Friday, April 12, 2024

Lincoln Co. 4-H clubs provide youth a place to learn

| March 15, 2024 7:00 AM

I am writing this today from my personal perspective as a 4-H mom, volunteer and leader. 

My thoughts are based off my experience in 4-H in the past four years, of which I’m still very much a newbie. I just want to spread the word about this great organization, 4-H and how I see it impact our community and why I want to encourage businesses to support the Lincoln County Fair and Livestock Auction in Eureka, Montana.

The Lincoln County Fair and Auction is the highlight of these young entrepreneurs’ year as they get to showcase their hard work for all of Lincoln County to observe. They have spent most of the last year raising their lambs, goats, steers and hogs. These 4-H projects are so much more than just raising animals. 

It’s fair to say for most of these kids it’s their first real interaction with the business world, managing money to sell something for profit and they are learning it as early as age of 8. I feel pretty confident in saying that most of these kids are using their market sale earning to either further expand their livestock endeavors and/or for saving for college tuition. 

The 4-H program is designed to give them public speaking skills, financial management, business professionalism, leadership skills, investment knowledge and what it means to be an active participant in supporting your local communities. Last year they worked with the LOR Foundation and wrote a grant to buy the club a portable squeeze chute to safely handle cattle. 

I absolutely love that my kids 4-H projects keep them busy with their livestock and off their devices, and not because I make them, but because they want to.

My kids played a variety of sports when they were younger, but it was never really something they were passionate about. When you talk to them now, they both very proudly say that 4-H is their sport. It’s something that they spend countless hours training for, gain knowledge from their mentors, learning new ways to apply themselves, they learn the value of showing good sportsmanship and supporting their club through teamwork. 

They have both learned strong work ethic as they are up early before school making sure animals are fed and cared for. It doesn’t matter what time we get home at night the same concept follows that they need to make sure their livestock takes priority.

When you go to a 4-H auction you are investing in our future leaders and top professionals. It’s proven that children who were involved in 4-H are more likely to go to college and have better work ethic. When you search some of the top entertainers, CEOs and politicians they credit their start to 4H. There are some that seemed obvious to me like Jimmy Carter, Dolly Parton and Luke Bryan. 

But I also found it interesting that some successful business people included leaders in Ford Motor Company, Cambell Soup company and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company.

Maybe you have never been to a livestock auction before, maybe you don’t know a lot about how these animals are raised, maybe you just don’t know what you would do with all of that meat. The great thing about the attending the livestock auction is that the kids who raise these animals are dressed in their best and ready to answer any of your questions. 

We love to see the barns full and the adults interacting with the kids. They have worked all year for this moment just to share with you what 4-H is and how it’s impacted their life. They can tell you how much freezer space you need. They all get asked “well isn’t it hard to know you are raising an animal for butcher.” 

Well of course it’s hard, but most of them will tell you it’s the best meat they have ever tasted. I read somewhere that these animals are treated better than most children in the county. While it seems hard to fathom that, I can’t argue. These animals never go hungry, they have fresh water, they are fed high quality grain and hay, they are groomed daily, washed, some even kept under fans, in the summer days they get fed frozen watermelon to cool them down, water misters to keep them from overheating and let’s not forget to mention the unconditional love from a child.

What are some ways your business can use the meat? I have seen some who purchase the animal and then operate through the fair buyback program. There is the obvious reason, because you can fill the freezer for the year and eat it. I have seen people split the cost and share. I have seen some who donate all the meat to a local food pantry. 

In my daughter Hailey’s case last year, she hit the jackpot. Not only did 4-H motivate her to get a job doing something she loves and can learn from by working at Homesteaders Ranch and Feed. She  was overjoyed when her whole work family showed up at the fair to support kids, like they usually do but was overjoyed when they were the ones to purchase her nearly 1,500-pound market steer, named Cowboy. 

On top of having a buyer that she knows and is so thankful to have her life, she was shocked when they shared the meat with their employees, too. She is not one to shy away from telling everyone how tasty her Cowboy burger is. In her case she got see the business impact full circle.

If you take the time to come to the Lincoln County Fair Livestock Auction in Eureka on Aug. 24, I promise you will not be disappointed. I highly encourage you to stop and talk to youth in the barns for a while, ask them questions, read their educational posters, learn about their projects and I know that you to will see why it’s not a risk to invest in our youth’s future by supporting the Lincoln County Fair. 

And after the fair stick around for the action-packed Bull Thing rodeo.

I know I have rambled on about livestock auction, but I just want to highlight some of the other project our 4-H youth are involved in. You can also take in the small animal show with poultry and rabbits. Kids have project choices of things like, cooking, photography, archery and other shooting sports, quilting, woodworking, canning, dog training, vet science, sport fishing, livestock judging, cooking contests, public speaking and more.

You get the idea there is a lot for them to choose from.

Thank you for taking the time to read and please share all the great things 4-H has to offer our youth. We need more businesses to show support to these amazing kids by purchasing these kids livestock projects. 

Our fair is growing rapidly and 2024 Lincoln County Fair will bring you more than 100 hogs, 27 lambs, 25 steers and two market goats. 

Thanks for supporting 4-H and see you at the fair!

Kara Matthews, South 40 4-H Club Organizational Leader