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Not just 'sows, cows, plows'

Apr 17, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

It's centennial year for 4-H in county

After 100 years in Fremont County, 4-H has made many changes to stay relevant and expand from its rural base to reach urban youth.

"There's research out there that the kids in 4-H do better in school, get better grades are more respectful--just do better," University of Wyoming Extension educator Alex Malcolm.

2014 is the centennial year for 4-H in Fremont County.

Youth ages nine to 18 still have a little time to sign up for 4-H before the deadline Friday. Anyone interested can pick up enrollment forms at either the Riverton or Lander Extension office. The fee to join is $5.

In the organization, youths complete several projects every year -- anything from raising an animal to building a model rocket.

"It's not just cows, plows and sows anymore," Malcolm said.

Malcolm has been in a good position to see changes in 4-H. he started in the organization 34 years ago when he was 8, and he has been the director of the organization in Fremont County for 16 years.

In the last 15 years, 4-H has added sport fishing, shooting sports, computer programming, website design and aeronautics projects. Traditional projects involving livestock, cooking and fiber arts remain popular, Malcolm said.

Agriculture skills youths develop in 4-H can help them start an agriculture business as adults, he said.

If parents are signing up their kids, Malcolm encouraged them to come into the office.

"We'll come and have a visit with you -- see what kind of projects you're interested in, where you live -- so we can get you geared toward the right club," Malcolm said "If you have friends in 4-H, we kind of steer you towards those clubs."

Fremont County has more than 30 individual 4-H clubs, mostly based on location. Some focus on different kinds of projects, Malcolm said. Extension staff can work with parents to figure out which club works best for their kid.

Countywide, the organization has about 500 youth and 200 volunteers participate each year, according to Malcolm.

Local 4-H clubs are trying to reach urban kids with small livestock projects, such as raising chickens and rabbits, along with the technology, science and engineering activities.

"They're smaller animal projects that still instill responsibility to kids because they have to get fed and watered," Malcolm said. "Twenty years ago we didn't see a lot of kids in town doing those projects."

Riverton passed an ordinance last year allowing residents to raise chickens within the city limits has helped 4-H's efforts, Malcolm said.

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