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Seminole Indian 4-H perseveres through the pandemic

4-H’ers participate in the Seminole Indian 4-H show and sale in March 2019 at the Junior Cypress Rodeo Arena in Big Cypress. (Beverly Bidney photo)

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected almost every facet of life, and the Seminole Indian 4-H program is no exception.

The 2020-21 4-H year has begun and it is like no other before it. The kids will tend to their livestock face-to-face, but everything else will likely be done virtually online.

With the “Safer at Home” order in place until further notice, the 4-H kids will not attend meetings in person. Instead they will gather in front of their computers, tablets or cell phone screens to connect with their peers and 4-H leaders.

Even with the pandemic in full force, 47 4-H’ers joined the cattle program, including 10 in the three-year heifer program for the first time. Kids received their animals during calf shipping in July.

“We are very pleased with the steer and heifer numbers,” said Aaron Stam,

Florida cooperative extension agent and 4-H leader. “Having 10 first-year heifers means they will come back as second- and third-year kids. The heifer program trains for future cattlemen and women.”

Stam said 4-H plans to have an in-person show and sale on March 26 and 27, 2021, but they are developing a contingency plan in case it needs to be held online.

The 4-H staff has been busy making sure the facilities in Big Cypress, Brighton and Hollywood are ready to go. Kids will get hogs in late November or early December. The goal is to have 100 kids in the hog program.

To attract kids’ interest, 4-H has been communicating on Facebook, emails and texts. The results have been positive so far.

“We talk about the values of the program and have 4-H alumni help,” Stam said. “We are doing what we should do; be a positive youth development organization.”

Although the club had to adjust to the stay safe at home order, Stam is hopeful things will return to normal by the end of the year. If not, they will create a virtual 4-H experience. The club will comply with the safer at home edict as long as it is in effect.

“We are hearing great things about the steers and heifers,” Stam said. “We have some first year kids who are having a good deal of success and having fun.”

New programs for this year are a slew of University of Florida 4-H virtual clubs including dairy, horses, poultry, swine, teen life and a young leaders clubs.

“The teen life is a good curriculum for 13 to 18 year olds; it teaches ‘adulting’ skills,” Stam said. “The young leaders club will focus on what type of leader they want to become and how they can make a positive change throughout their lifetime. It will advance their leadership and communication skills.”

Stam would also like to recruit Tribal elders and cattle owners to speak to the kids in a virtual space. Ideally, he would like them to speak about the history of the Seminole cattle program.

“What makes our program unique is that we are tied directly back to the cattle program, which is part of Seminole culture,” Stam said. “More kids need to understand this; we would like to start incorporating more of that into the program. If there is a silver lining in any of this, it’s being able to explore some of these things.”

Volunteers are an important part of 4-H and many have offered to help when they can, but 4-H is being very cautious about it during the pandemic.

“We have a great group of volunteers who are chomping at the bit to go as soon as we get the green light,” Stam said.

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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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