Local youth taking an interest in new 4-H club | AspenTimes.com

Local youth taking an interest in new 4-H club

Caroline Daniels, 13, takes her dog Joey for a training trott at Cozy Point Stables Wednesday afternoon. Daniels is one of five youths that form a 4-H dog team, the first in years in Aspen. Daniel Bayer photo.

A little piece of the past is coming back to Aspen in the form of a newly formed 4-H club.

Cozy Point Ranch is sponsoring the resurgence of the nonprofit club that encourages kids to get involved in agriculture. According to ranch general manager Monroe Summers, Pitkin County hasn’t had a local 4-H club or an accompanying Pitkin County Fair for almost 20 years.

“The demographics of the county changed from rural and ranching lands to second-home owners, and the interest in things like that got lost because there wasn’t any support,” Summers said.

But when Cozy Point Ranch manager Patti Watson suggested starting a local club, five kids immediately took an interest and came together for the first time in April. All five decided to work on projects related to training, grooming and showing their own dogs this summer, and Watson is interested in expanding the program to include care of horses and sheep, as well.

“We will grow, I’m sure,” Watson said.

So far this summer the group has traveled to practice shows in Grand Junction and Fort Collins. On Aug. 6 club members participated in the 4-H Dog Project at the Garfield County Fair in Rifle, with many taking home top honors.

As a result, four of the five members are heading to Pueblo on Saturday to compete in the Colorado State Fair. Watson is serving as the group leader for the club.

“I see a lot of maturity in the kids that started this year. They’ve trained a dog, taken it to the show, and the maturity seems to transfer over to other things they’ve done,” Watson said. “We spend a lot of time doing this, so the kids are not getting in trouble anywhere else.”

One of the major factors that influenced the end of 4-H in the upper Roaring Fork Valley was the closure of the local extension office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Summers said in the early ’80s the county chose to cut the office from its budget.

Department of Agriculture extension offices provide support to local ranchers, such as advice on how to set up irrigation systems, information on plagues or soil testing. Summers said when the upper Roaring Fork Valley went from primarily agricultural to primarily a resort community, the extension office packed up and left on the county’s request.

Unfortunately, 4-H is part of the youth education branch of the Department of Agriculture, run through the local extension offices. The local club was discontinued when the Pitkin County extension office closed.

The county still doesn’t have an office. The Aspen club is actually operating through the Garfield County extension office. Watson lives in Garfield County, but formed the group as a satellite club that meets once monthly in Garfield County.

In the past few months, Watson said she’s met four kids who are interested in raising sheep during the winter months, and Cozy Point has agreed to donate room and board for the project animals that can’t be kept at home.

The new 4-H club gives local kids an experience they’ve never had before.

“Since there aren’t a lot of farming families in the valley anymore and a lot of kids are interested in being involved, they can keep their dogs at home but we’ll board the animals at the ranch,” Summers said. The historic red barn on Cozy Point Ranch used for riding camp in the summer will be used in the winter for the 4-H animals, he said.

“We’re happy to make a go of it out here,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for a number of kids, and some of them are tickled to death about it.”

For more information about the Aspen 4-H club, call Patti Watson at Cozy Point Ranch at 922-6755.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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