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4-H end-of-year banquets honor dogged commitment

4-H01The 4-H clubs from each reservation held annual banquets June 22-24 to recognize top youth for attaining champion, reserve champion and showmanship status at the Seminole Indian 4-H Show and Sale held March 27.

The banquets, which commemorate the end of another year raising steer, swine and small animals, also honored cattle owners and swine producers for their participation in the program.

Being a 4-H’er means making long-term commitments to animals through early morning feedings, daily walks and busy weekends working with the animals, while learning the business of raising livestock. At the Big Cypress banquet June 23, Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank thanked the youth and their parents for participating in the program.

“Agriculture is what helped our people survive,” he said. “It’s important to keep that tradition alive. You all need to know that the Tribe is the second largest beef producer in the state and the fourth largest in the nation.”

In addition to caring for the animals, the 4-H’ers tracked every expense for feed, grooming supplies and veterinarian visits in a record book. They also logged how often they fed and exercised the animals. The books, which were scored after the show and sale, were presented to the kids at the banquets along with a yearbook filled with photos from the year.

After they received their books, Harmony Cypress and Jaylee Wilcox poured over the photos.

“I found me,” said Harmony, 11.

Children begin 4-H at age 5 when they learn to take care of small animals like chickens, rabbits, goats, puppies, piglets and calves. At 8, they qualify for hogs, and by 10 they can handle steer.

The show, the premier event of the year, featured 76 youth showing 52 hogs, 24 steers, two heifer yearlings and 19 small animals for the judges. At the sale on March 28, the youth sold their steer and hogs, sent them to market and kept the profit.

4-H coordinator Polly Hayes thanked the parents for their involvement and for helping teach their children how to care for the animals.

“4-H is a family affair,” she said.

Although the kids are in charge of the animals, some parents assist with morning feedings so children can get to school on time. Harmony’s mother, Nancy Ortega, said the family spends weekends caring for the animals.

“It’s a seven-month project,” Ortega said. “Steers are hard work and we are about to start again.”

The cycle begins anew when the 4-H’ers receive their next calves, which are available for pick up between July 6 to 17 from cattle owners in Brighton and Big Cypress.


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at