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It’s not your mother’s 4-H

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Some organizations fall behind as the world changes, but not 4-H. As technology advances, the 120-year-old nonprofit has kept up with the needs of participants, including robotics, information technology and ever-evolving methods and data in agriculture.

But, that’s not to say the role of agriculture is diminishing. On the contrary, it is growing and expanding.

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Just ask the Carney family of Carbondale, where participation continues into its third generation through the local Black Sheep 4-H Club.

Siblings Gus and Scarlett Carney take their commitment to 4-H from their parents Ian and Andrea and their paternal grandfather.

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Gus, a 17 year old student at Roaring Fork High School, talked about his 4-H activities. “I am most interested in livestock, the best feed and the best ways to raise cattle and pigs.”

“I also participate in livestock shows,” Gus added. He noted with a big grin that he enjoys all of the hard work and especially loves to ride his horse, especially when working with the cattle.

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His long-term plans?

“I am hoping to go to the University of Wyoming or the University of  Montana and study ag. business,” he said. “After college I’m hoping to buy a ranch of my own. Presently, I have six head of cattle that I compete on and also use for the ranch: Chico, Chica, Sarge, Newt, Junior and Destiny.”

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Breeding, showing, learning

Gus’ sister, 13-year-old Scarlett, attends the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork. As she explained, “I enjoy showing heifers” (female cows who have not calved) at livestock shows like the October Northern International Livestock Exhibition (NILE) in Billings MT and an upcoming event in Kentucky.

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The Carneys keep their livestock at a Carbondale ranch in the winter and then in spring, move most of the herd to their Smiling A Ranch in Missouri Heights. As part of the family’s emphasis on the highest quality of care, the animals are “freeze” — not hot — branded. “We use a combination of dry ice and rubbing alcohol which is much easier on the animals,” Andrea explained.

She said the cattle eat a combination of hay and special grain.

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The Black Sheep Club has been led by Lisa Nieslanik for 17 years. She reported the club has seven members who are concentrating on livestock raising and selling, and meets the first Sunday of the month.

“Many of our members also raise poultry, including chickens and ducks plus pigs.” she added. “We also offer shooting sports such as archery and rifle.”

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“Kids can join 4-H at six years old, and they age out at 19,” Nieslanik said, “The youngest ones can start out with the 4-H Clovers Club, based at the Garfield County Colorado State University Extension Rifle facilities.”

Nieslanik said the club also plans service projects and pen pal programs with agricultural producers. Also in the works are presentations to Crystal River Elementary School students.

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Anticipating the 2020 Garfield County Fair from July 27 to Aug. 1, Nieslanik emphasized, “We’re all very excited about the junior livestock sale. We work on this year round.”

Garfield County Extension Director Carla Farrand explained CSU provides assistance and programs in five main areas: agriculture, horticulture, family and consumer science, natural resources and youth programs. Farrand herself was a member of 4-H for nine years, “I did a lot with electricity including making my own lamps and learning wiring how tos.”

She added that all of the projects have scientific components, like feed nutritional components and water aquifers.

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