HUDSON, N.Y. — It has been a tough year for kids, especially 4-H kids. They look forward to monthly 4-H club meetings; county, regional and state contests and trips; and, of course, the county fair!
This 4-H club year began on October 1, 2019 and everything was going smoothly until COVID-19 hit and things change. But that does not mean that, without the opportunity to meet as they normally did, 4-H members were not learning and practicing their project skills.
Ten youth who are enrolled in the 4-H market livestock project, part of the 4-H Youth Development Program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties, continued to feed, clean, care for and work with their market animals. They had to – the animals were purchase in February so they could be raised and ready to be sold at the annual 4-H Livestock Sale on Labor Day, the last day of the Columbia County Fair.
The 4-H Livestock Sale has been a key aspect of the local 4-H livestock project for 28 years. It has expanded not only the real life lessons of the program but has helped grow the understanding of the animal agriculture process as a whole for 4-H members. This program was founded by Phil Trowbridge, owner of Trowbridge Farms, just one year after he took leadership of the Columbia County Feeders 4-H Club. The club’s volunteer leader is now Miranda Trowbridge, his daughter-in-law. Continuing with his philanthropy and support of 4-H Phil quickly offered up the use of his farm as the site for both the 4-H Market Livestock Show and the 4-H Livestock Sale. The show, closed to the public, was held a week before the sale, so the 4-H members could hear from our outstanding judge, Jerry Stevens, how their animal stacked up to others in typical salability.
The sale on September 2, attended by only the 4-H members and their family, the show volunteers and the bidders, was also held at Trowbridge Farms – just as the clouds parted from a rainy day. Everyone was in good spirits and there was no lack of jovial bidder banter, encouraged by our perennial ring stewards, Mike Shanahan and Phil Trowbridge. Our expert auctioneer, Ryan McLenithan, was able to bring each bidding session to a positive close, exhibiting the amazing amount of community support for these budding young farmers. Every one of the nine 4-H members had spent time before the sale visiting with prospective bidders – selling both themselves and their animals – to ensure there would be plenty of action at bidding time.
Something like the 4-H Livestock Sale, and the 4-H market livestock project as a whole, do not just happen. Joining Trowbridge as members of the 4-H Livestock Work Group are Miranda Trowbridge, Alison Stark, Ilene Stark, Rob Maher, and Jolene Pirrone. The work group members may have children currently in the program, their children may have aged out of the program or they may have children coming up to start in the program. No matter where they stand, the volunteers’ most notable quality is that they all have the desire to see that local young people have the opportunity for hands-on learning in agriculture. (By the way, they are always looking for more individuals to join them in this quest.) They had only the kids in mind as they worked together and creatively to help the project culminate in such a positive manner.
All of this would not be possible without the support of our community. We had many bidders in attendance – individuals and representatives of local businesses. Many have participated in all 28 sales while some joined us for the first time! Several buyers donated the animal they purchase back into the sale and when the animal was auctioned off again, all of those proceeds go directly back into our 4-H Animal Science Program. Two buyers also donated the meat from those 4-H project animals to local food banks. Anyone who knows 4-H knows that community service is a hallmark of 4-H membership and having our buyers showcase that and lead by example is a true gift to our youth.
This year’s sale had 22 lots – five steers, six hogs, nine lambs and two chickens. The total received from buyers was almost $42,000. Often, the price paid was over the market average as bidders looked to support and encourage the youth to continue with their project learning. The 4-H members receive 95% of that total, with the remaining 5% going to CCE and the 4-H Livestock Program, after they write their thank you notes and deliver the packaged meat to their buyers. The 4-H members, like any farmer, will use those funds to pay their project debt which could include the purchase price of the animal, vet bills, feed costs, etc. Most use the remainder to purchase animals for next year and/or save for things like their first vehicle or college expenses. Anyone who would like to see the animals that were sold, and learn about what motivates these kids to participate can check out the 4-H Livestock Sale webpage, http://ccecolumbiagreene.org/4-h-and-youth-development/4-h-agriculture/4-h-livestock/4-h-livestock-sale-1.
Within the Columbia & Greene 4-H program we strive to make sure our youth are not only compassionate and responsible raisers of animals but are also well educated consumers. We believe, by giving our 4-H members opportunities to excel and connect with industry professionals in all aspects of their 4-H careers, that we are setting them up to truly succeed in their future endeavors.
We look forward to doing this all again, back at the Columbia County Fair on Labor Day 2021! For more information please contact Linda Tripp, 4-H Educator, at 518-318-1193 or Lke2@cornell.edu. We can’t wait to see you at the fair!
Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities. The programs provided by this organization are partially funded by monies received from the Counties of Columbia and Greene.
4-H is New York’s only youth development program directly connected to the technological advances and the latest research at Cornell University. 4-H participants learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through hands-on projects in three primary program areas: science and technology; healthy living; and citizenship. To find out more about 4-H and youth programs in Columbia and Greene Counties, contact us at 518-828-3346 or Columbiagreene@cornell.edu or visit our website, www.ccecolumbiagreene.org . You can also “Like” us on Facebook…Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene Counties.
–Linda Tripp, 4-H Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension Columbia and Greene Counties
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