WHERE'S THE BEEF
4-H family visits schools with cows in tow.
WRITTEN BY BARBARA TWITCHELL
PHOTO BY CANDICE NYANDO
"What do cows have in common with Jell-O, marshmallows, ice cream, and gum?”
That’s the question Julene Smith has posed to a group of elementary school children.
The children stare back with blank expressions, which quickly turn to disbelief once they’re told that the gelatin used to create those products is derived from cow bones and skin. A chorus of “Ee-yew!” follows, along with vows never to eat those products again. It’s an oath that Smith is sure will be short-lived while, hopefully, the knowledge these students gain about food sources will last a lifetime.
Smith, the primary leader of the Arrowhead 4-H Club in Carson City, laughs as she relates this memory. It’s one of many she and her son, Lander, share from their experiences visiting local schools as part of the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s Ag in the Classroom program.
Lander, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Eagle Valley Middle School in Carson City, has been active in the NDA program for several years. Ag in the Classroom utilizes 4-H members such as Lander to teach other children about farm and ranch life, giving them an understanding of how food is produced.
“I’ve been amazed at how many kids don’t really know where their food comes from,” Lander says. “They just think it comes from the grocery store. They have no idea how it got there.”
Lander visits local schools, usually with a calf in tow, and happily tells students about life on the Washoe Valley cattle ranch he shares with three generations of his family.
“One of the most important things 4-H does is to connect children to their food sources,” Smith says. “Even if they’re not going to grow up to be farmers or ranchers, it helps them to understand the role of raising animals and crops and the role those things play in the community.”
Smith participated in 4-H as a youth and eventually as an adult leader. Her sons, Lander and Josh, each started 4-H at age 10.
Josh, now 20 and a sophomore at Western Nevada College in Carson City, has aged out of 4-H but stays involved by helping whenever he can. He’s long tried to encourage 4-H-ers to raise cattle, offering guidance and assistance. This year, he sweetened the incentive by making some of his best calves from the family ranch available for interested 4-H members to raise.
“Children learn so many important life skills from 4-H,” Smith says. “Responsibility, leadership, cause and effect, profit and loss, how to run a business … These things apply to so many different fields, not just agriculture. In so many ways, 4-H is life changing.”
Reno writer Barbara Twitchell enjoyed spending time with the Smiths at their beautiful Washoe Valley ranch. She admires their dedication to helping local youths understand and appreciate the efforts of those who raise their food.
For details about 4-H clubs and activities in your area, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Office at 775-784-7070 or visit Www.unce.unr.edu/4h
For details about Nevada’s Ag in the Classroom program, visit Agri.nv.gov/aglit
To support 4-H and young farmers and ranchers, mark your calendar for these events:
The Nevada Junior Livestock Show is May 17 – 21 this year at Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center in Reno. The Carson City Fair is on July 27 – 30 at Fuji Park in Carson City and the Silver State Youth Livestock Show on Aug. 18 – 20 at Lyon County Fairgrounds in Yerington. For details, visit Agri.nv.gov