4H leader’s vision of community co-op barn comes to life

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

For the Fischer family, raising livestock isn’t just a hobby; it’s a way of life. The west Berthoud farm where Kelly Fischer lives with her husband, son and three daughters is home to cows, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, cats and dogs.

While looking after their own animals is a big responsibility in itself, the Fischers are taking on an even bigger project this year for the good of the Berthoud community.

The Fischer family are building a youth livestock barn on their property west of Berthoud for kids who are unable to house livestock at their home. The barn will enable more kids to participate in 4H by raising and caring for livestock.

After witnessing the benefits of caring for livestock firsthand, Fischer decided several years ago there should be a way for kids who are unable to house livestock on their own property to raise and show animals too. It wasn’t until she took over as leader of the Berthoud Sagebrush Riders 4H Club three years ago that she began to brainstorm ways to put her plan into action.

“My kids wanted to share what they do in 4H with their cousin and friends, and I felt bad a lot of those kids couldn’t do livestock projects because of their living situations, or because of homeowner’s associations,” said Fischer. “When I became a club leader I saw more kids wanting to do projects like this that couldn’t, and with my kids getting older it seemed like the right time to do something about it.”

At the end of the 4H season last fall, Fischer and her husband announced their plans on Facebook to build a youth livestock barn on their property. The barn would be open to kids in the community interested in trying their hand at showing livestock, and would require a commitment from each participant to care for and work with their animals. Within days, Fischer had filled the eight available spots in the yet-to-be-built livestock barn.

“We decided to take eight kids this first year while we decide how big a barn we can build and how to make it work,” she said. “The majority of the kids are already in our 4H group and want to try something new and branch out, but I also have two kids who have never done 4H before.”

Fischer and her husband decided to limit the livestock barn to pigs and sheep for the time being, as the two species can be easily housed together and require less of a time commitment for inexperienced youth than large animals such as cattle. Her plan is to have everyone who participates pitch in on assigned days to keep the barn running smoothly.

“It’s more of a co-op, so if it’s your day to come out you’ll feed and water everyone’s animals and clean stalls on the weekends,” said Fischer. “My kids will be part of the co-op too, so if the weather’s bad they’ll take those days so other people don’t have to drive out.”

In addition to taking care of the basic needs of all animals in the barn, participants will be expected to work with their animals on their own at least a couple days a week. They’ll be expected to take full responsibility for getting their animals to fair and caring for them while there.

“This is a time commitment as well as a financial commitment for these families,” said Fischer. “We’re only charging a small yearly fee for barn maintenance, but to buy an animal and the equipment to be able to take it to fair is a big investment.”

Fischer plans to charge $75 per year to replace wood that pigs are known to chew on, to offset water costs, and to keep the barn safe and in working order. Each participant is responsible for selecting and purchasing his own food.

With a goal of having the barn completed by March 15, when the majority of the kids signed up will be ready to purchase animals, the biggest immediate challenge Fischer faces is financial.

 

“We want to be able to do this and we have the land, but we don’t have the equipment to make it what we really want it to be,” she said. While she hopes to eventually add power and more space to the barn, her predominate needs in getting it up and running are metal roofing, wood 2x4s and plywood.

Anyone able to donate material for the livestock barn can contact Fischer at HNCL123@gmail.com. The family has also set up a donation site at www.youcaring.com/youthlivestockbarnatfischerfamilyfarm-1102985 where they’ve raised over $400 toward the livestock barn so far, with a goal set at $2000. If interest remains high Fischer said she’ll consider creating a non-profit to fund the project in the future.

“This is the best thing that our kids do, it’s so great for them,” she said. “My goal is to give an opportunity to kids that wouldn’t necessarily have one, and for them to learn something. I hope I can continue doing it for as long as possible and that maybe my kids and someday grandkids can be a part of it too.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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