Students Say Raising 4-H Animals Is About More Than Livestock

New 4-H member James Breen learns life lessons through the help of family friends the Wrights, while getting ready for to show for the first time at the upcoming county fair.
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Though showing animals at the county fair is not new for many children living within San Benito County, for James Breen, a twelve year old who attends Sacred Heart Parish School, this will be his first year doing so. San Benito County Fair begins Sept. 28 and youth all around the county are getting ready to show off their prized animals. 

James, who lives in Hollister, decided to join 4-H and raise a goat because he said, “My friends raised goats and it seemed interesting. Goats are easier than pigs. Pigs you have to feed a bunch and they’re a hassle. I like goats because they are funny.” James not only got support from his mother Christine Breen to join 4-H, but from their family friends the Wright’s as well. James keeps his goat Beyoncé at Mark and Lisa Wright's family farm alongside their children Taryn and Trevor's animals. 

The Breen family discovered it is never too late to learn how to raise animals and you do not need to have land to be in 4-H or FFA. Even without family friends like the Wrights to board animals with, there are still excellent options available to kids in the community. The Hollister 4-H organization has a barn on Nash Rd. open to community members. For students who come to the high school and join FFA, there is also the potential use of the barn on campus. Recent graduate Mia Ventimiglia explained, “The student has to be enrolled in San Benito High School, have a GPA of 2.0 or higher, and be behaviorally eligible. Having an animal comes with responsibilities. Because students aren’t charged for having an animal there, there are daily duties. The school barn is a multi-million dollar building that was kindly donated to us."  (The donation was made by the Rajkovich family.)

4-H is not just about learning to raise and handle animals. Taryn Wright, a San Benito High freshman explained, “You meet a lot of friends. My mom has shown they last through life. There’s lots of public speaking opportunities and community service. It helps you get to know your community better.”

James described a local community service project he was involved in that provided 3,424 lbs. of food to the local food bank, “We do stuff to help the community like the tomato gleaning at the Filice Farm. All the tomatoes went to the local food pantry.” Talking to all three children about their experience in their 4-H organization, responsibility, community service, and making positive friendships were the common theme.

For the Breens and Wrights, raising animals it is a true labor of love. Waking up at 6 am to start their day, the Wright children work alongside their parents, Lisa and Mark. Together, they take care of the family animals that include cattle, goats, sheep, chickens and pigs. As a family unit they are able to get most of the chores done in an hour before the kids go to school. Once arriving home they work on their homework and at 6 p.m. they start their nightly routine taking care of the animals again. The Breens are often out at the Wright farm taking care of Beyoncé Christine Breen explained, “Most days we’re out here. We’re lucky we can keep her with the Wright’s.”

Lisa Wright, Taryn and Trevor's mother, explained that it is easy to get involved in 4-H. She told BenitoLink, “Call the 4-H office. It’s listed on the county 4-H website. There are smaller clubs and bigger clubs (in the county). Every club has different projects they offer and the county has a project.” Taryn Wright also encouraged other youth in the community to join 4-H for the positive lessons learned along the way, “It’s a good experience to learn how what you eat gets to you. It’s a barn to table experience. You learn from getting your animal how to feed it properly so your buyer can get the best product. It’s a great way to learn responsibility.”

This experience is not over yet for the three children because they will bring their animals to the county fair to show this weekend. James is already looking forward with anticipation to his moment in the ring. “I hope she does what I want when I show her.”

Lisa Wright encouraged members in our community to stop by the fair and support local youth, “Come to the fair and see all the hardworking 4-H and FFA youth. All market animals start at 9 am. on Saturday for sale.”

4-H Branch phone number is (831) 637-5346 or you can go to the 4-H website.  

Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.