4-H kids won’t let pandemic slow them down

Friday, July 31, 2020
Abbie Watts and Kelly Jensen before the poultry show at the county fair.

Local 4-H members did not sit idle during the worst of the pandemic. Their creativity did not wane, nor did their dedication and discipline for their animals and projects. They worked hard toward the BV County Fair, not even knowing if it would happen. But the fair did go on in July, and they were thankful to show their hard work and be with their 4-H friends again.

They may be young, but these 4-H’ers possess a diversity of talents and raise a diversity of animals. One local 4-H member is 17-year-old Abbie Watts. “Due to school being closed in late March it gave me more time to work on static projects and to work with my animals,” she said. At the fair, she showed poultry (chickens, turkey and ducks), rabbits, goats (miniature, breeding and meat), and swine (pen of three, individual and breeding gilt).

4-H Members compete in a variety of animal and static projects. Her animal entries resulted in receiving several grand champion awards. “In Static, I made a USA with fireworks string art project which won Grand Champion in Creative Arts and will go on to State. I had two photos that were also considered for State,” Abbie said. Static projects generally include home improvement, photography, horticulture, clothing, creative arts and leadership.

Ashley Hinkeldey and her pen of 3 swine.

Abbie’s mother, Kristen Watts, is co-leader of the Alta 4-H Club, Maple Valley Agriculturists (MVA). Marc Hinners is the other leader, and they encouraged members to continue with their projects, despite COVID-19.

“With the uncertainty of the pandemic it was not clear if we would have a fair or not,” Kristen said. “As more events canceled we told our 4-H’ers to plan like we would have a fair, even if it had to be a virtual fair. Many of our members continued on in planning and preparing for fair, which showed by the number of entries at the fair.” The BV County Fair did go on, and she is very proud of the kids’ results.

MVA has 34 members from Alta, Spencer, Laurens and other neighboring areas. The club usually holds monthly meetings, but this year was different. They used Facebook and e-mails to relay important upcoming deadlines and dates. “February was our last in person meeting,” she said. “Our March meeting was postponed due to weather and by April we went into quarantine. Things we would have normally done in April would have been helping serve at the fund-raising pancake breakfast for the 4-H endowment. That event was canceled.”

Bree Anderson

Abbie and the others forged ahead with their projects. This is her 8th year of 4-H, and she had several fair entries. In static displays, her entries were home improvement, creative arts, photography, preprepared food and egg show. In her animal entries, she chose them because, “I have always enjoyed working with each of the animals species I have showed. My favorite is swine & goat.”

In addition to her wins already mentioned, in poultry she had the Champion Crossbred Bantam. In rabbits, Overall Champion & Reserve Crossbred Rabbits. In goats, Overall Champion Miniature Goat, Overall Reserve Meat Goat and Reserve Sr. Showmanship for Goat. In swine, Grand Champion Pen of Three, Grand Champion Commercial Market Swine, Overall Reserve Commercial Breeding Gilt and Reserve Sr. Showmanship for Swine. She also advanced into the Large Overall Showmanship where an entrant shows sheep, swine, beef & horse.

In static displays, her barnyard scrapbook won a Reserve, and in the egg show her dozen brown layer eggs won Grand Champion.

Breyer and Bree Anderson

Some of Abbie’s 4-H plans were altered this year. “I have showed sheep in the past, however we were not sure if there would be a place to sell them at, so we opted not to have sheep this year. None of my animals were sold at fair. The goats, chickens and rabbits come home every year and are my pets and the swine are sold for butchering at a local locker.”

Things worked out pretty well for her in the end. “When they started canceling fairs and other events, I felt disappointed as showing my animals at the fair is one of my favorite things to do, but I understood why the fair may need to be canceled. I feel very lucky that we were able to have our county fair,” she said.

Abbie attends Alta-Aurelia High School and her family lives in Rural Storm Lake.

For another 4-H member, 13-year-old Breyer Anderson, the county fair brought some normalcy to her life. “4H this year was different, but it was nice to have something normal happen after everything else has gotten cancelled,” she said. “It was fun seeing my 4-H friends and I had a blast participating in Ag Olympics.”

This is her 4th year in 4-H, and she participated in several fair events. “I raised bunnies and chickens, and I did special swine and special beef,” Breyer said. “I also participated in leadership, clothing, horticulture, Pride of Iowa, visual arts, educational presentation, consumer management, nutrition, 4H poster, and STEM.”

Prior to the fair, she participated in the communication events and modeling which she said she really enjoyed. Breyer chose most of the projects because she had done them in the past and wanted to expand on what she already knew, but did consumer management and the 4-H poster to try something new.

She received several blue ribbons, and her leadership project is going to the state fair. She was awarded grand champion in the educational presentation, $15 challenge and clothing selection. She was awarded reserve in Pride of Iowa, and reserve grand champ showmanship in special swine.

“I had signed up to do special beef but due to COVID that got cancelled. My animals were not sold at the fair so I will continue to raise them for the fair next year.”

“Things that changed because of the pandemic is that you had to wear masks for some of the things, and not all of the activities that usually go on happened. Some of the challenges were getting the static projects done in time, because we didn’t know if we were even going to have the fair.”

Her sister, 10-year-old Bree, is in her first year of 4-H, and what a year for a first-timer. At the fair, she brought a rabbit, chicken, and did the special swine project. Her projects included clothing, static projects, Pride of Iowa, and the challenge recipe.

Prior to the fair, she did modeling and the Pride of Iowa. She was awarded grand champion and said she had so much fun. Bree chose her projects based on what her sister has done over the years, and selected her animals because she just likes being with them.

“My chicken got a grand champion in its class, the English breeds. I got a grand champion on my rabbit, and my pig got reserved champion in the Juniors class of special swine,” she said. “My animals did not get sold at the fair, and I am going to continue raising them.” She plans to bring them to the next upcoming fair.

Bree noticed some changes at the fair such as every barn had hand sanitizer bottles and some events were cancelled, including shows like the special beef which she had wanted to do.

“The fair was a great experience, and the 4H staff made it feel special! I had an amazing time and loved talking to the judges. I had so much fun meeting new people and participating in the Ag Olympics making memories that will last forever! To say the least, I am hooked and loved my first year of 4-H!”

Breyer and Bree attend Alta-Aurelia schools and live in Alta.

Kristen credits many who made the BV County Fair happen. “Our Buena Vista County 4-H Extension Staff and Fair Board are awesome!” she said. “They worked tirelessly on making the fair as safe as possible for everyone involved by being flexible, thinking outside of the box, changing scheduling and implementing new protocols. Kudos to all our 4-H families for doing what they do best and jumping right in with all the changes and making the fair work smoothly.”

The upcoming 4-H year starts in September when 4th graders are invited to meet and see what 4-H is all about, Kristen said.