By CARL E. FEATHER - firstname.lastname@example.org
From rabbits to goats, from sewing to archery, the many program areas of 4-H in Ashtabula County were displayed at a carnival Tuesday evening.
The fourth annual event was held at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds Expo Building, where more than 300 youngsters and adults came out to discover 4-H and have some fun.
For many of those attending, it was preaching to the choir. Kinsman resident Adam Chambers, who grew up on an Ashtabula County dairy farm, was a 4-H club member and his sons, Cody, 12, and Collin, 9, are in dairy beef feeders clubs.
“They learn a lot in 4-H,” said Adam Chambers. “They learn responsibility.”
“Mostly, it is learning by doing,” said Jenna Hoyt, extension educator for the county’s 4-H program. “It’s not classroom work. They are dealing with animals and working with kids who have the same passion they have. They learn life skills, like public speaking and communication skills.”
Hoyt said the county had 52 chartered 4-H clubs with 800 members in 2012. The number of clubs and members remains fairly consistent, but the program areas and projects keep evolving. For example, while sewing clubs have been a mainstay of 4-H for decades, a new twist on sewing, “embellish it,” helps members design and make their own clothing.
Last year, the county’s program offered a Summer Science Academy where 194 youth learned about robotics and rocketry. The Robert S. Morrison Foundation funded the academy.
Animals have always been associated with 4-H, and there are many clubs that focus on poultry, rabbits, feeder beef and goats. Jaizzi, an Australian shepherd, represented the canine clubs and projects. Amanda Santana, 15, talked about the benefits of belonging to a 4-H club with a canine focus.
“We learn about obedience, how to handle a dog,” she said. “The dog learns agility, jumping over things and going through them.”
In her sixth year as a 4-H member, Amanda also does horse projects.
“4-H is a lot of fun,” she said. “When you do an animal project, you get to know your animal and bond with it. You meet a lot of good people and you make good friends.”
Hoyt said youngsters in kindergarten and at least 5 years old can join the Cloverbuds program. 4-H begins at age 8 and third grade.
Youngsters build upon the knowledge and skills they acquire each year. Kayla Sheets of Pierpont has been in the Sheffield Target Masters for seven years, almost as long as the club itself has been around. Adviser David Silva said new members learn the basics of gun safety in the first year. The following year they learn proper handling and cleaning of a firearm. From there on, they work on marksmanship and various gun-related projects.
Kayla, for example, crafted a gun stock from wood.
“It was beautiful,” Silva said of her finished firearm. “It was a really unique piece.”
The rifle club was not recruiting members Tuesday evening. Silva said the club has reached a saturation point with 17 members, three of whom are female. Finding enough ammunition for target practice is going to be difficult because there is a shortage brought on by hoarding. Silva said gun owners are concerned that lawmakers will clamp down on firearms sales, and they are buying up guns and ammunition while they are still available.
A scion of the Target Masters is a new archery club that already has seven members. Jessica Bailey, whose husband, Kevin, is adviser to the rifle club, serves as adviser.
Hoyt said the carnival is the centerpiece of Ashtabula County 4-H Week, March 3-9. Earlier in the day, Ashtabula County Commissioners presented a proclamation to representatives from several area clubs. Several of the youngsters brought their projects into the commissioners’ second-story meeting room — the miniature horses took the elevator.
For more information on county 4-H clubs and programs, call 576-9008, ext. 105, or send email to Hoyt.email@example.com.