Steamboat Springs For Smith Dean, 8, and Lucas Morter, 11, the impulse to join 4-H came from seeing their friends learn how to raise and care for livestock.
But Smith and Lucas don’t live on ranches. Smith and his sister, Anna, 10, live in Steamboat Springs city limits, and neither Lucas’ mom nor dad have the ability to raise livestock at their own homes.
To fill that gap and bring Routt County’s agricultural heritage to the city kids, 4-H partnered with Yampatika to provide a place for those children to raise livestock.
The Legacy Ranch south of Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40 is owned by the city of Steamboat Springs and leased by Yampatika, which is a nonprofit that seeks to “inspire environmental stewardship through education.”
Anna, unlike her brother, wasn’t drawn to 4-H by friends. For her, it was the promise of a pet rabbit, which she named Pi — or 3.14159265359 recited double-time for short.
But now, Anna is taking care of a Hampshire pig named Tiko.
As Smith rubbed the pig’s belly Monday evening, Tiko dropped to his side and rolled over to enjoy the attention.
This is Smith and Anna’s first year raising pigs — Smith has a Yorkshire named Legacy, which tried to gnaw on his shoe a little when he stepped into the pen — and they’re heading to the 4-H Expo in Moffat County this week to learn more about what they’ll be doing in the coming months.
“We’re so green,” said Josie Dean, Smith and Anna’s mom.
Smith said they’d wanted to join 4-H for about a year before they took the plunge in March. And while it still was hard logistically to work it all out this first year, Dean said, 4-H’s partnership with Yampatika was vital to making it happen.
Lucas is in his third year of raising Suffolk Hampshire cross sheep. He has two lambs this year, Mudge and Ranger. Last year he sold a sheep at auction to M.J.K. Sales and Feed in Craig.
Like Smith and Anna, Lucas went to an expo his first year to learn how to shear his lambs and how to hold them and lead them when it was time for the fair.
Now, the training is passed through other 4-H members, where older members tutor or help younger ones.
Lucas has been a part of the partnership at the ranch since it started; the program is only three years old.
“We called it the town kids project,” said Sonja Macys, executive director of Yampatika and a Steamboat Springs City Council member.
Many 4-H families come from ranching or agricultural backgrounds and have access to the space and facilities that make participating in the club easier.
“A lot of kids in town don’t have that sort of connection,” Macys said.
In return for the use of space, the kids dedicate 16 hours during the summer to helping with work around the ranch and education.
The education portion is teaching the children who come to Yampatika for summer camps about the animals they’re taking care of. The program is called Animal Allies, Macys said.
“We’re working with these guys to incorporate them into the bigger picture,” she said. “Using small scale agriculture to connect to the greater community.”
Macys said the partnership with 4-H has been awesome.
“The goal out here is to make it a community asset,” Macys said about Legacy Ranch. “It’s just a few kids, but it has a significant impact on making it a working ranch.”
Dean and David Morter, Lucas’ father, both echoed how 4-H and the work the kids put into taking care of the animals instills responsibility.
They’re there twice per day most weeks, feeding the animals, cleaning stalls and making sure they have enough exercise.
Smith and Anna already were talking about the routine Tiko and Legacy would have to go through at the fair. Lucas explained how his lambs would have to be sheared right before the fair so judges could feel the meat on them better.
“We could not have done this” without the partnership, Dean said.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com