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4-H hoping for a comeback

By Staff | Feb 21, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Logan DeMontigny, 13, looks at deer teeth during a Heart of America 4-H Club meeting on Wednesday at the Pierce County Courthouse.

Ten children and three parent volunteers met in a conference room at the Pierce County Courthouse on Wednesday. The Heart of America 4-H Club meeting was small, but the vigor for learning was apparent.

Students ranging from a junior in high school to a kindergartener listened intently as volunteer Mike Pretzer discussed the physical attributes of does and bucks and how the animals mature. Pretzer encouraged the children to pass around diagrams and model jaw bones and teeth of deer.

4-H doesn’t see the numbers in participation like it once did throughout the country, but Pierce County is hoping to see a rise under the guidance of Yolanda Schmidt.

Schmidt is the county’s extension agent through North Dakota State University.

“It’s a wholesome activity that keeps kids out of mischief,” Schmidt said. “It really helps them to develop skill sets that are going to be useful in the future and it’s also a family-orientated program. Hugely family-orientated.”

That was evident Wednesday as the Pretzers joined their three children at the meeting. Kris Blessum joined her four kids as well.

“One of the things that I really like about 4-H is my kids have gained a lot of confidence speaking with a judge,” Blessum said. “They really gained a lot of confidence in talking to someone else. They’ve also been exposed to a lot of new topics and new ideas, and a lot of things we wouldn’t have heard about, if not for 4-H.”

Through 4-H, the Blessums did a service project in December where they packed baskets for a food pantry. Other meetings have included tours of area businesses like the veterinary clinic.

Schmidt emphasizes that the key to a robust 4-H program is the volunteers. The county extension agents can help provide educational materials and make members aware of opportunities and events, but strong participation on the local level is a result of volunteers putting on meetings like this week’s.

“The more passionate people we have, the more successful the 4-H program will be,” Schmidt said.

The county’s 4-H program includes six clubs: Dakota Riders (horse related), Lucky Ls (creative arts), Lucky Stars (combination of disciplines), Central Dakota (livestock, outdoor skills, shooting sports), Heart of America 4-H (horticulture, crops) and Pierce County Hunters.

4-H members work on projects and compete at regional and state events, including county and state fairs.

Schmidt said there are 40 4-H members currently, but hopes to see it grow to 100.

For more information about Pierce County 4-H, call Schmidt at 776-6234, ext. 5.

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