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Interest up in joining 4-H, leader says

Brianna Roy (left), 11, her dog Ruby, Karly Anderson, 11, and her dog Jessie competed in obedience contests as part of the Country Cousins 4-H club, based in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Patricia Drey Busse)

County funding cuts to 4-H haven't hurt local recruitment efforts, said Washington County 4-H District Representative Liz Dietsche.

In fact, the opposite is true.

"I think it actually made people more aware of it and the interest I think is spiking more," Dietsche said.

The county cut all funding for 4-H earlier this year, and that has meant parents are taking over more responsibilities that paid staff members once held.

Dues for kids coming into the program during this recruitment season, which runs through October, are staying constant at $45 per child, Dietsche said.

She said a lot of the new interest in the program is coming from families who didn't realize there is a place for urban kids in 4-H.

"It's not just cows, horses and sheep," Dietsche said "There're so many things urban kids can do." Her son adopted a cat that showed up in their garage, took photos when it got its veterinary exam and then made a poster explaining the exam for a 4-H project, she said.

Kids who are into LEGOs might want to do a LEGO robotics project, she said. Kids taking piano or ice skating lessons might be able to turn that into a performance arts project, she said. Kids in her club, the Country Cousins, have taken dogs through obedience and agility training as a project. Other options include aerospace and rocketry and photography she said.

"We always have the typical things -- the sewing and the food and the animal things -- but it's much more than that, it just depends on where your interest lies and what you'd like to develop."

Two 11-year-olds that are part of the Country Cousins -- Brianna Roy and Karly Anderson -- decided two years ago they wanted to play a role in training their family dogs, so the girls started preparing to compete in dog obedience contests.

"I wanted my dog to listen to me better," Anderson said, "and it sounded really fun."

Both girls have been successful in competition, and they say their dogs are better behaved around the house.

Outside of projects for the fair, club members do a lot of community service together, the girls said, including roadside cleaning on Kimbro Avenue, singing Christmas carols at nursing homes, sponsoring a family at Christmas and volunteering at the food shelf.

Cottage Grove has three 4-H clubs: the Country Cousins, the Hearty Homers and the Happy Hornets. Students ages 5 to 19 can participate, Dietsche said.

Anyone interested in joining 4-H is invited to contact Dietsche at (651) 459-0821 and go to the Country Cousins meeting at 6:15 p.m. Oct. 11 at Christ the Lord Lutheran Church.