State flower recipe What’s the recipe for the perfect black-eyed Susan? 1 scoop seed ready soil 4 scoops all-clay cat box filler 15 to 20 seeds 3 tablespoons water Squeeze all together in a zip-close bag. Mold into a ball and let dry in a sunny spot. Place on top of bare soil right before a rain August through next spring. Watch it grow next spring.
Frederick County Public Schools students flooded the farm and garden building with questions, eager hands and wide eyes as volunteers walked them through the steps necessary to grow flowers, churn butter and collect honey.
Dave Sullivan, 73, a master gardener with the University of Maryland Extension service, expected to see 2,000 schoolchildren between Monday and Wednesday. The extension program walked children down a black-eyed Susan assembly line Tuesday afternoon.
The state flower was in seed form, smaller than a grain of rice, in salt shakers on the extension’s table beside bins of soil and clay.
How the tiny seeds would grow was not being discussed, as most of the kids were already experts on how plants go from seeds to flowers, Sullivan said. Instead, the volunteers focused on explaining what was going into the bags and how best to grow the flowers.
The hands-on experience was a hit.
“This has been one of our best ones with the kids,” said Deb Keimig, 65, who is a volunteer and is a co-chair of the fair and Master Gardeners Steering Committee with Sullivan.
In the back corner of the building, Mary Riesch, 66, had a very different task: keeping her eye on where the queen was moving through the hive. Riesch represented the Frederick County Beekeeping Association and has raised bees for several years on her property in the Catoctin Mountains.
The association marked the queen bee with a red dot to make her easier to spot among the busy colony, she said.
The children’s interest in bees has altered in the seven to eight years that she has been showing at the fair, she said. In the beginning, children would “squeal” and run away from the bees, Riesch said. After two or three years, the kids had their noses pressed to the glass and were asking questions about the honeybees, she said.
“They learned something in school and people talking to them,” Riesch said. “Now they have very intelligent questions.”
Three-fourths of all food comes from pollination, and it is important for students to understand how bees play a role, she said. Most local farms used to have their own hives, but the shift toward monoculture — the growing of only a single crop in a given area — has reduced natural bee populations, she said. There is a growing trend to leave a strip of land on a farm unplowed and allow wildflowers to grow so that bees stay and pollinate the crops, she said.
Evelyn Wilcon with the Frederick County Farm Bureau also has a hands-on demonstration for the kids. With heavy whipping cream, a “pinch” of salt and an antique hand-crank churn, she helped children make butter.
Wilcon used to serve the butter on crackers, but there are concerns about food allergies now, she said.
Teachers can make butter in the classroom in condiment containers with just 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and a pinch of salt. Then let the kids shake it for 15 minutes, she said.
Hands dirty and heads packed full of new knowledge, the kids returned to school with many of them telling their friends that they hoped to come back later with their parents.