Ag-vantageous

Members, parents say 4-H about more than raising animals

After eight years of Moffat County 4-H himself, Scott Shaffer said having his daughter participate was a good idea.

She seems to think so, too.

"My mom thought it would keep me in Maybell and keep me out of trouble and out of town," Krista Shaffer, 14, said.

Has it worked?

"So far," she said.

And while keeping busy with 4-H is a good deterrent from trouble-making, Shaffer said that's not why she stays in it. She likes the break she gets from schoolwork.

"It's a lot more hands-on," she said. "You get to spend a lot more time outside."

Her friend, Bethany Phillips, 13, whom Krista recruited into 4-H last year, agreed.

"You don't just have to sit there and listen to people talk and write on paper," Phillips said.

But that doesn't mean 4-H isn't a lot of work.

Shaffer said she spends four to five hours a day working with her lambs, starting in May, gearing them up for the big show -- the Moffat County Fair -- in August.

She rides her show horse one or two hours nearly every day all year long.

"Just depends on how much homework I have," Shaffer said.

She keeps a sense of humor about juggling a busy schedule at Craig Middle School and a lot of ranch work for 4-H, though.

"There's not a whole lot more to do in Maybell," Shaffer said.

And all that work has its rewards.

At last year's county fair, Shaffer won grand champion in Western riding, reserve champion in English riding and reserve champion in showmanship. She also took the all-around high point award.

(My friends) "don't understand," Shaffer said. "They think it's work. It's really not, though. And it all pays off in the end.

"You get to see how other people have progressed and see how much you've progressed from the last year."

Alisa Comstock, 4-H director, said that's true of all of the 4-H offerings in Moffat County. Although many people still relate 4-H to its beginnings as an agriculture and home economics club, Comstock said the organization offers many other projects.

Those projects include model rocketry, foreign cooking, knitting, sewing, cake decorating, dog obedience, child care, small engines, wood working, leather craft, visual arts and computers, to name a few.

Comstock, who was enrolled in 4-H for one year as a youth, took the director post in June after a stint substitute teaching.

She has a Bachelor of Science in animal science from the University of Wyoming and Master of Science in equine reproductive physiology from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.

"It just was a great opportunity to continue working with kids in another area of their life, and it also ties in with my background," Comstock said.

She now leads the local group, which boasted 266 youth members last year in more than 50 programs.

She said the skills youths learn through 4-H are invaluable.

"I think it's the responsibility they gain by accomplishing projects, whether they finish a sweater or raise an animal, and the journey they take to finish the model rocket," Comstock said. "It's the ups and downs involved in the project. It gives them more skills to add to their life."

Scott Shaffer said he appreciates the social skills his daughter gains from the program.

"She meets a lot of kids from other counties that are her age, and it just broadens her knowledge base of other people," he said. "She also gets to see younger kids and help them. But then she gets to meet older kids who help her.

"It's kind of like a little family in a roundabout way. Maybe not a little family."

With more than four million current 4-H members in 80 countries, 4-H has grown from its origins more than a century ago to be America's largest out-of-school education program for boys and girls, according to the program's Colorado Web site.

Even so, Krista Shaffer said, 4-H is about spending time with her family and helping the community through service projects.

"You get to hang out with all your buddies," she said. "You get to do stuff with other kids you wouldn't normally get to do."

Maybe it's as simple as that.

For more information on 4-H, visit www.colorado4h.org. To sign up or volunteer to be a project leader, call the Moffat County extension office, located at 539 Barclay St., at 824-9180.

The four H's:

Head

Heart

Hands

Health

4-H pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.

Ways to get involved:

  • Cloverbuds is a group of 5- to 7-year-olds who meet weekly to learn about projects and try some out themselves "to get the kids interested in being in 4-H and help them so they can learn about it and figure out what their interests are before they join traditional 4-H," 4-H Director Alisa Comstock said.
  • 4-H is designed for 8- to 18-year-old youths, as of Jan. 1. Projects range from livestock to cooking and leather craft to computers. "It helps them gain leadership skills, citizenship, responsibility," Comstock said. "They get to interact and socialize with other kids and do fun activities they may not otherwise get to do."
  • 4-H Council is 4-H's governing body composed of representatives from 4-H clubs who meet monthly. "They're there to help plan county-wide 4-H activities and assist in carrying those activities out," Comstock said.
  • Fair board is a group of community members appointed by the Moffat County commissioners. They plan and execute all parts of the Moffat County Fair, held each August at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
  • 4-H Foundation organizes the livestock sale at the fair each year. It uses money raised to pay for 4-H and FFA trips and educational programs. Members serve until they choose to step down. Then applications are accepted for new board members.

In their own words

"Four-H isn't just cows and plows anymore. We can do just about any project someone wants to take on."

-- Elisa Shackelton, director of the Colorado State University Moffat County Extension Office

"I really encourage all kids to try 4-H. There are endless things to do, and you have tons of fun learning."

-- 4-Her Abigail Gonzales

"They meet new kids and build relationships. Four-H helps kids grow and mature."

-- Robin Lambert, parent of a 4-Her

"It teaches me a lot about respect for animals. It teaches me how to take care of them."

-- 4-Her Alexi Goodnow

"I'll always be involved in 4-H. I enjoy giving something back to the community. Even living in the city, you can take shooting sports or cake decorating. It's a great program."

-- 4-Her Anna Lou Velasquez

"I enjoy watching children compete and be successful with their projects at the fair."

-- 4-H Director Alisa Comstock

Source: Previously published Craig Daily Press stories

Did you know?

  • There are more than 4 million 4-H members in 80 countries
  • The first recorded 4-H activity was in 1898 at Cornell University.
  • Some famous 4-H alumni include: Roy Rogers, John Denver, Dolly Parton, Orville Redenbacher and Reba McIntyre.

Source: North Dakota State University Extension Service


Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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