My name is Rachel Ferrell and I am in the senior class of 2017 at Deer Park High School in Deer Park Washington. I lived in the town of Deer Park until I was 12, when my family moved out to the middle of nowhere, onto ten acres of forest. It was around this time that many of my friends were either already a part of 4-H or were planning on joining. Growing up in the tiny town of Deer Park, there aren’t many crazy opportunities so the biggest thing for most 4-Her’s is the Clayton Community Fair. Three days at the end of summer are filled up with cleaning stalls, washing animals, eating buckets of ice cream, and showing our animals. My first year I really had no idea what I was really doing, but had plenty of friends to show me the ropes along the way. For the first two years I raised sheep we bought from of group leader. I quickly learned just how much work those seemingly cute and innocent animals are. My first sheep actually got sick and died and I had to start all over. This taught me that this was not going to be easy. But I stuck through it and in the end had a healthy animal to sell at the fair. The year after that, I raised another sheep, this time without any major mishaps. However, I grew very sick of the sheep and decided to move on to bigger things. Literally.

We bought my pigs from a farmer a friend of ours had bought from before. We probably should have done a little more looking, because the very first thing we had to do once we go those pigs was take them straight to the vet to treat their lice and worms. The black hog, Dinner, also arived with a lovely, pus filled abscess on her hip. The vet lanced it and gave her some meds, along with penicillin we had to inject into her daily. At first this was an easy task as my dad and I would hold her against the shed with boards while she got her shot. But pigs grow and by the time she was nearly 300 pounds we were still giving her shots. Everytime we went out, I would get severely mudded all up and down my legs. Once I was just about thrown into the mud puddle as Dinner stampeded across the pen. My other pig, Breakfast, was no help in this situation, as she would try to find any food I had, even when there was none. We finally lanced the abscess again and managed to clean it out and the battle of human with needle and pig was over. I really don’t think she ever forgave us though.

Last year was my final year raising animals for the fair and I can honestly say I was definitely ready to move on to something else. Early morning wake up calls in the middle of summer because the pigs managed to get out, or they had no water and it was 100 degrees, were getting quite old by the time the fair rolled around. They were no serious medical inconveniences with this round of hogs, but this time both my siblings wished to raise one as well, so we had not two but three furiously growing wildebeests running around the even larger pen. This year was going to be a little different when it can to preparing for the fair. New rules and regulations were established and any animal that was even a pound over weight would not be allowed to be sold in the auction. Lots of math and calculations were done to make sure that these pigs would be the perfect weight in time for auction. Sadly, that didn’t exactly work. We ended up having to buy even more food and some grain because first we ran out and then they were getting too big too fast. Miss Piggy, Hank, and Seymour Bacon ended weighing 285, 317, and 319 pounds respectively at the time of weigh in.

Raising animals wasn’t the only thing I got to do through 4-H. When my mom was a kid she was a part of 4-H as well. However, she did a lot more than just raising animals. She got to go on trips to Washington D.C. and did lots of different leadership activities. She wanted for me to be able to have close to the same experience so we looked into it. I ended up getting to go to the National Healthy Living Summit at the National 4-H Center in Washington D.C. In fact I actually got to go twice. The first trip consisted mainly of me learning a whole new side to 4-H. I never knew how big of a scale of people I could meet just by being in this program. I met people from Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Texas and this resulted in me having a very weird mix of a an accent for about a week after I got home. However, I met some of the kindest, most genuine people I will probably meet in my life during those few days. One of the best things was watching those from the southern states see snow for the first time. Some were outside running around in shorts and t shirts, some were having snowball fights, many were taking photos, some were freaking out. Then there were the ones who have to deal with too much snow back home every winter and were angrily glaring out the window (that was definitely me).

One of our projects at the summit was to create a program, or better an already existing one and bring it back to your county to put into action. Spokane County planned on presenting our programs at Teen Conference at WSU in July. One of the classes I attended while at the summit was called Letters in Motion. Their mission was to get as many handwritten as they can and take them to orphanages in poor African countries such as Kenya and Nepal. I loved this idea and program so much that I decided to bring it back to Teen Conference where I taught other teens the importance of this program and the impact they are creating on those children’s life. In the small group of teens, we sent nearly 30 letters to be given to children. I love programs like this that benefit someone else who really needs it, and will appreciate it so much even if it is simply a letter.

My involvement in the 4-H program is on that will definitely benefit me for the rest of my life. Not only have I learned so much about so many different things, I have also been granted so many once in a lifetime experiences that I will carry with me forever. My whole experience can be exemplified through the core of 4-H: the 4-H pledge itself. With such great opportunities and leaders my knowledge and thinking have been able to grow. The connections I have made with people I wouldn’t have meet otherwise are some of the best I have ever made. I continue to give service to my community, especially through my school and programs around it. I have learned that it is not all about me, nor can I do it all on my own. It’s okay to ask for help and most of the time it will make what you doing even better. The things that you are doing should benefit either you so you can help benefit others, or be in the interest of creating a better community and world. I have been granted with such an amazing life and such wonderful opportunities that I know not everyone has access to. So I believe it is up to me and all those in this program to encourage others to help better the world for the us today, the coming generation, and those in the future. It’s not going to happen by itself, but we have the skills, resources, and ideas to better our clubs, our communities, or countries and our world.