In many ways, Etowah County in northeastern Alabama is a typical Alabama county. There is the thriving urban center of Gadsden, but there is also great natural beauty including Noccalula Falls and the Noccalula Falls Botanical Gardens with its 25,000 azaleas. From farmers’ markets to The World’s Longest Yard Sale, there is a diversity of resources and activities making Etowah County a perfect county for 4-H.
Through a strong team approach, the Etowah County Cooperative Extension office has been able to provide a wide array of opportunities to the county’s young people. This team includes County Extension Coordinator Amy Burgess, Regional Extension Agent Michael Dillon and Agent Assistant Mirandi Watson along with a host of 4-H volunteers and others committed to making a difference in the lives of young people.
There are more than 1,200 young people in traditional 4-H club programs, including in-school and community or special interest clubs. More than 600 county young people participate in the important Science Experience and Resources for Informal Education Settings program. This intensive program provides hands-on activities for the students and helps introduce them to scientific processes and careers.
In the county, 12 schools have traditional 4-H club work and 32 in-school, special-interest and community clubs. Special-interest 4-H clubs include the Black Creek Arrow Slingers Archery Club, the West Etowah Rustlers Horse Club and the Etowah Ninjas Horse Club, a riding club and a hippology club. There are plans to start a general livestock club in the fall. The county also has an active 4-H County Council, providing young people with opportunities to build their organizational and leadership skills.
Etowah County young people have an array of 4-H opportunities. During the past year, they participated in educational programs in Environmental Awareness, Animal Science, Poultry Science, Skins N Skulls, entomology, hippology, dog training and GPS technology. Through 4-H’s Operation Military Kids, the county-wide Community Service Project has been creating and distributing Hero Packs to Alabama’s military families.
There is always something going on: Summer 4-H Camp, Regional Contests, State Contests, the State 4-H Horse Show, and summer fun shops in cake decorating, photography, and sewing and quilting. A group of budding engineers will even build their skills in constructing trebuchets – medieval siege machines that can toss things like rocks and pumpkins.
Etowah County has even been a center for the popular 4-H Chick Chain project, with 40 young people raising chickens for a county show and auction being held September 29. This fall, 4-H members in the county will be participating in the new 4-H Pig Squeal project where young people get two 50-pound hogs to grow for several weeks and will bring them back for a county show and auction at the end of the project.
Etowah County 4-H has an active Livestock Judging Team, and county 4-H members regularly show beef cattle and dairy cattle as part of their 4-H project work. The Etowah County 4-H program is also a partner with local FFA chapters. FFA and 4-H volunteers work together using Youth Agricultural Learning Labs to supplement the students’ in-class learning. And 4-H has helped introduce and maintain Outdoor Classrooms at Attalla Elementary School.
Amy Burgess is an Alabama Cooperative Extension County Coordinator and Chuck Hill is a 4-H State Specialist.