UCCE adds urban 4-H club in San Francisco
Responding to a strong locavore movement and do-it-yourself ethos in San Francisco, parents Megan Price and Lauren Ward co-founded the San Francisco Urban 4-H Club this year, said an article published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
"With the whole urban farming movement blossoming, there are a lot of people with backyard chickens, beekeeping, etc.," Price was quoted. "It just seems like a really good time to start exploring these things with our kids."
But that wasn't the only thing that drew the parents to 4-H.
"I like that (4-H is) focused on service, that it's nondiscriminatory," Price said. "I like that it is focused on earth and agriculture and animals and helping - it is something that kids don't necessarily have access to in the city."
The Chron article, written by Lisa Wallace, said 4-H membership, especially in urban areas, has been on a steady rise the last 4 years. According to 4-H National, about a third of participants are now from cities of at least 50,000 or their surrounding suburbs.
Even though these 4-H members generally live in areas not zoned for farm animals, 4-H helps find ways for city kids to experience the joys and challenges of animal husbandry.
For example, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H program representative Mary Meyer worked with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to set up five locations where 4-Hers can lease land - in Pacifica, Daly City, San Bruno, San Carlos and near the Crystal Springs Reservoir in San Mateo County, the article said. The rent is usually around $6 per month, and because there is no caretaker, it's up to the 4-Hers to feed and groom their animals daily.
Nine-year-old Elsa Rafter joined the San Francisco Urban 4-H Club because of her family's interest backyard chickens, but by participating in 4-H, became involved in several other aspects of growing and preparing food.
Elsa learned to milk a club member's backyard goats and make homemade ice cream from the milk. With Price, who is a pastry chef, she baked an apple and blackberry galette with fresh fruit and an egg wash from her own chickens.
"When you live in a city, you're exposed to cool stuff like museums, but you have to go out of your way to see a farm, or experience milking a goat," Price was quoted in the story.
Bay Area 4-H was also recently featured in a Mother Jones blog post. Kiera Butler wrote about 4-H children she met at the Alameda County Fair.
She said the 4-H kids and leaders she talked to spoke passionately about the importance of raising animals in humane conditions and on healthy and varied diets. Members are encouraged to spend time with their animals, and they are required to learn about the biology and health of the animals they raise.
"In 4-H we try to make kids understand the responsibility that comes with raising an animal," UCCE 4-H program representative Stephanie Fontana was quoted. "You're in charge of another being."
4-H member Sarah Hazeltine of Woodland kisses her goat. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)