By Debra Hasbrouck
Of all the great organizations available for kids to join, FFA and 4H are two associations that have wonderful success with instilling a sense of responsibility and self-confidence in their members. My own experience as a 4H and FFA member enriched my life in countless ways. It was evenmore meaningful when my children joined and became involved in these rewarding programs.
Anyone who has gone to a county fair has probably noticed 4H and FFA members participating in various livestock events. It’s impressive to watch the kids working with their beautiful animals in the show ring. What you don’t see is all the time and effort it took to get them there. For children involved in these programs, the work goes on throughout the year.
In addition to caring for and working with their animals, they need to maintain a record book tracking all the time and expense invested in raising their animal throughout the year. They must also go to meetings and do an annual presentation to share something they have learned for each project.
Zaya White, of Sierra Valley 4H Club, has been a 4H member for seven years and typically participates in the swine project. She also does trap shooting and has served as a junior leader.
“Sometimes you don’t realize while you’re doing it, but 4H teaches you a lot of responsibility and leadership,” Zaya said. “It gives you lots of opportunities to do new things and learn.”
Her brother Zane, a 4H member for about four years, enjoys having pigs but his favorite project is trap shooting. Their mom, Andrea White, is the local swine leader and president of the Plumas-Sierra Junior Livestock Sale Committee.
“It’s fun to be able to take the kids down to the same fair where I showed,” Andrea said. “I grew up in 4H taking steers and now it’s nice to go full circle in my role as a parent.”
Zaya’s favorite thing about raising pigs is their personalities. “They’re so happy and
I’ve had some that were sassy,” she laughed.According to Andrea, the two kids helped their grandfather plan and build “the perfect pig barn and pen.” “Our pigs are really spoiled,” said Andrea. “They have a great life while at our place.”
Zaya and Zane will be taking their pigs to the Plumas-Sierra Fair in Quincy this August.
There are also opportunities to attend field days and special events. Zaya recently received a gold award at the both the county and sectional presentation days for her demonstration on trap shooting. “I brought my gun and safety gear,” Zaya said. “I talked about trap shooting and demonstrated how to be safe.” She will be competing at the state level in May at U.C. Davis.
Bailie Coonrod is another long-time member of Sierra Valley 4H Club who acknowledges how valuable 4H has been for her. “It’s a fantastic program that really teaches you about responsibility.” She smiled, “4H has helped me express my love of animals too.”
Bailie is involved in the horse and beef projects. She has had her horse, Fancy, for five years. At the 4H Horse Mastership event last year in Quincy, Bailie was the county winner. “I set up a ride along with other members and taught them how to carry a flag on a horse,” Bailie said. “The second day was really fun too, with trail classes and a gymkhana.”
She also has an Angus-cross steer named Panda that she will take to the fair in Quincy. “You have to invest a lot of time in your steer,” she explained. “They’re usually hard to even catch at first. One year we had one that jumped as high as my dad’s head.”
After graduating high school she plans to further her education and study to become a veterinarian.
The FFA program has a tremendous impact on its members as well. Karinna Lepe is a senior at Lassen High School and president of the Susanville FFA. She participates in the beef project and is involved in the leadership part of FFA. Karinna is also a member of the FFA parliamentary procedure team that recently qualified for the state finals.
“I really love my advisors and what they do for us kids. I want to do that. I want to give back.” She went on to say, “Without FFA I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”
Karinna started out in 4H and has raised market steers for eight years. She also has a Maine Anjou cow named Guppy and a heifer named Aurora. “I took chickens my first year in 4H then jumped straight into steers,” Karinna smiled. “I enjoy the responsibility and satisfaction I get from all my hard work, especially at the fair.” After graduation she plans to go to Chico State and become a high school teacher for agriculture and history.
Participating in the county fair involves a tremendous amount of work and responsibility for both FFA and 4H kids. Members with livestock must transport their animal, do a weigh-in (market animals) and prepare their stalls with bedding, food and water. Many kids set up educational displays on their stalls.
It is the member’s responsibility to keep their animal fed, watered, clean and healthy throughout the fair. They also share barn duty, which includes monitoring the animals, speaking with the public, and keeping the aisles clear. Then there’s all the work involved to get the animals ready for showing and the auction.
The kids are required to help at the fair’s auction too. In addition to taking their animals through the sale ring, they help set up, serve food to buyers and work as runners with the auction paperwork.
Although the duties and responsibilities sound endless, everyone seemed to really enjoy going to the fair. All the kids commented on how much they like making friends from other clubs.
Perhaps Zane White summed it up best when he simply said, “The fair is a lot of work, but it’s fun.”
With the county fairs coming up this summer, it’s a great time to think about supporting these 4H and FFA members. There is a livestock auction at the fair where the public can have an opportunity to purchase one of their market animals.
Livestock are well cared for with strict guidelines to ensure that buyers receive quality meat to fill their freezer. An inspection is done and the meat receives a USDA stamp, which means that it can also be donated for a business tax write-off. It’s a great way to support these hard working kids and help the community at the same time.
Both FFA and 4H offer opportunities to learn about cooking, photography, welding, sewing and more. However, caring for an animal usually helps to develop a deep sense of responsibility and consideration for the well being of something other than oneself.
The Plumas-Sierra Fair runs from August 10 – 14, 2016 with the Junior Livestock Auction on Sunday, August 14th.
The Lassen County Fair goes from July 20 – 24, 2016 with the Junior Livestock Auction on Sunday, July 24th. According to Karinna Lepe, they also have an Ag Mechanics Auction.
4H stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. Information and details on 4H membership can be found by contacting your local 4H club.
For Lassen County the website is: http://celassen.ucanr.edu/Lassen_4-H_Program/
For Plumas and Sierra counties the website is:
FFA originally stood for Future Farmers of America. High school students enrolled in any vocational agriculture class can become FFA members, if offered at that school.