EWE AND I
4-H student demonstrates responsibility through animal rearing.
Written by Natasha Bourlin
Photo by Shaun Hunter
4-H member Ainsley Parmer poses with a lamb she is raising for the Nevada Junior Livestock Show and Sale
Instilling responsibility in children is a tough job for any parent. Organizations such as Nevada 4-H Youth Development help.
Ainsley Parmer, a 17-year-old senior at Galena High School in Reno, has been a part of 4-H for 12 years. She was the third of Ardis and Jay Parmer’s four children, whose ages span a decade, to get involved with the program that the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension says “provides opportunities for youth to gain ‘hands-on’ experience to enhance their learning.”
“4-H teaches you so much responsibility, especially on agriculture and raising animals. I’ve set up bank accounts since I was nine, learned how to make a profit,” Ainsley says. “There are so many different opportunities for kids to get involved. It’s great for any youth, not just those interested in agriculture and animals.”
Ainsley became fascinated with the agricultural component upon entering the program. Since then, she’s raised more than a dozen lambs as part of the Leg of Lamb group. Other youth groups that also are focused on purchasing, rearing, and, ultimately, selling animals within the local 4-H chapter are Slab of Bacon and Side of Beef.
A day in the life of this high-achieving high schooler while in the midst of her 4-H season involves early mornings and, sometimes, funny looks.
She selects her lamb in the beginning of each year, and after that she must wake up about a half hour earlier each morning to feed her animal before school. Then, often, she feeds it at lunchtime, after school, and before bed. She also takes it for walks around the neighborhood, attracting fascination from fellow wanderers, who give her questioning looks.
The lamb is raised on her family’s acre of land in South Reno, leading up to it being shown and hopefully sold at the spring Nevada Junior Livestock Show and Sale in Reno. But the young people in 4-H also learn to part with their animals. It’s part of the responsibility.
“We just go with it; we know it’s not necessarily a pet — it’s a project,” she says.
Other activities Ainsley happily participates in through 4-H are working with the animals hands-on in the chutes during rodeo time, plus doing community service, such as cooking for veterans and hosting donation drives.
All her hard work is paying off: She has been accepted by three colleges and simply needs to select a course of study. Will it be agriculture, based on her positive 4-H experience, or kinesiology because of an equally fervent passion for sports medicine developed while playing soccer?
Either way, her time in 4-H will resonate with her forever.
“(4-H is) a family-based community, one big happy family,” Ainsley says. “It’s a safe environment. No matter who you are or where you come from, we’re just accepting.”
Freelance writer Natasha Bourlin has seen many interesting animals being walked on leashes, but now has a new, wooly goal. Check out her work at Passportandplume.com.