Mention the term “4-H” to most people, and an image of kids in rural farming communities raising livestock typically comes to mind.But 4-H is much more. While raising animals continues to be a core function, local leaders are also encouraging young participants to give back to the community by doing outreach and service projects.
The Silver Star Stockmen 4-H group in Washougal mainly focuses on large animals for market and breed projects, but has also branched out into community service projects.
For example, the club recently led a class about fitting and showing sheep, which included having animals on-site for others to see and interact with. Members also painted the showing area at the Skamania County Fairgrounds.
“I look forward to doing more in the near future as I am trying to do a better job keeping our club focused on the broader community and helping the kids understand the giving back aspect that I had to learn later in life,” parent volunteer Jeff Cross said.
He and his wife, Carolyn, began volunteering with the Silver Star Stockmen 4-H club two years ago, after his daughter Kiara and son, Aidan, heard about it at school.
“It’s really been good for the kids,” he said. “There is lots of activity and effort that goes into it. It’s a real family commitment and we get to give back to the community, too.”
As a parent, he appreciates that 4-H philosophies encourage kids to be good citizens.
Recently, the group hosted a “Super Saturday” event at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, where they led classes about how to care for livestock. Kiara spoke about fitting and showing sheep.
“In the beginning, I had a jumble of butterflies in my stomach,” she said. “I was excited in one way, but extremely shy in another. But while I was ending my speeches, I was very excited to see how much knowledge other people had to share about sheep.”
The event raised approximately $200 for the 4-H Leaders Council programs such as scholarships, equipment, trophies and awards for fairs, horse camp, clinics and donations.
Kiara has shown sheep for a year, and chickens for the past two. This upcoming season, she is focusing on preparing sheep and goats for market and for breeding.
Jeff said Super Saturday attracted many people who were not associated with 4-H.
“It was an educational event for the community,” he said. “The bigger picture is that our club and kids are preparing for this summer’s Skamania County Fair and this event was a fund raiser and a way to give back.”
He added that being a 4-H volunteer is exciting.
“This is something I can do with my kids that’s not centered around the house or sports,” he said. “It’s something that will help make them better people.”
Kiara, a fifth-grader at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary, said raising animals for show, breeding and market at the fair are challenging.
“You need to socialize the animal, train them, make sure they are clean, sheer them and keep a detailed record book,” she said.
However, the hard work is worth it when she spends a week at the Skamania County Fair in August.
“I enjoy being with my friends and my animals, and sharing my knowledge with everyone,” Kiara said.
She said that participating in 4-H will help her in the future.
“Some ways are learning public speaking, animal care, socializing with different people and learning about sustainability,” she said.
For more information about the Silver Star Stockmen, visit www.silverstarstockmen.com.