BEMIDJI -- For Team Future Generation of Beltrami County 4-H, the prevention of diseases starts far beyond the livestock barns at the county fair.
Theresa Gustafson, Lily Krona and Haley Mouser have spent the past two years as a team researching and creating projects targeting agricultural issues. The two-time state winning 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge winners are planning on attending the competition for a third year with their newest project “Blossom’s 3 B’s of Zoonotic Disease.”
A zoonotic disease is one that can be spread from animals to humans or vice versa. After a suspected outbreak of disease at last year’s fair that affected one of Gustafson’s goats the team became inspired. Team members said that they believe education is the first step in preventing the spread of disease.
“It takes only one disease to empty a barn,” said Ann Marie Ward, program coordinator for Minnesota 4-H in Beltrami County.
With education in mind, the team took a child-friendly approach but they hope to encourage awareness of how germs are spread to animals to all fair visitors regardless of age.
“We are a team of young women committed to the future of agriculture through educating the next generation,” Gustafson said.
Their project consists of animations to educate on how to be thoughtful, caring and healthy around animals at the fair, new hand washing stations, decorations to draw attention to hand washing stations and a scavenger hunt for children at the fair to learn and win prizes.
The team made a similar video project about zoonotic diseases that received a grand champion award at the Minnesota State Fair in 2018, which was the start of them educating themselves on the issues livestock face with disease.
After that project and learning about community action plans during their visit to the National Youth 4-H Agriscience Summit, the team knew that they wanted to continue learning about the diseases that could affect animals at the Beltrami County Fair.
The team found sponsorship for 10 hand washing stations for animal areas at the fairgrounds. They have been slowly releasing animated videos and teasers leading up to the fair. They hope that participation in their scavenger hunt will be high and that they can ultimately return to the Agriscience Summit to show off their successful community action plan.
“I am really excited to see how many kids participate and how many people wash their hands before going to the barn,” Krona said. “We are trying to make sure everyone has a healthy and safe time.”
Gustafson, Krona and Mouser have faced their fair share of challenges throughout the project -- working around the hectic schedules of parents and three high school students. Spreading the word about their projects and getting engagement on the team’s social media platforms have been a difficult part, as well.
“There has been a lot of growth, one in their ability to speak and present there were 42 presentations last year alone,” said mother and coach Michelle Mouser. “ My favorite part has been their eagerness.”
Other 4-H members are eager to bring their projects to the fair, as well. In fact, 245 youth have collectively brought 3,176 projects to this year's fair, according to Ward. Each of the surrounding 4-H clubs in Beltrami County have their own way of helping prepare at the fairgrounds. Like the Nebish North Stars, who spent time setting up the 4-H exhibit hall last week. But, the work doesn't only start and stop at the fair.
"4-H Happens all year and this is their showcase week," Ward said. "4-H'ers, 4-H Volunteers, and the Fair Board (volunteers) work countless hours together to prepare the fairgrounds."
To keep up to date on the outcome of Team Future Generation’s project or to find out where they will be at the Beltrami County Fair, visit their Facebook page Team Future Generation MN.
IF YOU GO
What: 2019 Beltrami County Fair
When: Aug. 7 through Aug. 11
Where: Beltrami County Fairgrounds, 7223 Fairgrounds Road NW, Bemidji