There are a lot of components that go into raising livestock for market. Between maintaining the animal’s diet, making sure it’s well-toned and effectively marketing the animal to a buyer, there’s a lot to learn, even for an adult.
But a new 4-H club being offered in Franklin County is giving children the opportunity to learn which animal is the right fit for their family’s lifestyle, before they commit to investing in buying one.
Supper on the Table was formed late last year by Lilly Osborne and Sarah Rowe. Both being mothers of children involved in 4-H clubs, Osborne and Rowe established their club after recognizing that there was a need to educate children on raising different types of animals for market.
“It’s a good experience for them to figure out what they really want to do,” Osborne said. “We wanted to have the kids see what goes into raising and marketing each animal.”
In Maine, each county’s 4-H program is supported by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. The overall goal of 4-H programming is to involve children in community service projects and leadership through a variety of agricultural clubs, ranging in topics from dairy to sheep to gardening, according to Judy Smith, community education assistant for Franklin County Cooperative Extension.
While traditional 4-H clubs focus on one specific animal, Supper on the Table will spend time teaching children about four types of traditional livestock: beef cattle, pigs, lamb and poultry.
Each month, the club will focus on one of these animals, providing lessons on what goes into raising it, including what supplies the animal requires, what its diet should be, how much time taking care of the animal requires, and what its appearance and muscle tone should be.
By providing children with the ability to compare the time and resources it takes to raise several different animals, Osborne said they can better choose which market animal will fit into their family’s lifestyle.
With the new club educating children and families on what exactly goes into raising a variety of different animals, Smith said they will be more informed about what exactly goes into raising the food they consume.
“There are a lot of youth and families who do not realize what is involved in their food, where food comes from, how it is grown,” Smith, said. “Once they have been through the process [of raising animals], I think that takes ahold and the families realize.”
A second piece of the club’s mission is to teach the children the business side of raising market animals. The club will teach general finance and marketing skills that Osborne said the children can carry with them throughout their lives, such as balancing a checkbook or marketing their products to buyers.
Beginning in August each year, fair season takes over the agriculture scene in Maine, and many 4-H children will head to the fair to show the market animals they have been raising all year. After showing the animals, an auction typically takes place and the animals can be sold.
“Market animals are becoming an easy turnaround for kids to raise them and be able to get money to invest in their animals for the following year,” Osborne said.
In the spring, the club will begin putting on clinics where farmers who raise each type of animal will demonstrate to the children how the animals should look and how they can best show or market them at auctions and fairs.
While 4-H has strong roots within Franklin County’s agricultural families, Smith said with the new club offering an array of animal education, it could be a good introduction to raising market animals for children who do not come from a farming family.
“They may not come from an agricultural background,” Smith said. “But they may end up in a farming career.”