I'm excited to finally start getting busy at work - I've got a few things going with 4-H parents for livestock projects so I feel at home. I told dad if it were a song, it would be "These are my people" by Rodney Atkins. And that excited me.
A few days ago I had my first meeting with my livestock parents/volunteers to discuss the 2010 Cass Co. Achievement Days at the RRVF! We struggle the same way other smaller counties struggle in that kids are being forced to choose between activities - sports or 4-H, etc. Many of the 4-Hers who once were active participants left the farm and haven't returned, leaving a smaller pole of upcoming 4-Hers to replace the graduates. Furthermore, we don't want to make it hard for those kids who want to participate but don't live on the farm - we want options for those kids to be involved.
I know Craig, Ben's dad, will probably roll his eyes and laugh once I type the next statement - but I'm pretty excited about a new set of classes at the county fair. In response to a brainstorming session we had to potentially increase participation at the county fair - we implemented a bucket calf class! These are by far my favorite livestock classes - but I know Craig doesn't care for them as much as I do.
I was started in 4-H with the bucket calf project, as were my sisters and brother. This is where we learned responsibility by going out and feeding the bottle calf two or three times a day. Bucket calves were easy for us to care for and easy for dad to break (unless they were 600-lb monsters that were harder to break to lead). We were judged on our knowledge of the project - and I am particulary partial to those judges who let the 4-Her talk on the microphone when answering the questions. Its the first project talk I ever did - and I was five!
We have a few parents with younger 4-Hers who are already interested! I think its a great opportunity for younger kids (we set a 12-yr old or younger requirement) to learn about livestock but not have to show a +1000 lb steer/heifer the first year or two!
Also, to promote positive husbandry skills we've implemented a "herdsmenship" competition that is aimed to showcase those 4-Hers who proactively take care of their projects, the stalls are free of manure, the animals look comfortable, the tack is in the tack area and the stall just look good. It a era where we need to keep a good face on production agriculture we hope to give kids a chance to rewarded for taking good care of their animals even out of the showring.
Finally, guidelines were established for an animal leasing agreement between local producers and 4-Hers who might be interested in having livestock but don't necessarily have the set-up or facilities to do so. This has actually already been in place here for several years, but we are going to begin marketing this option in 4-H in another effort to increase participation.
Its not alot, but the county has seen a loss of interest in the 4-H livestock program and have tried to think of ways to rejuvenate it. I'm hoping to help them in my new job! Hopefully a few of my KS ideas will get some more interest!
Headed off to Denver to see Ben and a good handful of friends tomorrow - so I'll have pics and updates next week!