4-H program thrives at children’s home

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

More than a dozen youth at the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home are going hog wild, and that’s not even mentioning the sheep.

About 25 of the residents and children of employees at the home are participating in 4-H this year, with 13 raising pigs and 10 raising sheep, said Farm and Livestock Manager Rick Daniell. He expects the other children in 4-H to participate in quilting or possibly care for rabbits.

Austin, 12, has been raising pigs for five years. This year, he has a crossbred pig named Yoshi.

“I like taming them and brushing them and trying to get them used to me,” he said.

Walking is hard because of the heat, Austin said, but he likes it because he learns through the activity.

When Austin first came to the home, he tried working with sheep, but thought it was boring.

“I thought doing pigs was going to be hard … and a nasty job, but once I tried it, I liked it,” he said.

Daniell said he thought the 4-H program was great.

“I think it provides good work opportunities, learning experiences, leadership skills,” he said. “It provides something productive for the kids to do.”

The program also lets him interact with the children in a different atmosphere than the cottages provide, Daniell said.

Home Assistant Director Rod Self said caring for the livestock is therapeutic for the children.

The home’s 4-Hers start asking when they can start their animal projects before school is out, Daniell said.

Beginning in June and ending with the Roosevelt County Fair in August, they spend about two hours feeding, walking, training and cleaning up after the animals in the morning and two more in the evening. The children focus on pigs in the morning and sheep in the evening, although they take care of all of the animals twice a day, said Daniell’s wife, Lori.

Self said the residents aren’t required to participate, some are too young, and 25 is the normal enrollment. The children must be at least 9 years old to do a 4-H project.

Makala, 12, is raising a pig, named Winndixie. It’s her first time.

“I thought it was going to be hard,” she said. “I didn’t know what it was going to be like to experience it, and you have a bunch of responsibility with the pigs. It is easy to walk the pigs, and I thought it was going to be hard.”

Makala decided to participate in 4-H so she wouldn’t be bored this summer.

Kelly, 15, raised pigs for slaughter for three years before coming to the home and is starting her fifth year caring for one to show. Her Hampshire pig is named Moe.

“My favorite part is helping raise them when they’re little babies and showing them at the fair,” she said.

Her uncle and cousin kept pigs and started her on the swine-raising path, Kelly said.