Wallingfordians have long embraced urban farming — every year we meet more neighborhood chickens and see more planting strips converted to produce production. So it makes sense that Seattle’s only 4H Club devoted to the farm arts would hatch in Wallingford.
The new group kicked off on Sunday morning at Nina Finley’s house. She’s a high school senior who decided when she was nine years old that she wanted to be a farmer after a visit to the Evergreen State Fair. She told us via email, “I tried to convince my mom to move to the country, but when that failed I figured I would just have to start my own farm here at home. I wanted to be like those big kids I’d seen sweeping the aisles in the Beef Barn at the fair, so I called the 4H extension office and found a club in Lynnwood to join with my pet rabbit.”
Finley said she decided to start a farm-arts club in part because she’s seen the popularity of urban farming explode. She wrote:
I know of three chicken coops on every block. One neighbor keeps honey bees, and another has two Mini Mancha dairy goats. Tons of these urban farming families have kids, and I thought it was absurd that there still weren’t any livestock clubs in the city! A lot of families are getting back to the “farm arts,” as 4H calls them: sewing, gardening, canning, baking, and raising animals. What better way to get kids involved in these projects than through 4H? Soon these 4H kids are going to be teaching their parents how it’s done!
Finley now raises chickens and ducks at home. Her original Netherland Dwarf rabbit is still with her, “and he’s been through every stage of 4H with me,” she said. She now plans to start breeding and raising a heritage breed of meat rabbits. She added, “I also milk my neighbor’s Mini Mancha dairy goats, and show my 4H leader’s sheep. (I also have a leopard gecko, a New Caledonian crested gecko, two axolotls, a Russian tortoise, and goldfish, but they don’t do 4H.)”
At the club’s first meeting, Finley said 24 people showed up; about half were members and half were parents and leaders. Not all interested families were able to attend the kickoff meeting “I’ve had almost 50 families contact me, so I think it will be a pretty big club — we might need to split up by neighborhood in the future!” The club, which the group dubbed Cooped Up in Seattle 4H Club, will focus on such farm arts projects as rabbits, poultry, dairy goats, sewing, cooking, gardening, vet science, and natural resources.
Finley said the club will meet monthly members’ houses, with a different activity at each meeting (e.g., bread baking, planning vegetable gardens, spinning wool, making cheese, sewing quilts, bathing chickens). As part of club membership, Finley explained, everyone “will need to keep a record book, make a poster, give a public presentation, attend a practice animal show, and participate in community service each year. In July, we’ll take our projects to the Enumclaw Fair to show off what we’ve learned.”
Eight years after her first foray into 4H, does Finley still want to be a farmer? “Since that dream started, I’ve created my own farm here at home, worked with lots of crops and farm animals, and visited a bunch of farms,” she said. “I’ve learned a ton, and while I still love agriculture, I don’t want to be a farmer as my main profession. I’ll always keep a garden and a few animals, but I also love biology, and my recent plan is to become a large animal veterinarian. That way, I’ll still get to live in a rural area and work with farmers and livestock every day, but I can be a scientist at the same time.”
To learn more about Seattle’s new 4H club, visit its web page or email Finley at ninafinley [at] seattleacademy.org.