4-Hers adopt new skills to showcase projects in virtual world

Connie Sieh Groop
Special to the Farm Forum

Challenging times forced 4-H Leaders, members and office staff to make difficult decisions for 2020.

Brown County’s 4-H Youth Program Advisor Becca Tullar said, “One of the greatest challenges that we are facing is a virtual 4-H experience for some of our traditional events throughout the summer. Even with this major transition for this year, it amazes me how resilient and adapting our Brown County 4-H Community is. 4-H in itself has always had a strong connection with tradition. Having to adapt our events has not been easy for some in our community, myself included.”

For most, project completion culminates with the showing of 4-H exhibits at the Brown County Fair. Like many other areas, things have changed this year. With the Aberdeen event cancelled, area 4-H youth tap ingenuity and virtual technology to showcase their projects.

Tessa Erdmann, 17, of Groton and a member of the Lazy Farmers 4-H club explained, “This year is very different. Our monthly 4-H meetings use Zoom, including giving talks and demonstrations. This experience has taught us how to use a lot of different technology to meet and to display some of our projects.”

Work with her goats and sheep began in March this year, rather than in May since she was home. This gave her family an opportunity to raise 15 meat goats and experiment with different types of feed. As the animals developed, the best ones, Star and Luna, were chosen for showing. She also has one wether lamb named Gus.

“For me personally, it will be much more difficult to show my animals virtually,” Tessa said. “If you are not experienced with video equipment, a video can provide the wrong impression. Different angles can be more flattering. You could have a championship goat but if the camera doesn’t capture the best angle, then you may end up in third place. Showmanship is my favorite part of the show, so I’ll miss that. Not being able to show my projects in person really is tough.”

Tessa said she knows a few families in Brown County who decided not to show their lambs this year because of the challenges.

She has shown her animals at some area Jackpot shows where they do social distancing, with judging outside in pens set apart from each other. Tessa plans to show her animals at the State Fair.

Brown County is still working out details to do a virtual show in place of the Brown County Fair competition with photos and videos viewed by judges.

Nicole Marzahn will graduate from 4-H this year and will miss the opportunities at the Brown County Fair.

“In the past I have taken part in fashion review. I always have a ton of fun modeling in the Ken’s and Kessler’s tents at the Brown County Fair. This year I wanted to sew an outfit with my grandmother. But with COVID, I could not visit her. It’s really strange not sewing this year. And it would be challenging to do it online.”

Normally, she’d do a lot of static projects such as visual arts, photography and woodworking. “I’ve learned a lot through my years with these projects and in 4-H. I may complete some projects, but with my new work schedule, I’m not sure. It’s sad, especially since this will be my last year in 4-H.” She’s a member of the Friendly Fellows and Daisies.

Alicia Davis, 13, of Bath, is in her sixth year in the Lazy Farmers 4-H Club and embraces many areas of the 4-H program. This year, in her own kitchen, she prepared Spicy Turkey Chili for the Special Foods Event. She took several photos of the dish, uploaded them for review and then she interacted with the judges as they asked questions about nutrition and checked out her place setting. One big difference: the judges didn’t get to taste the chili.

For her, it was a lot easier to prepare chili in her own kitchen and she didn’t have to take the ingredients and cooking equipment with her for the demonstration. “It was easier this way.”

Instead of appearing before an audience for Fashion Revue, uploaded photos of Alicia in her selected outfit show front and back views. “I found shorts and a shirt that I thought was cute. In making the selection, I looked for something that fits nice and looks good on me, had good workmanship, and easy to follow washing instructions.” The judges will look at the photos and then ask her questions about her choice over Zoom.

“I really don’t like Zoom,” Alicia said. “It’s a lot nicer to talk face to face.”

They will also use Zoom for the Public Presentations this week. “This is not a contest but an illustrated talk giving my view of current happenings for my citizenship project. My topic will be ‘Don’t Destroy History.’ And it looks at why statues and memorials should not be destroyed.”

Besides these Youth in Action events, she plans to enter exhibits in nine project areas, just entering fewer categories in each than other years.

“I’m adjusting,” Alicia said. “I will really miss the social part of the fair. It’s a lot lonelier this year, as we don’t see as many people this summer and I won’t be able to see friends at the Brown County Fair.”

Logan Warrington, 12, of Groton is in his fifth year in 4-H and he said it is a bummer this year. He’s worked on some projects, including a framed Polar Express Picture Puzzle and a pumpkin crate. “In other years, I’ve done more projects. I’ve made monster bars, but I’m not doing any baking this year. I would have exhibited wheat, corn and soybeans.” He’s a member of the Friendly Fellows and Daisies.

His dad, Jason Warrington, explained that judging grain virtually is difficult as judges need to get their hands in the grain, weigh it, check the moisture level, and look for cracked kernels and debris. Other projects, such as baking and woodworking, are hard to experience virtually. As a club leader, he said there has been a lot of discussion about the safest route to follow this year.

Colin Frey, 17, said his projects this year are horticulture, plant science and dairy. He’s waiting to find out how this year’s livestock judging will be handled. He is a member of the Friendly Fellows and Daisies.

“With my dairy animals, I have no idea how they will do judging virtually. Normally, I would take 3 to 5 animals to the Brown County Fair. The heifers are halter broke and I continue to work with them. I keep track of the pounds of milk produced, the amount of feed they eat and the vaccinations they have had.”

He plans to take four or five animals to the State Fair. He will show two in the 4-H Division and the others in open class.

With one more year of 4-H ahead of him, Colin said, “I really will miss being able to take my animals to the Brown County Fair. I have a blast every year. I guess I have to live with it and hope for a normal year next year.”

Guidelines for taking animals to the State Fair are being reviewed. There may be a local independent livestock event in the works. “Stuff is changing daily. It’s unchartered territory,” Mike Frey said. As a club leader, he emphasized, “We want the best opportunity for the kids possible.”

Becca summarized, “Once school is out my focus is completely on my Brown County 4-H families. I love having them come in and out of the office, planning events that I get to watch as the youth develop skills and hang out with friends, and all of this gearing up for the Brown County Fair and South Dakota State Fair. This summer our events will look different but will still have traditional elements in place. Safety and health is of utmost importance to Brown County 4-H and our community. Like the 4-H Pledge says, ‘My health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.’ “

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