By David Kligman
WOODLAND — Sixth-grade student Bailey Robinson-Burmester was nothing but composed as he prepared to give a presentation on the demise of the honeybee while describing his other project to plant more trees in Yolo County.
The 12-year-old was earnest as he talked about his goal, which 4-H calls a “revolution of responsibility.”
“I really want to inspire kids to help their community,” said the boy, dressed in a white shirt and pants and wearing a green 4-H tie and felt cap.
The setting was Farm Connection Day, held last Friday (May 3) at the Yolo County Fairgrounds to coincide with the annual 4-H Spring Show, a huge showcase of children’s skills — everything from displaying pigs and other farm animals (“Like Charlotte’s Web,” one attendee says) to archery to photography to cake baking.
PG&E employees volunteer
Some 2,500 county schoolchildren were bused to the fairgrounds, an event PG&E sponsored this year for the first time. PG&E employees volunteered in the “Agri Business” hall, some of them talking to children about the importance of the crops grown in Yolo County. And a retired electric employee demonstrated the hazards of downed power lines.
“I grew up here,” said Austin Paulsen, who was in 4-H as a child and now works in gas operations for PG&E in San Ramon. He encouraged the schoolchildren to dip their hands in trays of several kinds of rice grown in the area.
“This is the only reason this town exists because of all this rice — and a lot of corn,” he said.
The Spring Show lasted all weekend. And on Sunday, PG&E presented the Yolo County 4-H with a $2,500 contribution. 4-H treasurer Frank Muller said the money, which will help pay the rental cost of the fairgrounds, was greatly appreciated since 100 percent of the organization’s operations depend on contributions.
“It’s hard asking for money, but when you have somebody from PG&E just come up to you and offer you money it’s unbelievable,” he said.
Requires commitment, leadership
The 4-H organization is one of the largest youth education programs in Northern California and has meant so much to a community like Yolo County, Muller said. Children can get involved as young as age 6 until they’re 19.
On display in one of the halls are award-winning creations and projects like handmade dresses, a standing wooden clock that one girl took four months to make and a rebuilt steam engine.
While 4-H is popular for its livestock auction, it’s more than just an agricultural organization, said Amber Robinson-Barmester, mother of the boy who won a top prize for his tree-planting project. She said she likes 4-H because boys and girls work together, unlike separate organizations like scouting, and it requires commitment, leadership and time management.
“I wanted something inclusive for all my children,” she said. “It’s about getting comfortable with things they would never connect with. There’s a boy who made a beautiful vest. At 13 years old? What talent!”
For PG&E, the event is the perfect opportunity to show how the utility is actively a part of all the communities it serves (PG&E has also provided funding to the Future Farmers of America). And that’s important in Yolo County where agriculture is king.
“It gives us a chance to share what PG&E does,” said PG&E agricultural specialist Barbara Butterfield. “And we can introduce PG&E to our farmers and our future farmers. The future leaders of our county are here today.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.