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4-H season begins with plenty of newness

The 4-H year began the month with some new programs, new procedures and a whole lot of kids and animals.

Nearly 50 kids in the heifer and steer projects brought their animals to Brighton and Big Cypress in September to tag their steers and attend the first meeting of the year. Meetings have been enhanced this year with veterinarian visits and guest speakers.

Kids are required to attend three meetings during the course of the year instead of monthly gatherings and they have to bring their animals to each meeting to have the veterinarian and 4-H leaders assess them.

4-H’ers will receive halter and lead ropes for their steers and heifers; those in the swine project will receive a whip to use to train the hogs to walk in the ring.

“We want the kids to have the tools they need to work with their animals on day one,” said Aaron Stam, Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program livestock/4-H agent for the Seminole Tribe. “The vets will make sure the animals are healthy and sound. We will work with the kids throughout the year in order to help them succeed.”

Guest speakers will add an educational component to the meetings and will cover issues pertinent to the 4-H’ers as they raise their animals. The speakers will be professionals in the field, which should resonate with the youth.

The Tribal Council joins Seminole Indian 4-H representatives Sept. 23 at Tribal headquarters in Hollywood. The Council approved a resolution for a proclamation that recognizes National 4-H Week 2019. From left are Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, 4-H program assistant Kimberly Clement, Big Cypress Councilman David Cypress, Chairman Marcellus W. Osceola Jr., Brighton Councilman Larry Howard, Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program livestock/4-H agent for STOF Aaron Stam and 4-H program assistant Dionne Smedley. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“We are trying to make simple yet thoughtful changes that will have a meaningful impact for their projects,” Stam said. “When they have issues, we want to help them. It will be more fun for the kids to see each other’s animals before the show.”

The Seminole Indian 4-H Show and Sale, where the kids show and sell their animals, will be held March 20-21, 2020, at the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena in Brighton.

For more than 100 years, 4-H has empowered young people through mentoring and hands-on experience. The program teaches skills participants can use for a lifetime.

The 4-H motto “To make the best better” sums up the organization’s focus on positive youth development.

Typically about 120 kids participate in the Seminole 4-H, but Stam expects more this year.

Another new program is the registered heifer program. Six kids each acquired a registered heifer from Salacoa Valley Farms over the summer and are raising them as a separate 4-H project.

Registered heifers allow the kids to become members of the International Brangus Breeder Association and present their animals at those breed-specific shows around the country.

The Seminole 4-H show will include a new category just for registered heifers.

The birth dates and lineage of registered heifers is documented and adds value to the animals. The heifers can be impregnated with Salacoa seed stock, adding value to new calves.

“Parents want more experiences for their children,” Stam said. “They can sell for more if the lineage can be tracked. Kids see more value in the development of heifers than steers. Heifers are an investment; steers represent a paycheck.”

Regardless of what animal the kids choose to raise, show and sell, they must all take an animal ethics training.

“They are among the privileged few who are producing a food product,” Stam said. “With that comes the responsibility to provide safe, healthy food. It has been a privilege to watch these kids go from babies into fine, upstanding young men and women and good citizens.”

The 4-H leaders – Stam, Kimberly Clement and Dionne Smedley – are looking for volunteers as well as ideas for programs that don’t center on animals, such as baking, photography or anything else that could encourage kids to join 4-H.

“It is good to see the kids grow into good people and to see role models in the community help out,” said Clement, special projects coordinator, who was a 4-H’er as a child. “There was someone there mentoring me and I feel the need to be there for someone else.”

To get involved as a 4-H volunteer, call 863-763-5020 or contact Aaron Stam at aaronstam@semtribe.com, Kimberly Clement at kimberlyclement@semtribe.com or Dionne Smedley at dionnesmedley@semtribe.com.

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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 beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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