5@5 - Five reasons to buy from your local 4-H
June 21st, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Uh - what exactly is a 4-H, you say? Well, we're glad you asked.

4-H Clubs - an acronym for "head, heart, hands and health" - were originally set up by the United States Department of Agriculture to train the rural youth of America in hands-on skills like agriculture and raising animals.

Essentially, the goal was to make public school education more connected to the country life, while fostering a sense of community and personal responsibility.

The programs have since expanded to more urbanized areas and focused in on overall nutrition and well-being, but a number of clubs still get their hands dirty by helping raise and sell livestock to the likes of locally-driven chefs like Kelly Liken.

Kelly Liken is the executive chef and owner of Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colorado; she was also a contestant on "Top Chef" Season 7.

Five Reasons to Buy from Your Local 4-H: Kelly Liken

1. When you buy 4-H, it aids in supporting efforts to use the whole animal
"There are only a few portions of each cut, so it forces our team to come up with new dishes as we sell each of the cuts. It has been the catalyst for many new, very tasty dishes.

When you buy a whole animal you have a responsibility to it, to use as much of it as you can. This is a responsibility that we do not take lightly."

2. 4-H animals are some of the best quality in the nation
"There is a noticeable difference when animals are raised with love on healthy food and come from strong local blood lines. The flavors are full and haven’t lost their edge - and they are cared for by individuals who put care and time into the entire process of raising the animal."

3. 4-H supports the education of local children
"The lessons local kids learn by raising animals is absolutely invaluable. They learn how much time money and energy it takes to raise an animal. These are lessons that can only be learned by direct experience.

Most importantly, all the money raised by the sale goes into the child’s individual education fund."

4. Knowing where your food comes from is not only very important but it teaches a life-long lesson to children, while shaping their future decisions with regards to food, cooking, and nutrition
"Making choices about what we put into our bodies and choose to serve to our guests can be complicated. The impact of those choices is far-reaching.

Removing the transportation of animals along with the multi-person handling out of the equation allows for a more streamlined simple choice."

5. It’s fun!
"Going to the 4-H auction is one of my favorite things to do. The county fair atmosphere offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Being able to choose an animal by looking at it, by watching it move and identifying muscle tone is a far cry from picking a product from a purveyor's price list.

Listening to the auctioneer and seeing how excited the children get when their animal is purchased is an incredibly fulfilling experience."

Find your local 4-H, and share your thoughts on 4-H clubs in the comments.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Food Politics • Local Food • Think

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soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. CM

    To Heather and all the other nay-sayers:
    Unless you have had first hand experience with a 4H or FFA livestock project, you have no right to say these things about the program. I have been involved in 4H and FFA all my life and it has made me the person I am today. There is so many other things to do in these programs that most people don't see and that is what you are basing your "facts" around. I have raised and sold many animals through my hometown county fair and I take a sense of pride and joy in the product I raise for my buyers. My animals have always had the best care that they deserve. I spend about 4 hours a day with my livestock projects and travel all across the state with them showing them at different livestock shows. Showing animals is what I love to do and the money I got from my last years projects is paying for me to go to college. All of the kids that raise animals don't do it because our parents force us to, we do it because we love it. Plain and simple. Yes I do get sad selling my animals from time to time, but knowing that they went to a well deserved buyer that wanted to support me makes it all worth. There is a lot more to the Agricultural industry then meets the eye, I just wish you would realize that.

    August 11, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  2. Jessica

    @ Heather King: pick on the people who really matter. such as people who actually abuse, neglect, and mistreat animals. not those of us who raise them for food.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • beaelliott

      Hello Jessica – I think what you don't understand is that some people have thought these issues over with immense dedication to clarity... And their uncompromised conclusions all lead to the fact that it IS "abuse" and "mistreatment" to kill an innocent being when it's NOT necessary.

      Over and over on this thread I kept reading that "being a vegetarian or vegan is your choice". And THAT's exactly the point! There IS a choice! There is no existing evidence that eschewing meat/dairy/eggs is anything but beneficial to human health. Therefore, when you breed these beings just to slaughter – It is done by choice. It is seizing someone elses body and life for frivolous "want" not irreplaceable "need. Meat is eaten due to habit, taste and/or economics alone. And these are very poor guides to follow when setting examples of integrity, responsibility or self-discipline.

      And someone justified 4H livestock programs by comparing them to robotics, rocketry, go carts, cake decorating, building model airplanes, etc. But can't anyone see how absurd this is? The notion of sentient beings being manipulated and discarded as things reeks of "othering" which is the foundation to all human atrocities. Clearly, if one has to explain the moral value and sacred difference between a model train and a cow, pig, goat or chicken – Then I believe the point of "disconnect" and the consequences are made obvious.

      Will all 4H kids grow up to be serial killers or sociopathic demons? No. But I have every belief that they will be less whole and less emotionally alive. They will be more apt to ignore the value all life has for it's self, for the sake of the standards of "purpose" or "usefulness" that others may have for that life. They will be inclined to think that it's okay to force lesser, weaker beings to "serve" wants and desires others have made claim on. They will be more likely to turn from compassion in favor of expedient pragmatism.

      They will shudder when they repeat their "circle of life" mantra. For their authentic intelligence knows – That they are the culprits in the circle of death. They will depend on the mutual head-nodding of all in agreement, lest anyone show the collective-self-deceit for what it is.

      If we are ever to nurture this world we need to elevate ourselves to standards of empathy not reduce it to the bare minimum of an illusion that we can slaughter "kindly". No calculated extinguishment of life is ever kind.

      July 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
      • Paige Porter

        Hello Bea- I think that on the road to immense dedication to clarity you have disconnected yourself from the abuses that your dietary choice rains down upon the land. In order to feed the immense numbers of people vegetation inumerable and vast numbers of acreage are taken over and molded for one purpose- the production of food. Displacing and sometimes irradicating( aka. Killing) any and all other species that was there before, animals and plants alike. Do you cry foul for them? Im guessing probably not because this is a silent atrocity. Can you also disconnect and justify the damage caused by the use of resources such as fossil fuels and ground water, and dont get me started on pesticides. Organic farms are wonderful but the woefully inadequate to feed the numbers you wish to convert and still do not remedy all the problems caused by farming. Does the loss of populations of creatures leave you with a feeling of integrity, responsibility or self- descipline or even compassion. I hope not because no calculated extinguishment of life is ever kind. So let us elevate our standards of empathy , not reduce it to the bare minimum of an illusion. The problem is and always will be that in order to thrive the human race must be a culprit in the circle of death and extinquish many forms of life and one type of destruction over the other is still destruction and death.

        September 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm |
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