4-H and sheep industry save the future of farming
By Andrea Seitz, Neely Gaddy, Ayla Oneal, Courtney Ransom, Char’Lesa Tadlock, Destiny Winkler
Fourth Year Animal and Dairy Science Students at MSU
Capstone in ADS 4421
STARKVILLE, MS- Recently the question, “What does 4-H bring to our youths’ development?” has become popular. Uniformed individuals often have the false belief that 4-H “desensitizes” children to the mistreatment of animals, which is far from the truth.
Two sheep at a local producer’s farm in Oktibbeha County.
Char’Lesa Tadlock, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University, comments, “children that are active in 4-H gain a better understanding and appreciation of the sheep industry. I feel that kids who aren’t involved in 4-H view sheep as cute animals being eaten, whereas 4-H kids understand the importance of sheep harvesting… and take pride in knowing how they contribute to improving the industry.”
In an interview with Will Christiansen, the son of a local sheep producer and a participant in 4-H, he states that sheep are “not really pets; they’re meant to be livestock”
4-H is a youth program, open to young men and women, between the ages of five and nineteen. The purpose of the 4-H club is to provide an opportunity for the youth of our nation to develop skills and gain knowledge that will help them become “productive and contributing members of society.” (USDA.gov)
A more appropriate term for the efforts of 4-H is education, not desensitization. 4-H promotes responsible animal husbandry and ethical treatment of animals. It also promotes the consumption of locally sourced, fresh products that are very rarely seen in supermarkets.
“Without an interest in agriculture from our youth, how will our society obtain food in the future when the current farmers are aged out of this industry?” questioned Andrea Seitz, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University.
Nancy Christiansen, a local sheep producer whose sons participate in 4-H, states that “4-H and FFA help to train our youth so that they will be competent farmers and ranchers for years to come. These children love their animals, but they also understand that they are livestock not pets. Yes, it is hard to say goodbye to an animal that they have put so much time into. Learning that there must be someone responsible for feeding an ever growing population is the other side of the loss that they feel.”
In light of the agricultural generation gap, now, more than ever, there is a need for educating the younger men and women of this country on the importance of being involved in agriculture. Because of 4-H, the youth across our nation are steadily gaining skills, knowledge, and hands-on experience in the agricultural field.
When asked about his experience with 4-H that has turned into a sheep producing business, Will Christiansen stated, “I’d like to keep raising [sheep] and pass it on to other people so they can have the same opportunities that I had”.
Will Christiansen looking after his sheep.
Alya O’Neal, a fourth year Animal and Dairy Science student at Mississippi State University, commented that “the sheep industry coincides with 4H very well. Since the species is a smaller species compared to swine or cattle, it allows younger children to be involved and teaches them how to relate to animals as well as other children. These children learn at a young age how sheep play a role in their everyday life as well as learn to care for animals and develop a sense of responsibility.”
More recently, studies on the effects of 4-H on developing character have shown that members have the opportunity to gain: confidence, a larger knowledge of nutrition and health benefits of certain food groups, skills in conflict resolution, and a deeper understanding of record keeping. Also, research has revealed that 4-H helps young adults in their everyday life by encouraging members to be “more motivated to help others; develop skills in leadership, public speaking, self-esteem, communication and planning; and make lasting friendships.” (USDA.gov)