Jackson County 4-H Goat Club wins $3,000 through contest

It’s official: They are the GOAT when it comes to collecting nonperishable food, hygiene products and cleaning supplies.

Members of the Jackson County 4-H Goat Club recently learned the 11,700 pounds of donations they collected during the 2022 Jackson County Fair and distributed to local communities was the most of the 16 county fairs participating in the inaugural Fight the Hunger, Stock the Trailer campaign.

The competition, presented by Farm Credit Mid-America and Rural 1st, encouraged 4-H student leaders to promote the contest during their county fairs this past summer.

The group collecting the most would receive $3,000, while second would earn $2,000 and third $1,000.

The local goat club knocked it out of the park, as second-place Madison County collected 7,080 pounds of donations, and third-place Jennings County brought in 5,030.

Each of the participating counties also received $500.

“We wanted to make sure that we recognize and congratulation you guys,” Jessica Weathers, associate financial officer for the Farm Credit Mid-America Columbus office, said to the club during a recent meeting at Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 in Seymour.

“You guys did an amazing job. You guys did a great thing for your community,” she said. “I got some notices about where you guys donated to. It has been a really great project. Thank you guys for your participation. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do this again next year, and hopefully, we’ll be able to present you a check next year.”

Weathers said the agricultural publication Hoosier Ag Today also wants to interview club members about the project.

“You’re going to be a spotlight in their publication, so that was a pretty exciting little bonus that will come your way, too,” she said.

The Columbus office serves Jackson, Jennings, Brown and Bartholomew counties, and Weathers said it was great to see all four county fairs participate and two finish in the top three.

In all, the initiative brought in 37,297 pounds of food.

“Next year, we’re hoping to reach more of the state,” Weathers said. “We’re excited to talk to the Ohio crew, too, because this was their third year. They have a bunch participating over in Ohio. We’re getting some ideas from them.”

While getting the word out about Stock the Trailer this year, Weathers said she contacted extension educators in each county and offered it to the 4-H Junior Leaders to take on.

“The ultimate goal was to have the kids spearhead this,” she said.

In Jackson County, the Junior Leaders group had a lot going on already, so 4-H Youth Extension Educator Heather VonDielingen reached out to leaders of the goat club.

“They gave us the opportunity and asked if we were able to do it. Any time we get the opportunity to help out in the community, we’re going to make it happen,” said Jason Wynn, who leads the club with Jessica Sons and Lenora Mathena.

Main Trailer Sales LLC donated use of a trailer for the club to park near the Farm Bureau building during the week of the fair, and Cummins Inc. helped obtain a certified weight on the trailer that determined the number of pounds and also allowed use of a semitrailer to store donations.

Fairgoers, club members and their families then had the opportunity to place donations in the trailer. The goat club also incorporated Battle of the Barns, which pits the various livestock barns against each other in a variety of activities on the Friday night of the fair. The barn that collected the most donations had points added to its total.

After the fair, goat club members and their families took donated items to the communities in which they live and delivered them.

Food went to I Care Ministries Food Pantry and Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry in Seymour, the Shed for You community buildings in Brownstown and Freetown and the 4-H Little Food Pantry boxes throughout the county.

Also, bulk amounts of soap that were included in the club’s total were donated to Anchor House, Seymour Fire Department, Seymour Police Department, Jackson County Emergency Medical Services and Humane Society of Jackson County.

Mathena and her kids took donations to the Shed for You in Freetown.

“I grew up in the city and helped with homeless. My kids have never seen that and they’ve never experienced it, so it was a good opportunity for them to go get their hands on and see and do,” she said.

“When we were at Shed for You, it was empty, and they were not getting it and were putting the food in there as if it’s a grocery store, organizing things,” she said. “Then they were like, ‘Why are these people outside watching us?’ ‘Because they are waiting for us to leave so they can get the food.’ Then I took my kids back the next day, and it was empty.”

In talking to other club members and parents, Mathena said distributing donations was memorable.

“They were all able to see and get their hands on,” she said. “It was a really neat experience.”

Wynn said the $3,500 the club received will go toward awards presented to members, and they also would like to establish a scholarship to award to senior members.