All of Us

All of Us

Sunday, July 31, 2005

4-H or We just aren't farm people

I'm in agreement with Lisa at

about what one of the H's in 4-H stands for! LOL

Last year we were part of a 4-H club that only did livestock. Three of my children got rabbit kits and wanted to show them. There were very few members showing rabbits, no teen leaders and almost no support or education of any kind. We had several friends that were members of this club. Despite the absence of any assistance, J. and I. took second place in showmanship for their age groups. This year we joined a different club in our area. This club has a very active rabbit group, which has its pros and cons. There were many more opportunities for learning and mentorship, and this group also visits a nursing home regularly as a service component. Unfortunately, this group does not do much work on non-livestock projects either, like knitting, sewing, growing vegetables, woodworking, cooking, etc.

To be truthful, however, learning everything there is to know about rabbits is somewhat boring, and IMO, rather pointless. I shuttled them to multiple practice sessions and rabbit group meetings that they didn't want to attend, because they didn't know anyone. Showmanship consists of posing your rabbit in a certain way and then examining all parts of its body. You are demonstrating that you have memorized this routine and that you have practiced with your rabbit enough that it is used to being handled and will behave somewhat cooperatively. After you perform the physical examination of your rabbit, then the judge asks you a question or two about rabbits (feeding, breeding, illnesses, fur types, body types, etc.) to determine your level of knowledge. The rabbit examination is done in silence and the judge asks the questions so quietly that no one else can hear, so other competitors aren't overhearing a question they may be asked. This makes for an absolutely scintillating event for the audience. Even when your own child is performing, it's boring, and to watch kids of all ages do it over and over for 4 hours makes me want to beg for mercy.

In the afternoon, there is breed competition, where the rabbits are examined to determine which are the best specimens of their breeds. What is the purpose of owning the "best" rabbit? Since rabbits can produce a litter every six weeks, they are not like racehorses. Breeders do track geneaology, although I'm not sure why, since in a year's time hundreds of offspring could have been born to any rabbit. I have trouble taking a lot of this seriously.

I's rabbit died during the winter, and she didn't enjoy caring for it and didn't really want to participate in 4-H again so we didn't get her another one. Shortly before fair, L's rabbit developed sore hocks, fur mites and a runny nose, which would disqualify it from participating. He could have used J's rabbit to compete with, but he decided he'd rather not participate at all. This left only J participating in the fair this year. The Friday night before the week of the fair, the she had to go to set up the barn. Monday night of fair week she had to bring the rabbit to officially check it in. Wednesday was the competition, which lasted from 9am-5pm. On any day that she wasn't at the fairgrounds, she had to ask someone to feed her rabbit for her. The fairgrounds are a half hour drive away from our house. Friday night at the end of fair week, she had to go bring the rabbit home (they MUST stay until the end of fair) and help with barn cleanup. Several times, I got her a ride out to the fairgrounds with another family that pass right by our house. They are very nice and completely trustworthy but she didn't want to ride with them, so a lot of whining ensued.

Amazingly, despite all of this, J. took first place in showmanship in her age group! She received a large trophy for this and was then qualified to participate in a championship round, where the champions of each age group competed against one another.

By the end of the week, neither J. or I wanted anything to do with 4-H. We were exhausted.

I have concluded that there are farming and non-farming families. To continue on in 4-H we would need to be ready to take rabbits to the next level, raising more of them, breeding, etc. or move on to a larger animal. Most of the families who are really active with livestock don't play sports 3 days a week, take music lessons, etc. We don't really have the time or inclination to immerse ourselves in animal care any more deeply than we have already. I actually had an interesting conversation with a really nice woman from another club, who volunteered that she has 5 kids ranging from age 3 to highschool. Her family is seriously into cattle, showing not only at 4-H but at fairs around the country. At this point, her oldest son has a business buying, selling and breeding cattle. This woman agreed with me, that it wasn't possible to participate in other activities that were very time consuming and raise animals. It is also much more "doable" because it is the entire family's hobby. I asked her what would happen if one child wanted to pursue another activity. She turned that question over to her teen daughter, who was standing nearby. The daughter told me that she could be in any activity she wanted, but that it would be hard to be in something else and that she wanted to do what the rest of her family was doing.

I don't think we'll be participating in 4-H next year unless I can find a club that emphasizes the non-livestock aspects of 4-H.


Lisa said...

Congrats to J (and you, lol). Emma does strictly non- animal projects and it can still be overwhelming. She has friends whose mother's must be far more energetic than I. They do all the large animals plus about 10-12 non animal projects. I'm tired just thinking of it.

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