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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is 4-H and how do I get started?
  2. What can I do to improve net returns from the farm for our family?
  3. How can I tell if my tree has oak wilt?
  4. How long do I need to heat vegetables when canning them?
  5. What and how much should I be eating every day?

What is 4-H and how do I get started?

4-H is a fun, hands-on learning experience in an informal educational program. 4-H is for all kids, kindergarten through one year past high school, whether they live in the cities, towns, or in the country, 4-H welcomes boys, girls, adults from all backgrounds. The entire family can join in projects and activities. Younger kids, K-3 grade, are part of the 4-H Cloverbud program. Cloverbud activities promote creativity and discovery without emphasis on competition.

The 4-H learning by doing approach uses fun projects to teach life skills. Projects give kids the freedom to find out what they like and thwart they're good at doing. There are more than 100 projects to explore like photography, foods, wood working, leadership, art, plants, fashion photography, or animals of all kinds from guinea pigs to dogs and cats to horses, pigs and cows. The University of Minnesota Extension Service has lots of kid-friendly resources that provide expert information and fun project ideas.

To learn more about 4-H in Benton County and how you can join a Club, Adventure, or after school programming, call 320.968.5077, or visit our extension website at and click on "Benton".

Facebook Keep up to date with Benton County 4-H on Facebook!

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What can I do to improve net returns from the farm for our family?

It’s a simplified answer to say Income Minus Expense = Net return. Making this work on an operating farm is not simple.

Finding answers to this question does include looking at the factors that affect income and expenses and how things are working for family members and employees around the farm.

For income, this would include looking at production practices that affect the quality (affecting price) and quantity of livestock products and crops sold. It can also include learning about marketing strategies for crop and livestock.

Expenses include all of the inputs and services including debt service and interest that are used for livestock and crop production. The goal is to spend a dollar where it produces more than a dollar in return and to use the net income for family living and to make improvements that can reduce make work and life better based on personal and family priorities.

Some common questions might be:

  1. Am I spending money on the right fertilizer nutrients and the right amount of nutrients for realistic yield goals with my land?
  2. Am I spending money on the right feed ingredients and the right amount of feed ingredients for my livestock?
  3. Am I spending money and doing the work effectively for controlling weeds, insects, diseases for crop production enterprises?
  4. Am I spending money and time on livestock care in ways that promotes animal health that allows livestock to be healthy and productive?
  5. Am I managing debt and overhead expenses effectively?
  6. Am I maintaining relationships with family and hired labor that help to keep us working toward common priorities and making the best of our talents and interests and life together?


We have a variety of research based information that can help you find answers to some of these questions. We can help you connect with projects and programs that give you a chance to learn more and to see whether you can make use of some of this information for you farm and family.

For more information in Benton Stearns and Morrison Counties, contact:

  • Extension Educator Dan Martens (Crop Production Emphasis) at 968-6450 if a local call to Foley or 1-800-964-4929
  • Extension Educator Eric Sonnek (Livestock Production Emphasis) at 255-6169 if a local call to St. Cloud or 1-800-450-6171.
  • You can also access a wide variety of information through the University of Minnesota website at

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How can I tell if my tree has oak wilt?

Symptoms associated with oak wilt usually begin as yellowing branches in the upper canopy of the tree. The oak wilt symptoms move from the upper branches downward. The leaves wilt from the outer margin inward so the base of the leaf will remain green while the outer portion of the leaves turn tan or brown. Oaks in the red oak family are most susceptible and usually die very quickly, while oaks in the white and bur oaks are more resistant and may survive for several years after infection. Vascular streaking (browning) of the xylem tissue is a good diagnostic symptom used to identify the disease. Positive identification of the disease can be obtained by sending a sample to the University of Minnesota Plant Disease Clinic (there is a charge).

For answers to your gardening, lawn, landscaping and wildlife questions, go to the University of Minnesota Extension web site at or contact the Benton and Stearns County horticulturist at 968-5077 in Foley or 255-6169 in St. Cloud. If Foley or St. Cloud are long distance, you’re welcome to call to Foley at 1-800-964-4929 or to St. Cloud at 1-800-450-6171.

Do you have an active interest in gardening and a desire to share your interest with others? If so, consider becoming a master gardener and join the active master gardener group in Benton County. For more information, go to or contact the Benton County Master Gardener Coordinator at the numbers listed above. The St. Cloud numbers are the most direct connection.

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How long do I need to heat vegetables when canning them?

There may be different recommendations for different vegetables.
Call the University of Minnesota "Answer Line" at 1-800-854-1678.

Household experts answer questions about safely cooking, canning and freezing foods and other household topics like cleaning stains from clothes and homes. They are available from 9-12 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

You can also try using the search box at the U of MN Extension website for articles.

If you are not finding useful information, you're welcome to call the Benton County Extension Office to see if we can be of assistance to you in making a useful connection.

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What and how much should I be eating every day?

  1. Your Age - Starting at birth, the amount of calories you need continually increases. However, during our thirties and forties our bodies start to change and the amount of calories we once needed can start to decrease.
  2. Your Activity Level - Being active plays a major role in how many calories you should be consuming and it's pretty simple. The more active you are the more calories you can consume.
    • Sedentary = less than 30 minutes a day of physical activity in addition to daily activities
    • Moderately Active = at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity in addition to daily activities
    • Active = 60 or more minutes a day of physical activity in addition to daily activities
  3. Your Gender - Gender also helps determine how many calories you should be eating everyday. It's also pretty simple. If you're of the male gender you will probably need more calories than a person of the female gender would at the same age and activity level.
    • Check out this website to see how many calories YOU need based on your age, gender, and activity level.

    Ok, so now you know how many calories you should be eating, but how does that translate into how much of each food group you should be getting?

    • Check this website out to see how much of each food group YOU should be eating

    So know you know how many calories you need and how much of each food group you need but what do the serving sizes really mean and is there anything important you need to know about each food group?

YES! Every group is a little different and there are important foods from each that you should be including in your diet.

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