4-H outreach project looks to include all

Posted 10/9/19

Since 2011, the Ross Garrett Outreach Project through the Madison County 4-H Extension Service has attempted to reach underprivileged kids in an effort to raise interest in agricultural activities, such as the county’s fair, in affordable fashion.

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4-H outreach project looks to include all

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Since 2011, the Ross Garrett Outreach Project through the Madison County 4-H Extension Service has attempted to reach underprivileged kids in an effort to raise interest in agricultural activities, such as the county’s fair, in affordable fashion.

“This program is a gateway to better things in 4-H and FFA,” said Madison County 4-H Extension Agent Chadd Caperton. “It is a great place to start for people who have shown an interest but maybe do not have the means or they are apprehensive about it. We just need to get them through those first couple of steps and they are hooked.”

Dr. Billy Zanolini, who used to be with Madison County 4-H, began the project eight years ago. He now works as a Youth Development Specialist for the state 4-H program. Caperton and Leslie Lazenby, the 4-H and Youth Development Agent in Madison County, have since fueled the program.

“We found that there was part of our population that was not participating in the Madison County Fair for various reasons,” said Zanolini, reflecting back on the project’s early days. “This could be because a lack of facility access or it could be financial. The price of a livestock project can be pretty cost prohibited. Then there is just tradition that can work for you or against you.”

“If the kids will try the fair, I think they will like it and stay with it,” said Lazenby. “That is our goal with the program, to get kids who would not traditionally be a part of a fair to try it, and the numbers say that works.”

Since 2011, the Ross Garrett Project has helped enter 50 new exhibitors in the Madison County Fair for an estimated total of $140,000 to be used toward secondary education. Half of the 50 exhibitors have returned for multiple years.

One of the biggest advantages, and something that makes Madison County ag unique, is the camaraderie between groups like 4-H and FFA. The Ross Garrett Project is now under supervision of the Livestock Coalition Committee, which is comprised of members and educators of multiple organizations such as 4-H, FFA and Madisonville Consolidated School District.

“Usually, we operate together as a unit,” said Lazenby on the relationship between 4-H and FFA. “In many places, the two organizations are in competition against each other. But so many of our kids participate in both.”

“Those that are involved in advocating agriculture have the same mindset,” said Caperton. “We are here for the same reason, to teach everyone about agriculture. When it comes to us, youth development and FFA, we realize that we are here for the same thing. We are teaching the same kids, so it only makes sense that we work together.”

4-H have used extension programs such as Ag Days and Fun Fridays in the summer to point potentially interested kids in the right direction. They have also utilized their 4-H Ambassador program during the learning process with the new students.

Since the program’s inception, it has relied on the help of sponsors in the community. The funds help cover the cost of everything from facility use to feeding for the animals.

“The funding has been challenging at times,” said Caperton. “Sometimes it is not. Madisonville is just full of great donors.”

Some of the contributors to the program over the years have been John and Toni Hardy, Gwen Gurloff and Standley Feed and Seed.

Applications for the program were due on Oct. 1, but 4-H officials are always happy to speak with interested prospects for the future who would like to try their hand at something new.

The project is named for former longtime Madison County Extension Agent Ross Garrett, who passed away in 2010.

“Because he had done so much work with the fair and because he was so involved with livestock projects, we certainly wanted to honor him,” said Zanolini. “His name continues to stand as a legacy of what he brought to the county through a program that seeks to include everybody, which is something that he stood for.”

For more information on how to donate to the project, contact the Madison County 4-H Extension Service.

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