Feeding goats

Six-year-old Olivia Pollard and her brother Brayden Pollard, 7, of Monette, are both in the Craighead County 4-H Club. They spent a snowy afternoon Monday bottle feeding their 4-H show goats Lucky and Hank.

JONESBORO — Sarah Pollard said 4-H has been a lifesaver for her children.

“The 4-H club has been what has helped my kids,” she said. “My son has severe anxiety. This has helped build his confidence and bring him out where he wants to be around other people.”

However, Pollard said the pandemic has negatively affected her children due to the lack of being able to meet in person.

“We had to go virtual and it flipped us all around,” she said.

Much like other local organizations, Craighead County 4-H clubs have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Local 4-H club leaders said events 4-H members normally participate in have had to be canceled or rescheduled.

Jon David Carmack, Craighead County 4-H Stem Club leader, said last year was really the first year for 4-H to have a STEM club.

“Craighead County 4-H had a robotics club years ago,” he said, noting that when he learned of a competition through his workplace, it was just the motivation needed to re-establish the club.

Carmack works as the communications coordinator for Craighead Electric Cooperative, which is one of 17 utility companies within Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

“I’m involved in both of these worlds, so I thought let’s get a kit and go do it,” he said.

The competition, called The 2020 Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge, was held at The Center at Bishop Park in Bryant.

Last year, Carmack said children in the club built their own underwater robots made from kits provided by Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.

This year, 4-H STEM club members could not participate.

“This year organizers moved this to a virtual event,” he said. “Members would have had to build a course, run it, and film it, then send it in.”

Carmack said his club has not been able to meet since the inception of pandemic precautions.

“We hope to be able to meet in October or November when everyone has had their vaccinations and we are given the clear,” he said.

Another club within Craighead County 4-H, The Rabbit Club, has been affected by not one but two viruses.

James Cunningham, Craighead County 4-H Rabbit Club leader, said the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a virus that only affects rabbits – rabbit hemorrhagic viral disease – has complicated the rabbit showing competitions in other states that are part of the club activities.

In addition to having rabbits tested before competitions, Cunningham said many 4-H members involved in the rabbit club have had competitions canceled.

Maleigha Cook, Craighead County Extension Agent the over 4-H Youth Development Program, said the club has had the same challenges as many. The lack of the ability to meet face-to-face has been the biggest obstacle.

“At first we couldn’t even go into the home,” she said.

Cook also addressed the added complication of the rabbit disease.

“So far we have been so fortunate; as of now the virus has not entered our state,” she said. “Rabbits have to have health papers (from a vet) before crossing state lines.”

Cook said the organization has also gotten on board the technology bandwagon.

“This week we are doing a virtual Winter Blast Bake-Off,” she said. “Kids are uploading virtually by Facebook,” noting they are baking cakes and decorating them at home.

In person meetings have begun, Cook said, as guidelines dictate meetings can be held with 10 or fewer people.

In the meantime, Cook said she has conducted home visits where she has checked on livestock and taken blood samples of animals. There are several upcoming shows scheduled.

Pollard said one of those shows is the Buffalo Island Show scheduled in March and her children are excited to be participating.

“They are showing goats and broilers,” she said.