LEWISTOWN - Mifflin County 4-H has influenced many lives, but it also has built a family.
Tony, Todd and Trent Shade, all of Lewistown, make up three generations of Mifflin County 4-H'ers, and Todd's wife, Tracy, participated in the program in Juniata County. The family's involvement began in 1957, when the local extension agent at the time sent letters about 4-H to Tony and his brothers.
"I was 9 (years old) at the time," he said, and 4-H offered enrollment for children ages 10 to 20.
Todd Shade, left, Trent Shade, middle, and Tony Shade have been raising and showing livestock for three generations in Mifflin County.
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
Sentinel photo by JULIANNE CAHILL
Trent Shade, 11, works with one of his Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats July 17 at his home in Lewistown.
Since he received the letter a year early, Tony was allowed to join the club that year but couldn't participate fully until he turned 10.
"It was a rural activity" at that time, he said.
There was one all-encompassing livestock club, rather than the specialized clubs of today. Tony said he showed chickens, rabbits and pigs - all animals he raised on the family farm. 4-H was an extra-curricular activity that took Tony away from the farm for meetings, shows, trips and other events he wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity to experience, he said.
When his son, Todd, was born, Tony wanted him to be comfortable around animals.
"When he came home from the hospital, (Todd) had a 4-H emblem sewn on his baby suit," Tony said.
During his childhood, Todd's family lived on the edge of Burnham and didn't have much land, he said. He raised rabbits, lambs and goats there, and he participated in wildlife and archery projects too.
By the time Todd was enrolled in 4-H, the program had changed the ages of enrollment to between 9 and18, but it was still a combined community club.
"But that was the beginning of the separation into animal clubs," he said.
Todd showed in 4-H until he was 18 years old, then competed in FFA for a few more years.
In fact, it was 4-H that brought him and his wife together - Todd met Tracy when he bought his first project goat from her family.
Their 11-year-old son, Trent, continues the family's tradition today.
"When Trent came along ... it was just natural for him to pick up and join," Todd said.
Trent cares for a backyard full of animals and shows his chickens, rabbits, goats, pigs and ducks. His favorites, he said, are the pigs.
"They're just calm," he said. "They're big, but if you tame them down, they're friendly forever."
Three pink- and black-spotted Hampshire/Yorkshire cross hogs eagerly greeted Trent as he walked into the barn. He said he spends time walking his pigs to prepare them for the show ring.
"The pigs will do what they wanna do, but you have to stay in control," he said. "Walking pigs builds muscles and keeps them tame."
Aside from cleaning pens, his least favorite chore, Trent said caring for his animals is fun ... except when it's raining or hot outside.
In addition to barnwork at home, Trent participates in educational events through 4-H, including Ag in the Classroom at the Snider Agriculture Arena at University Park and Kindergarten Awareness Day, held annually at the Mifflin County Youth Park in Reedsville.
The Shade men said the 4-H fair has changed throughout the years. They said shows are more competitive now, there are more buildings at the youth park, there is a larger variety of animals shown and projects encompass almost every hobby - not just livestock animals.
Even so, some things never change. They say 4-H still builds lifelong friendships, good memories and, in this case, families.
"Just get interested in 4-H," Trent said.
Today's exhibits at the Mifflin County Youth Fair include:
8 a.m. - Dairy/commercial and market goat show;
1 p.m. - Poultry breed show/poultry market show;
4 p.m. - Air rifle tournament;
5 p.m. - Archery tournament;
7 p.m. - 4-H/FFA dairy show;
8 p.m. - Demonstration by the Mifflin County 4-H Square Dancers.