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Hilary Risner
Courtesy Photo
Hilary Risner

Bringing 4-H key component of programs offered at stock show


News Staff - January 9, 2019

RAPID CITY, SD – How to keep the 4-H program relevant in a changing world sees the time-honored youth program sharpening its pencil to reach kids, both rural and urban, at a time when there are fewer and fewer farm kids in the mix.

Hilary Risner is a 4-H Youth Advisor who always looks forward to Black Hills Stock Show and the opportunities it provides.  “The main goal is to get kids excited about agriculture and get them exposed to the benefits of agriculture.  We use it every day but we don’t realize it. Like the food we eat.  Whether you’re a meat lover or a vegetarian, you still rely on agriculture.”

She continues, “There are so many components in our daily life that has some form of agriculture, whether it’s a by-product or farm direct.  We hope we can educate them so as they get older and grow up, they’re an informed consumer.”

Among the popular events is “Kids Take Stock….at Stock Show.”  Risner says the concept is a collaboration between ag industry partners and youth.  “We create stations at the Civic Center that relate in some form or another to agriculture. Different commodity and producer groups facilitate those stations.  They instruct the kids in a brief, hands-on, interactive lesson about a particular segment of agriculture.”

Hundreds of youth participate in the exercise that takes approximately one hour as the kids stop at six stations located throughout the Civic Center. Not only do the kids come away with more information, so too, do the instructors.  All that feedback is developed and used in school curriculum.

“We create curriculum with each of those stations,” explains Risner.  “That material is distributed to teachers who can incorporate it into their daily classroom curriculum.”

Risner is also excited about a recent program – “Youth for the Quality Care of Animals.”  The basis is teaching youth about animal quality assurance measures that includes animal safety and healthy environments.  “There are activists groups that cast a bad light on animal agriculture.  This program helps to inform youth involved in animal production about the varied practices that insure animal health and well-being.  That in turn gives them the knowledge and the tools to counter false information.”

The 4-H Advisor sees it as one more way to build connections between production agriculture and those who live in larger communities where many county fairs and livestock exhibitions are hosted. “That’s where there are a lot of general public walking through the barns,” observes Risner.  “For the kids to have a solid knowledge base to be able to have that conversation with the average spectator and consumer is really important.”

To find out more about 4-H programs and opportunities in your area, contact a local Extension office.

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