Program gets youths too young for 4-H preliminary info on showing livestock

Staff Writer

WEST FRIENDSHIP, Md. (Aug. 4, 2015) — Youth in Howard County, Md., of pre-4-H age with an interest in livestock and the art of showing them, have had the opportunity to learn and participate, thanks to a former 4-Her.
Rhonda Patrick Winkler was born and raised on her family’s dairy farm in Western Howard County, and said she’s using what she’s learned growing up to help other children get involved with agriculture and livestock.
A board member of the Howard County Farm Bureau, Winkler started the Howard County Farm Bureau Junior Showmanship program, two years ago to prepare kids to get involved with agriculture and livestock before they are of age to join the 4-H program.
“Our program is for six, seven, eight and nine year olds,” Winker said. “It gives them the opportunity to get familiar with the animals, their care and feeding and what equipment they will need, and decide if they want to have a livestock project before they are old enough to join 4-H and before the family invests any money into the project. And it gives them a hands-on experience and we encourage them to go on and to join 4-H and become Clovers.”
Howard Feaga, Howard County Farm Bureau president, said the program easily fits into Farm Bureau’s mission.
“The purpose of Farm Bureau is to represent and promote agriculture and develop future leaders, and we feel this program does just that,” he said.
There were 35 participants in the program in 2014 and 34 in 2015. Some of the participants have older siblings who have been in 4-H, but some have little or no prior experience with livestock, Winkler said.
With Winkler, there are about 24 other volunteers who help the kids work with dairy calves, swine, lambs and goats. Beef cattle are not in the program since beef calves are not shown individually until the animals are much larger.
“We go over the basics with them but they get so much more from working with and learning about the animals. I would say it’s been a huge success,”  Winkler said.
Comments from others who have been associated with the program bear out Winkler’s enthusiasm. Stanley Miller, whose daughters have participated in the program since it’s inception, calls it “Awesome.”
It leads to more knowledge about agriculture, Miller said, and gives them a glimpse into 4-H, and even agriculture, down the road.
“It’s an awesome experience for the kids and the parents as well,” he said. “It’s exiting and I encourage anyone to at least stop and watch it at the fair.”
Heather Evans, who, like her mother, Patty Bowman Carroll, is a veteran 4-Her and is equally enthused about the program.
“The whole purpose is to learn, and have fun doing it,” Carroll said.
The program is held in the two months leading up to the Howard County Fair with a show scheduled on Aug. 8 at 1 p,m.
“There are 24 classes shown in two rings at a time, in a two hour window,” Winkler said. “There are real judges, one for each species. They get ribbons and a premium, and a free (red) tee shirt with Howard County Farm Bureau printed on the front, and “Jr. Showmanship” on the back.
“Our program gives children who don’t have access to ag the option to get into agriculture. The kids learn so much and they are encouraged to go on to Clovers and then into 4-H and even if they don’t, it gives them an experience they will remember.”