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4-H'er learns to cook what she raises
By Mary Stewart, OSU Extension Service
Anya Gehley, 13, moved around the contest kitchen with the confidence of a seasoned chef. The Salem 4-H member prepared, served, cleaned up and explained the costs and nutritional value for a full meal with such finesse that it earned her a Championship ribbon from both Marion County and State Fair 4-H Food Preparation Contests.
Most of the menu items used in Anya’s meal were prepared with food grown or raised on the Gehley’s small farm in S.E. Salem. “I like raising my own food,” says Anya. “You know where it came from and what went into it.” The main dish in the menu was a family favorite–a spaghetti pie made with beef raised in her pasture, fresh eggs collected that morning from her chickens and home-canned tomato sauce.
Anya is recognizing the health benefits of home-raised food through her 4-H project work. The fourth “H” in the 4-H pledge stands for Health. “4-H allows youth to find an interest and build on it,” says Melanie McCabe, Extension 4-H Coordinator. “We call that “the spark” – Anya’s spark is growing food that can be used to feed her family.”
Once the spark is identified, 4-H professionals and volunteers can help the young person develop other life skills such as understanding the economic and nutritional value of food preparation, communications, volunteerism and recordkeeping.
Developing Healthy Habits
“Anya is learning to prepare healthy meals. For example, she is discovering the difference between a hamburger prepared at a fast food restaurant and one you prepare yourself,” says McCabe. “She is learning about balancing proteins, carbohydrates and fats in her diet and which foods help her get through the day better.”
According to Anya’s mother and co-4-H leader, Molly Gehley, the young cook is adventuring out to try new recipes and cooking techniques. “4-H allows kids to find some new paths they didn’t know about before,” she says. At the same time, the Cascade Jr. High School student does her share of the work around the farm.
The successful 4-H’er is busy beyond the kitchen. She carries 4-H projects in pigs, horse, beef, expressive arts (such as quilting), food drying, and gardening. “4-H has been a great avenue of building leadership, education and a little adventure for Anya,” says Gehley.
Anya has leaned that goals can be accomplished within a comfortable time period. “Not everything takes forever,” she says. “I also show pigs and have learned that it’s OK to be adventurous and to try different things. People have different opinions and ideas – and that’s OK.”
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