College is just getting more and more expensive, and everyone knows what a mess student loans can be for future stability. So finding creative ways to pay for college is on everyone’s wish list. Did you know that youth can make money in 4-H to put towards college? Kids that have a market project can earn money when that animal is sold after the county fair at the Junior Livestock Auction (JLA). For Clark County high school graduate Makenna Conner, being in 4-H is paying for her continued education.
A Lifetime of Friends, Fun and Learning with Clark County 4-H
Makenna has loved rabbits her entire life. “When I was little, I was obsessed with them,” she shares. “I loved them and I always wanted one. And my Mom and Dad’s rule was I had to buy it myself. So, when I was like 5 or 6, I saved up birthday money and stuff and I bought my own.” Her first bunny, she thinks it was a mini lop, or a mini lop mix, was named Ollie. She later named her rabbitry Ollie Opp Rabbitry after him, to carry on his legacy.
Unfortunately, Ollie got bloat after she had him for about a year. “Then my mom was like, ‘If you’re gonna get another rabbit, we’re gonna put you in 4-H.” Both her mom and her aunt had done 4-H as kids, including dogs and rabbits.
This year marks Makenna’s 11th and final year in her local Clark County 4-H club, Hoppy Tails, which her mom runs. Over the years, she has owned many breeds of rabbits, for both meat and show, including French lops, Jersey woolies, standard and mini rexes, mini lops, Californian and silver foxes. She currently has 11 rabbits, including mini lops, and California/silver fox mixes.
During those 11 years, Makenna learned a lot about rabbits. Rabbit 4-H is much more knowledge-based than some of the other animal projects, she explains, because you aren’t out there being judged on what your animal can do, like you are with a horse or dog. Instead, they have to learn a vast about of rabbit knowledge including breed identification, general rabbit care knowledge and more.
Her final year will culminate at the Clark County Fair, happening August 4-13. This year, though, Makenna says she is more about making memories and relaxing, than showing. While in past years she has brought as many as 30 rabbits to the show, this year she is bringing far less, so she can spend more time enjoying her last 4-H County Fair. “I’m trying to relax this year,” she explains. “Because Fair has been mainly work the past 11 years…running around the barn helping everybody and trying to keep everything maintained because my mom was superintendent for a couple years. I kind of just want to feel the nostalgia I guess.”
Clark College Bound, Thanks to Rabbits
After she had been in 4-H for a couple years, Mackenna’s mom convinced her to have market rabbits to put in the Junior Livestock Auction after the County Fair. 4-Hers market their animals leading up the fair, to get local businesses and individuals to bid on their animal. People can bid even if they don’t want the animal after the auction, as a way of supporting the 4-H. Youth use the money for college funds. Market animals include all sorts of animals from rabbits to cattle. And in Mackenna’s case, her seven years of market projects is paying for her two years of college at Clark College, where is going to study environmental sciences. She is thinking about eventually becoming a teacher.
“I’m able to go to college because of JLA,” Makenna explains. “I wouldn’t be able to cover it myself, if it weren’t for what I’ve earned in JLA. I can’t vouch for it enough. I encourage everyone to at least try one year of JLA. I wish I had started JLA sooner than I did.” She adds that at first it was hard, since she was young, to be okay with the idea of raising animals for market. “It just became natural,” she adds.
She does hope that this year Junior Livestock Auction goes well for her, because a bit of extra money for college is never a bad a thing!
For those looking into rabbit 4-H with a young child, Makenna suggests mini rex, Holland lops or a Polish to start. “For showmanship you want to make sure your rabbit isn’t too big for your too handle, as they will take points off if you struggle to flip them on the table,” she says.
To learn more about joining Clark County 4-H, visit the WSU Extension website. Stop by and say hi to Makenna at the Clark County Fair. She is selling all her rabbits before she heads off to fair, so it a great opportunity if you are looking to get started.