ELLICOTTVILLE — Members of the 4-H are busy with programs throughout the year, even in the winter months. Many of the activities are in preparation for upcoming events during the summer months, including fair week.
With all the programs offered, Abigail Luzier, 4-H youth development educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cattaraugus County, said the goal is to make the kids well-rounded citizens of the community.
She said the 4-H educators focus on the “Head, Heart, Hands and Health” aspect, which is represented by the four “Hs” in 4-H. According to the National 4-H Council, they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.
“We try to incorporate that ‘hands-on learning’ and the different ideas that go with it,” Luzier said. “With Hands, you think of teamwork, self-motivation; Health, personal safety, stress management and discipline. The Head involves critical thinking and problem-solving. Heart goes with sharing, social skills, cooperation and communication. We try to incorporate that in all of our programs.”
Some people might think winter is a slow time for 4-H members, but a full schedule is offered to keep the kids on track and ready to compete in various competitions throughout the year.
“Right now, a lot of the kids are getting their fair projects ready,” Luzier said. “Those raising beef and dairy steers have already been working on their project. They’ve been grooming them and training them to lead.”
A lot of the members start their projects either right after the fair or in October and November, she explained. The kids who do the smaller livestock — like pigs, sheep and goats — are just beginning their projects because some of those animals are just being born.
Back in November, the 4-H office had a “Public Presentation Award Trip” to the Erie Zoo. Luzier said, to qualify for the trip, members have to do a public presentation at the county-level and be selected to go to either the district competition or the regional competition, which they have to attend.
Then, they are eligible to go on the award trip.
“They can pick any topic they are interested in so, for example, a lot of our horse exhibitors have to do a presentation. They can choose a horse topic, or a lot of kids pick a sport they are interested in,” she said. “Some of the older kids focus more on a career path and talk about what they want to do in college or after high school.”
According to Luzier, the presentation can be public speaking with a PowerPoint presentation, a demonstration on how to make cookies or how to tie different types of knots properly.
The county-level public presentations will take place at the Otto Immanuel Lutheran Church Feb. 16. This is required for horse members and it’s an educational opportunity for non-horse members.
Archery is the focus this time of year because the members can’t get outside during the winter months, Luzier. She said the kids can go to S & S Archery, in Springville, or the Hideaway Archery, in South Dayton, on scheduled dates. When the weather is nice, the kids can go to the Ellicottville Sportsmen’s Club where they can become certified in Shotgun.
An Open Sewing Workshop is coming up Jan. 25 at the extension office. Luzier said it’s for the kids to bring the projects they’re working on to prepare for the District Fashion Review scheduled for June 1. She said the Ellicottville office will be hosting the event for the district that covers Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chautauqua, Erie, Niagara and Orleans counties.
Luzier said the knowledge-based Dairy Bowl and Horse Bowl competitions are popular. She said they are Jeopardy-style quiz bowls, so they have moderators who ask questions and then the kids buzz in to answer those questions and get points.
The next county Horse Bowl is Feb. 23 at the extension center, and the Regional Dairy Bowl, hosted by Wyoming County, is March 2.
Pheasant Rearing is a favorite project for many 4-Hers who want to help meet the demand for pheasant hunting opportunities. The extension office will hold an information night, Feb. 28.
Ag Literacy week is coming in March. Luzier said it’s an annual event they do with local elementary schools, libraries and home school groups. She said New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) sponsors a book every year with an agricultural theme.
“This year’s theme is ‘On the Farm at the Market’ by G. Brian Karas, so it focuses on producers growing their items, then taking them to the farmers’ market and seeing the consumers who come through there,” she said.
The reading program helps kids to better understand the agricultural industry and how food gets to their table, Luzier explained. Although some schools offer an agricultural program, many in the county don’t, so it helps get awareness out to the kids.
Luzier said they appreciate what the 4-H club leaders do with the kids. To thank the leaders for all they did last year, Luzier and Carrie Busekist, who is also a 4-H Educator, presented them with tickets to the Festival of Lights at the Hamburg Fairgrounds.
(Contact press reporter Deb Everts at email@example.com)