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State 4-H Project Bowl draws 500 4-H'ers from across the state

By Carol Stender

Date Modified: 05/13/2013 2:35 PM

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FOLEY, Minn. — The four 4-H'ers on the senior general livestock project team from Crow Wing and Morrison counties released a collective sigh of relief after successfully completing the first round at the State 4-H Project Bowl.

Hannah Studniski, Alicia Moe and Josh Hofmann, all of Ft. Ripley, and Alex Fellbaum, of Swanville, were among 127 teams and more than 500 4-H'ers who competed. The teams competed in the general livestock, dog, dairy, wildlife, poultry, rabbit or horse project areas.

Only the Minnesota State Fair draws more 4-H'ers to one place, said Becky Moe, the coach for the Crow Wing and Morrison team.

Moe led the group from the Foley High School classrooms to the cafeteria, where the teams gathered to relax, eat and prepare for the next round of questions. A milk crate filled with study resources stood near their table. The steady hum of conversation filled the room as a volunteer called team names in preparation for the next event.

This was the first time Becky's general livestock team has been to state. For two of the team members, Fellbaum and Studniski, it's the first year they've participated in project bowl competitions. Alex is the oldest of the four. He's a junior. Hofmann and Alicia Moe are sophomores and Hannah is a freshman.

"It's nerve wrenching the first time you do it," said Alex. "But it gets easier each time you go to a meet."

They started preparing for the event at the Minnesota Beef Expo and try to meet twice a week since. Recent snowstorms prevented some group study sessions, but it didn't deter them.

They must know facts about several livestock species. Each shows livestock through 4-H. Studniski shows beef steers. Moe handles beef, dairy, sheep, goats, ducks and swine. Fellbaum shows sheep, dairy and dairy steer.

Their experiences helps them prepare for future careers. Hannah wants to be a veterinarian.

"It helps me decide what area I might move towards," Alicia said.

Their team is called to the next round.

There are two divisions in the competition. The junior division includes grades three to eight. The senior division is for grades nine to a year beyond high school. To compete in the national competition the 4-H'ers must be a ninth grade and beyond.

They sit at desks placed in one long row facing the scorekeepers, timers and judges. On each desk is a button that, when pressed, buzzes to let judges know they have an answer. One volunteer reads the questions while another offers answers if a 4-H'er answered incorrectly.

There are two sections to each round. In the first section, each 4-H'er is asked a question. In the second round, the teams compete against each other.

Questions get harder each round. The general livestock team was asked how many weeks following farrowing will a sow's milk production peak.

The event wouldn't be possible without the dedicated group of volunteers, she said.

Fifty volunteers at the state meet take on the roles of asking and answering questions, overseeing scorekeeping and registration. Parents, coaches and county volunteers assist in some way .

Besides her role as team coach, Moe has been the 4-H program coordinator for Morrison County for 10 years. This is her seventh year as a project bowl team coach.

Becky was raised on a beef farm and was a 4-H member.

'I always felt like I needed to give back to the program," Becky Moe said. "Here was my opportunity."

The Morrison and Crow Wing general livestock team went undefeated in the State 4-H Project Bowl. Her senior division team, however, lost a round and finished sixth out of 12.

They were disappointed, she said, but it was a great learning experience. On the drive home, they were already talking about next year's event.