4-H Junior Livestock PrograM
The Junior Livestock Program in Santa Fe County is alive a well! Despite the fact that the majority of the population lives in urban areas there are still many members that focus on agricultural related projects. Members participated in numerous activities throughout the year that developed their skills related to their project work. Members that participated in youth livestock projects learned the importance of understanding the high standards of our food systems. More importantly these exhibitors developed life skills that they can use throughout their lives.
Since 2011 Santa Fe County exhibitors have taken home several top honors at fairs throughout the state and even nationally. This includes Grand Champions, Reserve Grand Champions, Breed Champions, and Division Champions. In 2011 less than 10 percent of exhibitors from Santa Fe County 4-H were placing high enough in state and regional shows to sell their livestock through the Junior Livestock Auction. By 2014, 50 percent of these exhibitors were placing high enough at these shows to sell their livestock through the Junior Livestock Auctions and in 2018 this number increased to 70 percent.
Members’ work with the public educates our community not only on the importance of safe and responsible food production, but on the importance of our 4-H youth programs in general. This strong connection with the community can be seen through the increase of dollars generated through the Santa Fe County Fair Junior Livestock Auction. From 2011-2018 the auction increased 195 percent. This revenue went directly back to the exhibitors and was re-invested in a number of ways. One exhibitor said, “Sale dollars were important to me because it helped with my purchase of animals for the following year. I could use my sale money to buy better animals for the next year. The sale became especially important in my later years because I was able to take all the money I earned throughout my years of showing and use it towards my college education.”
Each year the agent asked livestock exhibitors to write essays documenting what they have learned from their projects. These essays illustrated the impact that junior livestock projects had on our 4-H members in terms of life skills gained. Excerpts from essays included the following:
“The main reason I show goats is to learn and grow and try a new experience. These projects build character and prepare you for the world. For example, I face new challenges and learn something new every day I’m handling my goats.” -4-H member, age 11
“Doing livestock projects taught me responsibility, the value of helping others, time management, and work ethic. I am extremely grateful to be part of an organization that allows me the opportunity to have memories that will be with me for the rest of my life.” -4-H member, age 17
“I learned the grit to push through things even when they are hard and I’m not successful”- 4-H member, age 14
4-H Shooting Sports
The shooting sports program is largest program in Santa Fe County as well as the State of New Mexico. Santa Fe County has a vibrant group of shooters that participate at the local, state and even national level. Almost 50% of all members enrolled in 4-H are involved in the shooting sports program!
In 2018-2019 Santa Fe County had 16 qualified shooting coaches that were willing to serve in a county wide role. Coaches provided over 50 structured practice times for members. Having dedicated coaches and organized practices served three purposes:
It gave 4-H members the opportunity to create a meaningful and trusting relationship with an adult
It provided members the opportunity to receive hands-on instruction from a qualified coach in the areas of marksmanship, safety, and firearm functions
It gave members the chance to interact with other 4-H members throughout the county building friendships, and becoming part of a team.
The work that has been done in the shooting sports program has resulted in a more meaningful experience for both the members and the leaders. Based on shooting scores and the reduced number of safety violations on the shooting range it can be concluded that members were more proficient and safer shooters. They were more prepared for their contests, and they built friendships among their peers. Members participating in competitive events increased from 30 percent in 2017 to 55 percent in 2019. Forty-five percent of all members enrolled in Shooting Sports went on to compete at an event beyond the county level.