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University of Minnesota Extension

4-H clover 4-H teens are the future of Minnesota agriculture and animal science

Small farms are the backbone of the agriculture industry. They also produce the local food that we see in our stores. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food. University of Minnesota Extension’s 4-H program helps youth pursue education in the field through a variety of ag and animal science programs.

Farm strong

Leah showing her goat.

Leah Thompson, 18, lives just 10 minutes away from her family farm in Swift County. Her family grows corn, the state's most valuable crop, followed by soybeans. Leah has been a 4-H’er for most of her life starting as a Cloverbud in the Clontarf Haymakers club many years ago and then getting involved in horse judging and the dairy goat, dog and horse projects. Through the 4-H Horse Project, she participated in Western Heritage, which is goat tying, breakaway roping, team roping, round pen roping and team sorting. Through these projects, Leah has honed her demonstration and knowledge skills, eventually settling on livestock. 

“I have always had a passion for animals,” Leah said, remembering walking through the 4-H barn when she was younger and telling her father she would love to raise animals one day.

Leah riding on a horse.

“Recently my little sister became interested in raising goats, so we pooled our money together to buy our first pair,” Leah said. She started showing animals three years ago with dairy cows known as Holsteins in the industry and dairy goats being her primary focus. “I’ve leased my first dairy cow through a local dairy farm in the area,” recounted Leah. “It’s been a really good experience so far, incorporating livestock into my family’s farm.” Leah has plans to raise the goats and show them at future fair demonstrations.

Leah will be attending the  University of Minnesota Crookston, majoring in animal and equine science. She hopes to own a hobby farm one day with many species of animals.

Best in show

Jazelle Waxvik, 17, from South St. Louis County has been a valued 4-H member for 10 years. Growing up on a farm piqued her interest in agriculture. She’s participated in many livestock projects, including chickens, rabbits, goats and horses. “I enjoy showing animals that I have raised in fairs,” said Jazelle. “I feel a rush of excitement when I get to show how hard I’ve worked preparing my animals for demonstrations.” 

To be successful in raising healthy animals, Jazelle says, “Persistence is key. Chickens need to stay clean. Make sure goats have the right amount of hay, so that there is no hollowness around their rib cage, trimming hooves and nails when need be.” 

Jazelle also says caring for her animals and participating in projects and fairs is a self-esteem booster that eases her anxiety. 

Social distancing hasn’t stopped her from getting her dose of Minnesota 4-H livestock projects. The Northeastern Livestock Series was a weekly virtual program for youth interested in livestock, showcasing different animals and teaching future agriculturists new things. “I really enjoyed this series, especially seeing teens my age demonstrate how they care for their own animals.”

Leah has plans to study animal science in college, with career aspirations of becoming a livestock veterinarian or ranch manager. 

Learn more about 4-H animal science projects.

Related topics: YD News 4-H Youth Featured news
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