Sperryville column for July 21

Rappahannock’s future stewards at CMR

This month’s Culpeper-Madison-Rappahannock Farm Show (CMR) took place at Culpeper Agricultural Enterprises’ sprawling complex, where Jim Massie, the Rappahannock 4-H Livestock Club’s volunteer leader, talked with great pride of his 11 4-H members, many of whom are members of families who’ve been farming in Rappahannock for generations.

“4-H is all about what life skills the children get out of it,” says Jim, “continuing to be stewards.We want the students and children of Rappahannock to look around them and see the beauty of the county and participate in these programs so they can be the future stewards of Rappahannock.”

Moreover, the kids also learn to be leaders and to share their knowledge. Indeed, according to Rappahannock 4-H coordinator Jenny Kapsa, “a Gordon Thornhill grant and Richard Lykes grant enabled kids from the Rappahannock community to be able to participate in ‘Ag Day’ at the CMR Farm Show. The kids toured the barns where 4-H Livestock Club members who had animals to show and sell told them about the various animals and all that it took to raise them. Kids got to see, touch and learn about dogs, poultry, rabbits, beef, swine, sheep and goats. The Richard Lykes grant provided funding for busing to the CMR Farm Show for Rappahannock youth participating in Ag Day as well as funds to hire the 4-H teens who helped oversee the youth on this trip. The kids who participated in Ag Day had a wonderful time learning from their peers about many different kinds of animals and the wonderful opportunity that joining a 4-H Livestock Club and participating in the CMR Farm Show offers to youth in our community.”

My husband Larry often says with a smile that living with me on our farm is reminiscent of the TV series “Green Acres,” with Zsa Zsa Gabor. As a former city girl with limited rural experience, I’m always enamored of the natural bond country dwellers have with the land and the respect they hold for nature’s gifts of wildlife, livestock and domesticated animals.

So it was with great admiration that I walked into the Agricultural Enterprises complex struck by the cleanliness, the industrial fans circulating, creating a summer morning zephyr, the smell of freshly laid sawdust in the air. Children were seen laughing, washing and soaping their charges. Pigs were clean as a whistle, goats were white as snow, rabbits were softly brushed and gleaming, even chickens were wearing their Sunday best.

Courtney Dodson, a delightful young girl from Sperryville, introduced me with great pride to her fellow 4-H’er Kristen Jenkins, and also to Courtney’s steer, Oreo. Massive in girth, Oreo clearly was well fed, well mannered and quite majestic. Proud parents were in attendance, children scrambled underfoot as friends and family lined the showmanship ring and with trademark country ingenuity, some little ones played happily in a sandbox, filled to the brim with corn kernels.

While at the show, I watched in fascination as one of the cattle showmanship competitions took place, awed by how deftly young children maneuvered animals twice — and in some cases three and four times — their size. I was told by Ben Kopjanski, a former 4H’er, present at the show in the company of his aunt Cindy Thornhill, that the showmanship competition “is not about the animal, rather about the manner in which the handler manages the livestock.”

For further information regarding Rappahannock 4-H contact Jenny Kapsa at 540-675-3619 or jkapsa@vt.edu, or find them on Facebook (facebook.com/Rappahannock4H).

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