The Friends of Extension Awards (bottom right) were presented during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 29, 2020. Some of the awardees included Joe Sebastiani of Delaware Nature Society (left) and Adam, Brad and Bud Ritter of Ritter Family Farms, LLC (top right).
The Friends of Extension Awards (bottom right) were presented during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 29, 2020. Some of the awardees included Joe Sebastiani of Delaware Nature Society (left) and Adam, Brad and Bud Ritter of Ritter Family Farms, LLC (top right).

Friends of Extension

November 10, 2020 Written by Dante LaPenta

UD honors 2021 awardees at annual conference

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension honored Joe Sebastiani, the Delaware 4-H Foundation, Delaware Division of Libraries and the Ritter family. Each received a Friends of Extension Award, bestowed to those who give outstanding support and personal involvement in Extension’s efforts. The awards were presented during the virtual 2020 Delaware Cooperative Extension Conference on Oct. 29.


Joe Sebastiani

Sebastiani earned the 2020 Friend of Extension Award, the highest recognition presented to a non-Extension layperson, business or organization. The Ashland Nature Center manager was a galvanizing force in launching the Delaware Master Naturalist Program, which had existed elsewhere, but never in the First State.

A naturalist with specialties in ornithology and invasive plants, Joe co-facilitates and organizes Delaware Master Naturalist core training. His commitment to the program allowed UD and others to secure funding, launch the program and develop local organizing partners and volunteer resource manuals. Working with the Delaware Master Naturalist Curriculum committee, he laid the foundation for core training, scheduling and logistics for the first two classes of trainees. When COVID-19 forced drastic changes to the format, Sebastiani was a key voice in moving to a virtual format and developed independent field experiences in the absence of in-person field trips.

With the first class of 23 Delawareans now completing the program and the second class off and running, Extension agent Blake Moore sees a bright future for the Delaware Master Naturalist Program.

“This is just the beginning of the impact,” declared Moore. “Joe’s commitment to the program will provide a cadre of trained volunteers to give a continued commitment to the natural world of Delaware.”


The Delaware 4-H Foundation

For more than four decades, the Delaware 4-H Foundation has enriched the lives of youth across the state through its philanthropic support. Through annual campaigns for programming, state camp support and efforts new endowments and grant applications to support 4-H programming initiatives, the Delaware 4-H Foundation has continued to provide outstanding support our state 4-H program.

The Delaware 4-H Foundation was created in 1978 to provide a way for benefactors to support  4-H, enabling young Delawareans to participate in various programming opportunities. Today, the Foundation provides more than $100,000 annually to support deserving 4-H’ers.

One of the most recent meaningful examples of answering the call to support Delaware 4-H occurred this summer as restrictions prohibited an in-person Delaware 4-H State Camp experience. Delaware 4-H and UD Extension leadership planned a virtual experience. When the two weeks of virtual camp in June were completed, campers and parents shared their thanks as the experience gave them a taste of normalcy and connection in a difficult time. In the true act of friendship, the Delaware 4-H Foundation stepped forward to pay for camp costs.


Delaware Division of Libraries

For nearly two decades, the Delaware Division of Libraries and the local library program coordinators hosted and supported Extension initiatives. began in 2003 when Extension financial literacy materials at libraries throughout the state was invited to provide training for 15 youth librarians, who financial literacy into programming for young patrons. Since that time, local libraries have hosted hundreds of financial, nutrition, food safety, food preservationand consumer education programs that support Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences team.

In 2020, the two organizations forged a programming partnership, addressing issues of concern brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 82 workshops the end of the year, including financial wellness, health insurance, nutrition, mindfulness and food safety programs. The collaboration afforded Extension visibility and reachaudiences in a time when face to face programming was prohibited.

“The library system and the dedicated personnel who serve our Delaware public has been a true partner,” said Maria Pippidis, New Castle County director and extension educator. “They share our mission in providing solid educational opportunities to Delawareans. The community-based librarians focus on meeting the needs of their patrons.”


The Ritter Family

The commitment of Brad, Laura and Adam Ritter of Ritter Family Farms Inc (RFFI) and Bud and Irving Ritter of B. Ritter Farms, LLC is difficult to quantify. The family has been involved with Extension since the 1970s when family patriarch worked agents to diagnose crop issues and conduct research plots. That cooperation increased as Bill’s sons, Burt, Bud, Irving and Frankie Ritter took on larger roles, conducting lima bean research, studying varieties, population and fertility. When what is now the UD Warrington Irrigation Research Farm was donated to UD in 1992, the Ritters volunteered time and equipment make the farm conducive for research. From Turbo-Tills to eight-row cultivators, the family has loaned it all to UD while never asking for compensation.

Over the years, the family and Extension agents developed a relationship where labor and expertise were regularly exchanged with the common goal of developing improved recommendations for crop production.

“The Ritter family’s commitment to Delaware agriculture and UD extension has enabled a great number of topics to be practically and accurately researched providing countless economic and environment benefits to the state and region,” said James Adkins, associate scientist and irrigation engineer. “The recommendations developed over the past 10 years of corn, soybean and wheat irrigation research would not be possible without their support behind the scenes.”


2020 Friends of Delaware Extension:

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