Investing in our rural youth

Fourteen-year-old Berklie Sheppard has been involved in 4H since she was in first grade, showing and then raising animals. This spring, she raised and sold her steer “Jackpot” at the Asotin County (WA) Fair. A portion of her proceeds was funded by Avista.

Avista allocates just over $30,000 each year to support 4H/FFA Fair Livestock purchases in nearly two dozen rural communities across our service territory. The company has a long history of support and appreciates the educational experience that the kids get from participating in 4H and FFA programs.

“4H is so amazing! I think everyone should do it,” Berklie smiled. “I’ve learned so much about leadership, work ethic, speaking in front of people. 4H really broadens your experience!”

Like many 4H kids, Berklie comes from a 4H/FFA family and started at a young age. She showed rabbits during her first two years and when she reached third grade, she could start raising and selling livestock.

“I started out raising and selling pigs; this is my second year raising a steer,” she explained, adding that in addition to participating in the livestock auctions, she has also consistently shown animals including rabbits, dogs, horses, goats and cats. “I think everyone should do rabbits because you have to learn all about them, take care of them and do a five-minute presentation to a crowd of people.”

Clarkston Operations Manager Colby Witters is one of many Avista representatives in rural communities who attend county fairs to support 4H/FFA students. Each Avista representative is allocated a modest budget and encouraged to talk with the student exhibitors about their animals before the auction. At the auction, Avista offers support which is a bid price that is usually over and above the market value of the animals. Avista doesn’t possess the animals they support, they simply turn the animal back to the contracted meat processor and pay the difference between the bid price and the market value, which directly benefits the student exhibitor.

“This year, Avista’s support has been especially important with the cost of animals and feed increasing dramatically,” said Witters. “Feed has gone up about 25 percent since last year. The kids usually buy their animal and then raise it for about five months before the county fair. Between the purchase cost for the animal and the feed, this is a great lesson for the students about money management and volatility of market pricing.”

Witters comes from a long family history of 4H and knows first-hand the value and positive effect the program has on kids. He has enthusiastically represented Avista at the Asotin and Nez Perce (ID) County Fairs for eight years.

“It’s great that Avista supports 4H and FFA,” Witters smiled. “Kids can get involved at young age, learn personal responsibility and be part of a consistent, positive culture as they grow up. It has such a positive effect in smaller communities because it opens up a lot of opportunity for kids to take different paths. Many of these kids go on to participate in the ag industry, which is an important part of our local economy.”

In 2021, Avista and the Avista Foundation together awarded more than $2.4 million in philanthropic giving across our five-state service territory to help people in need. Grant applications for Economic and Community Development proposals will be accepted July 1 – August 1, 2022.

Learn more about Avista Foundation.

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