STONEVILLE — While many of today’s young people spend hours on electronic devices or watching television, the dozen or so Shiloh 4-H Club members have turned their interests to raising farm animals.
In the past several years, the 8- to 17-year-old boys and girls have excelled in livestock competitions throughout the state and have the ribbons and medals to prove it.
When they are not busy looking after their animals or preparing for shows, they lend their energies to community service projects.
“4-H teaches these members independence, social skills, responsibility, the value of community services and public speaking skills,” said Angela Thomas, who organized the club in 2015 with 10 children. Since then, the enrollment has remained steady at 10 to 15 members.
During June’s N.C. Junior Beef Roundup in Raleigh, nine of her 4-H’ers participated in the Skill-A-Thon and judging contest.
In the judging contest, where the teams evaluate four animals, Addison Farris of Stoneville won overall individual, and Abigayle Corriher of Madison placed third high individual. Team B won the contest with Team A taking second place.
This year, they evaluated beef cattle, although Thomas said often they judge one each of goats, sheep, swine and cattle. In judging, the animal’s physical structure and the reason they are bred — be it food or breeding abilities — are considered. Females also are assessed for their abilities to carry babies. This year, Addison showed a dairy goat.
Team A was comprised of Addison, Levi Corriher of Madison and Fortino Cruz of Stoneville. Team B included Brayana McGee, Mallary Walker, Eloisa Cruz and Abigayle Corriher, all of Stoneville.
Last November, the local group outshined many other 4-H clubs at the annual 2018 State Farm Credit Showmanship Circuit awards banquet in Ramseur.
In her first showing year, RCC Early College Senior Sarah Farlee, 17, of Reidsville came in fifth overall in the senior goat division.
Since she just joined late last year, Farlee only had two years of qualification in 4-H. However, the senior goats division is one of the toughest competitions, said Thomas, adding Farlee “has really excelled in the showing and judging parts of the livestock division.”
Last summer, she spent a week at the Livestock Judging Boot Camp at N.C. State. Just after school got out for the summer break, Farlee traveled to Oklahoma to participate in a weeklong national judging boot camp. She will also show a turkey at the N.C. State Fair in October.
This summer, Farlee is touring with the N.C. 4-H Livestock Judging Team, traveling all over the state, practicing livestock judging. Those travels included a trip to Tennessee July 8-11.
“I had not heard about 4-H until last year when a family friend told me about it,” Farlee said. After attending some meetings to see what it was like, she decided to join.
4-H Agent Morgan Maness encouraged Farlee to get more involved with the citizenship and leadership opportunities available through 4-H.
“I do a lot of traveling all across the state from the east coast to the west coast judging competitions and livestock shows,” Farlee said. “I enjoy meeting new people and get to see all the different walks of life.”
Other club members excelled in the November showmanship event. A student at Rockingham County Middle School, Mallary placed third overall in junior goats. She has been in 4-H for several years and, in May, won second place in county presentations on training puppies. This year Mallory, 11, plans to add showing turkeys to her repertoire.
Addison, 11, also won first overall junior lamb, and junior goat and first in most improved goat and tied for most improved lamb. In announcing the awards at the banquet, the emcee said no one had ever won two categories and nor won most improved in two species, Thomas said.
A charter member of the Shiloh 4-H Club, Addison will be a sixth-grader at Western Rockingham Middle School. Last year, Addison did a presentation on fire safety and won at county and district levels, placing second in the state.
“I like 4-H because I get to play with the animals and do community service,” she said. “Winning makes it special because you get to cherish those things (ribbons and awards).”
Abigayle, 12, did a presentation on gun safety and won first, but she did not compete at the state level because she broke her arm. She is a seventh-grader Reidsville Middle School and joined the club in 2018.
In June, after winning the local level in presentations, several 4-H’ers competed and won in the district level in Hillsboro. Wentworth Elementary Schooler Levi Corriher, 10, won for his lemurs presentation, and Leah Lovelace, 9, for her kitchen safety.
Leah also did the fashion review at county and district presentations for which she made a scarf with hand warmers at each end. She also showed goats and turkeys, winning sixth place at the State Fair for the turkeys. Farlee won county and district presentations on the benefits of meat goats, Abby took first place for gun safety. They will participate in the state contest later this month.
Addison and Brayana went to a show in Watauga County, where Addison took first in junior sheep showmanship, second in junior goat showmanship and grand champion in sheep. Brayana won first in novice sheep showmanship.
The 4-H’ers collect drink tabs for the Ronald McDonald House, help with the local Lot 2540 food truck distribution monthly, collected and donated food to the Stoneville School BackPack program, helped with the county 4-H food drive, and made goody bags twice for the Stoneville Meals on Wheels.
They also did as a fundraising dinner for Zachary Tuttle, who had a brain aneurysm.
Individually, they often come up with their own projects. For instance, Leah opened a coat closet at Lincoln Elementary, where she is a student and, in 2016, helped start the Community Garden for third graders at the school.
While on summer break, Leah will replant for a fall harvest with the new third-graders.
Thomas is proud of all her 4-H’ers and sees herself in their accomplishments since she joined the Chestnut Hill 4-H Club at the age of 9. She boarded her horse at Chestnut Hill and that was how she learned about 4-H.
In 1991, Thomas started Kounty Kids 4-H Horse Club but had to give it up several years later because of health problems.
But she missed 4-H and organized the Shiloh 4-H Club to ensure that her grandchildren, Addison and Brayana, had the same opportunities she had.
“I have seen them move from being shy about speaking in front of others to becoming award-winning presenters at 4-H events,” Thomas said.
A native of Rockingham County, Thomas graduated in 1982 from Reidsville High School, working on a horse farm while in high school. After graduating, Thomas started her own horse business, but now works at Gilbarco in Greensboro.
Nearly 30 years ago, she moved to the Roberts Farm, where three of her great-aunts had lived.
She has three children, Greg Farris, 34, one of the 4-H club leaders; Ashley Cloninger, 29, Brayana’s mother; and Ronald Cloninger, 24, now in the U.S. Army Reserve, and three grandchildren.
“4-H is an opportunity for youngsters to grow, and my hopes are to get Rhett, her youngest grandchild at three months, involved when he is old enough,” Thomas said.