4-H plays major role in Nelson family's life
By Katie Erdman
Browsing through the 4-H exhibits at the Stevens County fair, one might think that 4-H is all about competition and hard work.
However, being part of 4-H is much more. It is about learning, teaching, having fun, making new friends and achieving goals.
The Chuck Nelson family of rural Hancock can attest to each of these concepts when it comes to 4-H.
Chuck and Lisa have three children in 4-H, Josh, Evan and Morgan. Livestock is primarily the projects undertaken by the three, but this year Morgan and Evan are venturing into a new project area called Self-Determined.
This is Morgan's second year in 4-H and she was in Cloverbuds for two years prior to that. She will be entering the fifth grade this fall, which means she is still not eligible for any State Fair trips she might earn.
But that doesn't stop her from doing her best when it comes to her projects. She will be entering a prospect calf and two barrows in the livestock shows. She also made a model horse barn and an underwater scene for her fine arts project. In prior years she has taken horses and chickens.
The horse project is one of her favorites, but they just obtained a new horse for her and it is in the process of being trained and it's still too young for the horse show.
This year she selected the calf as her favorite project because they are much easier to lead and control. According to Morgan, the pigs are too stubborn. But the Nelson children have found a way to control them.
Each morning they lead the pigs out of the barn, down the driveway, stopping at the mail box and returning to the barn. The pigs have learned that this daily walk results in a cool, refreshing soak in water. So once they reach the mail box, they quickly make the trip back to the barn for the wash down.
Similarly, the calves have learned when it is feeding time simply by the sound of the feed in the bucket. They respond quickly to Morgan as she enters the pen shaking the feed in a bucket.
Evan has been in 4-H for six years and will be in the 8th grade at Hancock High School this fall. He will be entering a prospect calf which was purchased this year from Randy Reese. He also has two pigs that were purchased from a swine herd that had success in a neighboring county.
Evan is also considering a Self-Determined project: making a saddle tree. He saw one last year at the State Fair and decided to try it. The saddle tree is similar to a saw horse and holds one saddle. It is a project that would be welcomed at the Nelson farm since the saddles currently rest on a fence.
Evan also picked the calves as his favorite project because they are fun to show. He did have relatively good success in the swine project last year earning a trip to the state fair and doing well in the showmanship division.
The oldest of the Nelson children is Josh who will be a senior next year at Hancock High School. He has been in 4-H since first grade and taken swine and beef projects for the majority of those years. This year he will be taking a steer, prospect calf, barrow and gilt. The steer was a prospect calf shown last year at the fair.
Josh has learned a lot over the years from fellow 4-Hers, parents and judges. He has earned several trips to the State Fair in his swine and beef projects. Through these trips, observing and discussing, the Nelsons have found new show equipment that works out better than others, adhesives that make hair stand up and how nutrition and exercise can positively affect the judging process.
Some of this has been learned in the show arena from judges, but most of it comes from talking with fellow 4-Hers and hearing some of the tricks of the trade. Last year, the boys also attended a Cattle Fitting Clinic in Appleton and learned clipping methods, showmanship techniques and proper treatment of animals. This proved to be a big help in preparing the projects. They have also learned by watching the pros in Stevens County, which has several professional Cattle Showing herds and people who are always willing to share their techniques with the young 4-Hers.
This year, the Nelsons took on one big project to help with their beef projects. They constructed an air conditioned room with no windows. The room simulates early winter for the animals who then take on their winter coat. The beef are placed in the room which is dark and 60 degrees for a part of each day. This encourages the winter coat which is another positive for the judging process.
Chuck and Lisa are pleased that their children are involved in 4-H. Chuck was also active in 4-H, as was his dad years ago. Things have definitely changed, but as Chuck explained it is a good way to keep the kids busy in the summer.
He added that farming has become so mechanical that there isn't as much work to keep the farm kids busy in the summer. By taking on the 4-H projects they have daily responsibilities and goals to achieve.
Chuck and Lisa are also active with the club serving as key leaders in the past, working in the food stand and helping in the show arena. They have chaperoned trips to the State Fair and helped with club trips. Recently, they were busy getting things ready for the annual Club Tour which would be stopping at their farm.
4-H fun and adventure does not start or even end at the fair. There are activities all year long including Project Bowls in which they can learn more about their projects. They attend monthly meetings, do ditch cleaning, plant flowers and have a community garden.