SHERIDAN — When the Sheridan County Fair opens tomorrow, some of the most popular events will include 4-H youth competitions in sheep, swine, horse and beef cattle. However, there will also be some rather unanticipated 4-H competitions featuring robots, Web pages and photography.
Traditionally seen as a youth organization, 4-H has primarily focused on children in ranching or farming families. However, in recent years, the group has actively reached out to urban youth and expanded their projects to appeal to a wider audience.
“So many people don’t think it is for them, but truly this is a family program for any and all kids with any type of interest,” said Jerrica Lind, 4-H and Youth Development Educator for the University of Wyoming Extension.
Lind said the Sheridan County 4-H program has averaged 225 participants in recent years, but this year has seen an upward trend with approximately 250 participants. And many of these youth live in town, rather than a farm or ranch setting.
“We have equal parts urban and city kids to rural and ranch kids,” Lind said. “A lot of kids live right here in the middle of town.”
“Nationwide, 4-H is actually shifting to a more urban project focus,” she added. “We will forever and always be the heart of youth in agriculture because that is where our roots are and what we strongly believe in. But we are also expanding into the lives of urban youth. There is a lot of emphasis to reach out into urban areas and to underserved populations and just to reach every kid we can because we have so much to offer. Whatever they are interested in, we can help them learn.”
Sheridan resident Pyper Tiffany began her participation in 4-H at the suggestion of a friend who lives outside of town and wanted to raise animals for competition. The two friends joined together and Tiffany’s brother, Parker, also joined 4-H, participating in shooting sports.
“I’ve participated in quite a few events,” Tiffany said. “Every year I’ve done gardening and poultry and I’ve done cake decorating and crocheting in the past. This year I thought I would try photography and food nutrition. My favorite has been gardening or photography and food nutrition, I really like that one. It has been a great experience.”
Although she lives in town, she has been able to compete in animal events as well.
“We have a coop that some friends helped us build and we have 11 chickens now,” she said. “We just let them roam free in our backyard and we have our garden fenced yard. You get farm fresh eggs every morning which is good.”
Lind said the 4-H curriculum includes more than 60 different learning areas, including the traditional raising of livestock and poultry, but also non-agricultural pursuits such as Web page design, leatherworking and interior design.
“One of our mandates is teaching science, engineering and technology so that ranges from robotics and aerospace science to veterinary science, entomology, nature and ecology and electronics,” she said.
Sheridan resident Tyra Relaford has been a member of 4-H for several years and has even moved into a leadership position in the organization, through participation in the Junior Leaders program.
“I mostly do static stuff like photography and food but my favorite thing is Junior Leaders,” Relaford said. “We take care of things and answer people’s questions, help out new members and get them situated. We are pretty much entirely in charge of 4-H mountain camp.”
“Most of my friends play sports and I am not very into that,” she added, about her decision to join 4-H. “Four-H gives me the opportunity to kind of do something a little different than I normally do. It is really fun.”
See a full schedule of Sheridan County Fair events here.