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4-H Youth Development volunteer
Carrying a pitchfork and pushing a manure-filled wheelbarrow across a rain-drenched field, her turquoise boots turned brown with mud, Lisa Battan exudes passion. Battan, an Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H youth development club leader, works with elementary through high school students on their 4-H livestock and small animal projects. She teaches the older students general livestock husbandry and encourages them to join in mucking stalls, grooming horses, and other barn chores. Younger club members engage in age-appropriate hands-on barn activities such as feeding chickens and brushing rabbits.
Battan does all this from the OSU Extension office/4-H club headquarters at the family-owned Alpenrose Dairy in metropolitan southwest Portland.
“The dairy, it’s like an ark,” said Battan, who helped foster the relationship between the dairy owners and OSU Extension. “It’s a little farm in the middle of the city where kids can come and reconnect with the past. They can see where their food comes from and be part of real work.”
Battan became involved with 4-H after being laid off from a marketing position in Portland. Rather than become despondent with the state of the economy, she made the decision to take steps toward her dream of working and living on a farm. She contacted Alpenrose and received permission to volunteer in the barns caring for livestock with dairy employees. When her daughters joined her for farm chores, she realized their experience was something she’d like other urban youth to share. That’s when Battan contacted OSU Extension about the possibilities of starting a 4-H club and becoming a club leader.
“Our 4-H Farm Discovery club is much more than a petting zoo,” said Jon Mayer, the OSU Extension 4-H agent who helped Battan start the club and provides curriculum and programming for club members. “All the youth take on service learning projects and help with barn chores. They learn compassion and empathy, in addition to animal science and biology.”
Club leaders come from all walks of life and have backgrounds ranging from engineers in the high-tech industry to cattle ranchers and small farmers.
“I grew up in southern California in the Hollywood entertainment industry,” said Battan. “But that wasn’t who I was. 4-H is allowing me to pursue my passions without having to be an expert, and I get to share all that I learn with urban youth. I want to tell them all that they don’t have to take what’s served to them in the city. There’s more.”
Learn more about OSU 4-H Youth Development Program »