A Notch Above shows the power of 4-H in Grand County
When school’s out for the summer, 4-H members around Grand County are working hard and having fun with their projects, whether they are 1,000-pound market steers or a waddling of ducks. Kids in 4-H start their mornings and end their days in the barn, tending to their animals and getting ready for their big day in the arena. They build jumps for exercising floppy-eared goats or halter-train gentle giants — steers and horses.
Grand County is home to nine 4-H clubs, including Granby’s A Notch Above, with seven kids involved in projects including livestock, archery, photography and leathercraft. The Notch Above kids carry on the essential tradition of agriculture, sometimes lost in today’s technological society.
Mea Miller, the group’s secretary, joined 4-H because she wanted to be around animals and to learn responsibility. She raises market goats, market sheep and ducks, and she says she feels the program gave her the leadership skills she needs when she volunteers outside of 4-H.
Both Mea and Madison Mullinex, A Notch Above’s president, are junior counselors at the Granby Recreational Department, where they volunteer their time to work with younger kids. Madison teaches younger kids archery, her favorite 4-H project.
Each 4-H’er is responsible for presenting their project, which requires self-confidence, professionalism and showmanship. They also complete record books, which chronicle their projects throughout the year. When the tight-knit group isn’t not working, they’re playing.
“Every month we all get together for dinner and a meeting,” said parent Mari Miller. “It’s fun and brings a whole new element to a meeting. It’s not boring, you’re there to eat and have a good time.”
The 4H’ers are always up for adventures. They enjoy different events each month, like sledding days (the colder and snowier, the better, they say), fundraisers, or participating in town parades. They often travel together to stock shows and rodeos, including as far as Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Madison explained events like these have expanded her social horizons.
“My favorite part about 4-H is meeting new people. It’s helped me build relationships with a lot of people I hadn’t thought I’d have relationships with,” she said.
4-H’ers also learn the importance of community service. In the past, they’ve hosted clean-up days along Wolford Reservoir. This month, they’ll spiff up Middle Park fairgrounds.
“Even kids who aren’t in 4-H have come to help us,” Taylor Martinson said.
The social aspect of the group pushes introverted 4-H’ers out of their comfort zone. Instead of sitting at home, they get involved with other students who share their interests.
Treasurer Blake Terryberry and member Cooper Martinson both enjoy their shooting sports group, which meets once a week to practice gun sports and archery.
“It’s fun, it works on your social skills,” said Blake, who also raises market swine. “It puts me out there more (and) gives me more drive.”
Cooper added he enjoys the recreational aspect of shooting sports, plus has career goals in mind. He said that when he’s older, he plans to hunt and sell meat, as well as skin animals to sell their pelts.
Other 4-H’ers have found a life-long passion through their time in the club. Madison, who will be a senior next year, hopes to pursue medicine after graduation.
“I want to be a surgeon. I think 4-H has helped in that (by teaching me to be) a role model,” she said. “If I have a bunch of people around the operating table, I have to represent what it means to be a leader.”
These career paths, overlooked in contemporary classrooms, are essential to society. Without farms and ranches, there would be nothing to put on the table in the kitchens around the country. 4-H’ers who raise livestock projects learn firsthand what it takes to be part of the industry.
Slacking-off when raising 4-H animals not only means losing the chance of winning shows, but also neglecting the animals. Mea’s sheep, goats and ducks depend on her every day to feed and care for them, plus train them for their time to shine in the fair arena.
4-H has taught the kids to always go after their goals, even when life brings challenges.
“Don’t quit, don’t back down from an opportunity, because you may never get that one again,” said Cooper.
Members of A Notch Above are gearing up to accomplish their immediate goals this summer. Madison will head to Citizen Washington Focus, a gathering of high school 4-H’ers in Washington, D.C., where they will meet members of congress to learn about leadership and civic engagement, this week.
Others are readying their livestock for the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo, which will be in Kremmling from July 31 to Aug. 7.
Afterward, the Notch Above kids will head to the junior livestock sale on Aug. 6, where they’ll earn money for college and the purchase of future 4-H animals. Anyone wanting to support their futures can become a buyer by contacting the fair’s sale committee.
For 4-H’ers, the long hours they put into their projects are rewarded during the fair and sale. Even if they don’t win grand champion or go home with a purple ribbon, they’re surrounded by their friends (furry or otherwise), doing what they love most.
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