gardener working in a community garden

What one eat plays a critical role in a person’s health. Unfortunately, not everyone can easily afford healthy, fresh produce. University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners provide many people with free produce through several “giving gardens.” Thanks to a partnership with Tazewell County Health Department, one of these giving gardens has expanded its offerings and is gearing up to add gardening and cooking lessons.

4-H youth holding a Guinea Pig

Pets bring a lot of joy to the homes where they live. When young family members help take care of pets, they learn valuable responsibility skills. 4-H provides tools and learning opportunities for youth to develop those skills.

Picture of native plant Black-eyed Susan with butterfly

Each year in the United States, over one million acres of native habitat are transformed into urban and suburban lawns. The loss of these native plant resources is directly related to the decline of the native bird population by 3 billion birds. As news of species decline becomes more common, University of Illinois Extension has significantly increased the native plant educational programs to address this concern.

4-H teens pose for a group shot

Once a 4-Her, always a 4-Her. According to the Illinois 4-H Alumni Association, 25 million Americans share the unique bond of being a 4-H alum, each with a unique story. Whether it's spending time at 4-H camp, conquering public speaking fears, leading as a club officer, traveling the world as an exchange member, competing at the county fair, or working with 4-H club leaders; 4-H experiences played a part in personal development.

Profile picture of Tara Heath

Horticulture has been a part of Tara Heath’s life since she was a little girl. After a 20 year career focused on landscape management, Tara has joined the University of Illinois Extension team as the horticulture program coordinator serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties.

4-H youth and adult with boxes of socks

The best leaders are those who also serve others. 4-H offers a wide variety of opportunities for youth to develop those servant leadership skills. The four 4-H Federation groups in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties have worked hard over the past year encouraging others through 12 various service projects and special events, which also provided an avenue for the teens to build their leadership skills.

Extension Master Gardeners standing by flower bed

Education and beauty go hand-in-hand with the new native plant landscape project at Morton Public LibraryUniversity of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit worked to beautify the landscaping at the library while educating the patrons about the benefits of native plants.

Upset child being soothed by adult

Youth and families are currently impacted by a variety of stressful events outside of their control. Changes in normal routines, limited social interaction with friends and families, and missed significant life events can all increase the stress and anxiety children and families are feeling. University of Illinois Extension Youth Educators Judy Schmidt and Emily Schoenfelder have started a new blog dedicated to helping families cope with stress and anxiety.

Master Naturalist volunteer holding a bag of cleaned seeds for Project Wingspan

The University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalists of Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties were honored in January 2021 by Pollinator Partnership for Project Wingspan as the Most Engaged Volunteers in 2020.

Picture of SNAP-Ed community worker preparing a recipe for online education

While it is important to educate people about nutritious eating, it is equally important to teach them how they can afford nutritious foods on a budget. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—Education (SNAP-Ed) staff at University of Illinois Extension staff offer Healthy Cents 12-part series to adults in an online format.

Screen shot of on-line training menu

The number of people going through online training to become a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener increased in 2020.  Since the summer of 2020, twelve people have enrolled in online training program from Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties. This is an increase from 2019 when two people enrolled in the online training.

Picture of a coal plant

In the fall of 2019, the communities of Canton and Havana were hit with the shocking news that Vistra Corp. planned closing the local coal-fired power plants within three months. Community leaders were left to navigate the detrimental impacts to their tax base and workforce and they turned to each other to share ideas and resources.

Teens at 4-H Show

The skill mastery exhibited during the 2020 Virtual 4-H Shows seemed extra special this year and deserved an extra special recognition. A drive-thru awards ceremony was held honoring the Tazewell County 4-H Virtual Show exhibitors.