Highland County’s 4-H youth development director said Monday she wanted to clarify that a group operating under the name 4 Highland Poultry Kids is not affiliated with 4-H or the Highland County Fair, and is “trying to circumvent the decisions” made by several official agencies in regard to youth who are enrolled in market poultry projects for the county fair.
A story in Friday’s Times-Gazette described the efforts of the newly-formed non-profit group called 4 Highland County Poultry Kids to allow youngsters the opportunity to engage is some kind of poultry sale. The group is operating independently of the official 4-H organization, the Highland County Fairboard and the Junior Fair.
The issue arose because of the decision by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to cancel poultry shows to prevent the spread of Avian flu.
On Monday, Kathy Bruynis, local 4-H youth development director, issued a press release further clarifying the issue from the point of view of the 4-H organization and the Junior Fair.
“There is a group in Highland County that is trying to circumvent the decisions made by a committee comprised of Senior Fairboard members, the Junior Fair Coordinator, OSU Extension 4-H Educator, OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resource Educator, along with representatives from FFA, the poultry barn, and sale committee,” said Bruynis.
“This committee made the decision for youth enrolled in market poultry projects not to receive baby chicks and therefore not to participate in the livestock sale at the county fair,” Bruynis said in the press release.
“Youth could have had their breeding poultry projects (June 1 deadline) before this decision was made, but these projects never have participated in the fair livestock auction anyway. This group (4 Highland Poultry Kids) is acting independently and the guidelines they have created have no relationship to the youth completing their 4-H project and is not endorsed by Ohio State University Extension, 4-H Youth Development,” she said.
Bruynis said that the Ohio Department of Agriculture “made the decision to cancel all poultry shows in Ohio to protect the poultry industry. The committee made this decision with careful consideration, taking into account the risks associated with allowing the poultry order to occur.”
In a separate press release, Jana Holbrook, Junior Fair coordinator, added, “This disease is sudden death. If a bird gets the disease it will die within a few hours. If we had gotten the birds for the kids and they would have died, exhibitors would have had to contact the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and let them know of the death. Then ODA would have tested the birds to see if they had Avian Influenza.
“If a positive test would have occurred due to the co- mingling of all the birds and them all coming from one hatchery they would have had to been euthanized. Meaning every bird we had gotten for Jr. Fair exhibitors would have been euthanized. Thus meaning that the kids would not have received their money back as well as more time and money would have been invested in there poultry project.”
Holbrook said, “The other reason is that a majority of these kids do not have access to slaughter facilities to take their birds. ODA will not allow any birds on the fairgrounds or any co-mingling of birds so the kids would have had to take the birds on their own to a slaughter facility. Also, we are not the only county in the state to not allow our kids to have birds. There are other counties in Ohio that are taking the same precautions as Highland County.”
Holbrook said that contrary to what a member of 4 Highland County Poultry Kids said in Friday’s story, it was not just one buyer who said they would not pay for a poster at a sale. Holbrook also stressed that 4 Highland County Poultry Kids ”in no way has any association with Highland County Jr. Fair.”
Bruynis said the official committee “still wanted these youth to have the opportunity to have the junior fair experience.”
She said guidelines presented to and approved by the Highland County Senior Fairboard to participate in junior fair are as follows:
• Breeding Poultry Exhibitors – Showmanship Contest, Skillathon and Interview/Poster: Educational Poster on your particular breed;
• Market Poultry Exhibitors – Showmanship Contest, Skillathon and Interview/Poster: Educational Poster on the Production, management, and/or husbandry of poultry as well as the effect of Avian Influenza on the Poultry Industry.
• In order to receive Junior Fair Awards, exhibitors must participate in all 3 areas, the showmanship contest, Skillathon, interview/poster contest.
• Showmanship materials will be provided.
Bruynis said more detailed information will be distributed during Junior Fair entry day at the Highland County Fairgrounds. Bruynis agreed that for 2015, this would be used as completion requirements for their 4-H projects.
“Typically, 4-H members do not have to participate in the fair or the sale to complete their projects. This has never been a requirement to complete a 4-H project. 4-H members are invited to participate in the Highland County Fair but that is a Junior Fair event and not specifically a 4-H event. By participating in this educational opportunity, the youth will learn more about the poultry industry and that is what 4-H is about, education,” said Bruynis.
Manya Jones, a board member for the new 4 Highland County Poultry Kids organization, said last week, “For local kids who signed up for raising poultry projects at the fair, this news was disappointing, and for some who had looked forward to this project all year it was devastating.”
She said that “being able to go into a show arena and display their small animal is a big deal for these kids that have little other opportunity to learn to present or show a project without having to speak or lead a large animal.” She said other counties have found ways to hold a poultry sale without chickens being brought to the fairgrounds.
Jones said her organization’s plan is for parents to do fundraisers and ask businesses to contribute through local banks and an online GoFundMe website, with money being equally distributed to all participants that meet state 4-H requirements.
But Bruynis referred to comments by Tom Archer, assistant director of 4-H development, who said, “Agricultural and food animal production involves both rewards and risks. Weather and diseases are factors that can and do negatively impact production. Avian influenza is one such disease. Part of the overall 4-H youth development experience is providing positive and supportive environments and experiences in which youth learn from the thrill of successes. Equally important, youth members also learn to cope with the sting of disappointments. The negative impacts of avian influenza are certainly a tremendous disappointment.
“At the same time, it is also an opportunity to learn important life lessons in effectively coping with and responding to challenging situations. Youth will benefit from adult support to help them develop effective knowledge, skills, and strategies to do so. Yes, they won’t be showing the live animal they originally had intended to show, but they will be learning how a disease can affect an animal and an industry.”
Questions regarding 4-H can be directed to Kathy Bruynis, 4-H Youth Development Educator, at 937-393-1918. Junior Fair questions can be directed to Jana Holbrook, Junior Fair coordinator, at 937-402-6219.
Photo: Kathy Bruynis