For Sherry Coane, who works in the Human Resources Department at UC Merced, family activities are an important part of life, and some of the most important of those activities are facilitated by the rural location of their home in the San Joaquin Valley.
Coane and her family spend several hours a week at soccer and baseball games, Boy Scout meetings, or participating in 4-H. Coane got involved in the McSwain 4-H Club when her son Jeremy joined two years ago. Her husband, Billy, was a 4-H and Future Farmers of America member when he was younger. My daughter Kelsey is already planning on doing 4-H when she is old enough, Coane says.
Coane supports her son’s participation because it’s an invaluable experience for the entire family. For the most part, during the year, it is mainly an activity for Jeremy; however, up to and during the fair it is very much a family activity, says Coane.
The Coane family loves animals and has plenty of space for them, so 4-H is a natural fit. We live on two acres and currently have three horses, a dog, and a cat. From time to time we have also had a steer, she explains. The family togetherness brought by this shared interest would be considerably harder to achieve in a more urban location.
Coane’s son raises swine for 4-H and will get his animal in spring just in time for the Merced County Fair. The fundamental objectives of the 4-H program are to teach responsibility, leadership skills, public speaking, and cooperation. Jeremy has to feed, exercise and groom his pig as well as attend the meetings and be ready for the fair, says Coane. The fair is a lot of time and work. The kids are expected to feed their animals every morning and night, in addition to barn duty, showing their animals and helping others. This means we are at the fair several times a day so he can take care of these responsibilities.
Other UC Merced employees and their children are also involved in the 4-H program. Coane says she feels the numbers will increase greatly as others learn about the program which offers both animal and non-animal projects.