Jr. Cattlemen recruiting new members

Published 9:19 pm Thursday, June 18, 2009

Members of the Chilton County Jr. Cattlemen are looking to recruit new members for the upcoming year.

Debra Myers, volunteer leader for the 4-H organization, has seen firsthand how Jr. Cattlemen taught her daughter, Holli, valuable life skills — even without a background in agriculture.

“We had no cattle background, no big farm, and I was a single parent on a limited budget when she started,” Myers said. “But because of the program, we were able to travel all over the United States, competing and making new friends, many of whom we still have today.”

She said the Jr. Cattlemen taught her daughter teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, organizational skills and communication skills.

“She learned so many other life lessons like how to plan and organize trips, how to communicate and how to motivate others. It gave her confidence, self-esteem, determination and a strong work ethic,” Myers added.

James Robert Parnell and Payton Knight, both 16, have been members for about seven years. They said the organization welcomes anyone between the ages of 9 and 18, regardless of background.

“You don’t have to live on a farm to show a cow. There are plenty of people who will help you out. Payton is a perfect example,” said Parnell, a student at Autauga Academy in Prattville.

Knight, a Chilton County High School student, didn’t have a place to keep her animals. But her cousins, who introduced her to the club, let her use their barn. Even those who don’t have family members involved in agriculture can participate with the help of volunteers, Knight said.

But even with all that help comes responsibility in the forms of animal care (breaking calves, feeding animals), maintaining a budget (for feed and equipment), and making important decisions (selling cattle).

“It’s an investment, and it teaches you the business part of it,” Parnell said. “It’s hard to make a profit, but you can. You have to work to make a profit.”

Activities go beyond cattle showing, however. Examples include quiz bowl and livestock judging teams.

On the other side of the responsibility are the rewards, which range from ribbons to prize money to college scholarships.

“4-H is like no other program,” Myers said. “I taught junior and senior high school for 27 years. I saw young people disappointed because they were excluded from some program at school. When other programs tell a youth, ‘You can’t participate because you are not smart enough,’ 4-H says, ‘Come, and we will help you learn.’ When others say, ‘You are not talented enough,’ 4-H says, ‘Come and we will develop your talent.'”

The Chilton County Jr. Cattlemen meet every second Monday at 6 p.m. at the Alabama Cooperative Extension Office in Clanton.

To get involved or for more information, contact Lee Wideman at (205) 394-2482 or law0020@auburn.edu.