Nobles County 4-H’ers host Idaho teens this week
WORTHINGTON — They had never before seen fireflies or soybeans — or so many farm fields without irrigation — and the one thing most had on their bucket list to see while visiting Minnesota was a trip to the Mall of America.
Throughout this week, a group of 10 4-H members and four chaperones from Minidoka County, Idaho, are visiting Nobles County through the 4-H Interstate Exchange program. Other than a family day on Tuesday, the group and their hosts — Nobles County 4-H families — are busy seeing the local and regional sites.
The Interstate Exchange program has a longstanding tradition in Nobles County, and their guests this week come from a county with the most consistent Interstate Exchange program in Idaho. Led by Jeni Bywater, the Minidoka County 4-H Program Coordinator, the county has participated in 11 exchanges since Bywater began her career in 1987. The county alternates between hosting 4-H members from another part of the country to traveling to a new destination in each two-year program.
“Our teens get to vote on where they want to travel to,” Bywater said. Once a match is mutually agreed upon, organizers from each county fundraise for their travel, pair up 4-H’ers with host families and develop an itinerary that provides both educational and fun components.
Megan Prins and Shelley John are the Nobles County 4-H Interstate Exchange program leaders. Working with local 4-H members, they planned a week for the Idahoans that is jam-packed with tours and sightseeing.
Monday, the group toured 266 Ag Service and the Russ and Brian Penning farm near Wilmont, where they learned about soybeans and seed conditioning and toured a beef feeding operation. A selfie scavenger hunt, visit to Beach Bash and a bonfire at the Tim and Stacey Bickett farm wrapped up the day. After a family day Tuesday, the 4-H’ers today will visit the Pipestone National Monument and Pipestone pool, and cap off the day with a late night at the Verne Drive-In. Thursday’s events include a stop at a wind turbine near Brewster on the way to the Twin Cities, where they will visit the Mall of America and then take in a Minnesota Twins game. On Friday, the last full day of their visit, they will tour the EROS Data Center and Falls Park before watching the Catfish Bay Ski Show.
“Sleep is for the weak,” said Idaho 4-H’er Sarah Woodward of the five-day itinerary. She’s most looking forward to the baseball game.
“I’m really excited to go to the Twins game, because we don’t have major league baseball in Idaho,” she said. “Most baseball we see is little league.”
Meanwhile, Loren Bywater said she’s most looking forward to shopping at the Mall of America, though the Twins game is a close second.
Both Woodward and Bywater are taking part in their third Interstate Exchange in five years. They previously visited a county in Delaware and another in Tennessee.
“I think the best part is getting to know the different cultures,” said Woodward, adding that through 4-H, all of the kids have something in common, but yet their project areas vary greatly.
For instance, both Woodward and Bywater are enrolled in leatherworking — a project not offered in Minnesota 4-H. Woodward also shows a draft horse in 4-H, while Bywater is enrolled in calligraphy — also different from Minnesota’s 4-H project offerings.
A rodeo participant, Woodward shows dairy and horse in 4-H, while Bywater is one of several swine project exhibitors among the Idaho guests. Both have been involved in the 4-H Shooting Sports program.
“Our shooting sports (enrollment is) almost as big as our animal projects,” shared Jeni Bywater, noting they have events where 4-H’ers dress in western attire and show off their gunslinging skill.
Learning about their differences — and similarities — is what this week is about for the 4-H’ers.
Jeni Bywater said she likes being able to offer teens in her county an opportunity to do an exchange with 4-H’ers around the country.
“It keeps our teens active,” she said, adding that it’s a way for kids to forge new friendships, learn teamwork through fundraising and experience life in a different part of the country.
“It’s not very often that kids just get to travel and experience a culture in a different environment,” she said.
Thirteen Nobles County 4-H’ers from seven different families are hosting the group this week. They are already looking forward to their trip to Idaho next summer.
Hannah Henning, Lismore, is taking part in her first Interstate Exchange experience.
“I’ve just heard so much about it and I’ve heard about the great opportunities with it,” Henning said.
During this past year, she and other members in the program have raised money for the exchange by helping with community events, from serving at the Farm 40, Hospice Cottage and Corn and Soybean Growers annual banquets to being hired to serve at a wedding and selling snacks during the 4-H Dog Show last summer.
Brothers Kendrick and Emmett Bickett, Worthington, have been a part of the 4-H Interstate Exchange in previous years and have enjoyed the experience.
“I enjoy most meeting new people and doing a lot of fun stuff,” said Kendrick.
“And learning more about their agriculture and where they (live),” chimed in Emmett. “Where they’re at, they have mountains around them and lots of irrigation.”
The Nobles County 4-H’ers will be in for a great experience next summer, as Jeni Bywater said they will likely show the local teens Shoshone Falls (dubbed the Niagara of the West), perhaps visit an outdoor ice skating rink in Sun Valley, and kayak on the Snake River.
“We have the world’s largest sugar beet factory (in Paul, Idaho),” Jeni Bywater said, adding that it will be one of the tour stops. They also have a potato factory tour on their list.
The Idahoans have a return flight home Saturday.