Tori Raaen, 7, is a member of the Carimona Cruisers Cloverbud program, which allows kids younger than nine years to enter non-livestock projects and show animals under the guidance of a 4-H member. She is showing the butterfly project she made.  ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Tori Raaen, 7, is a member of the Carimona Cruisers Cloverbud program, which allows kids younger than nine years to enter non-livestock projects and show animals under the guidance of a 4-H member. She is showing the butterfly project she made. ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, Fillmore County office, 134 out of 356, or 38 percent of Fillmore County youth enrolled in 4-H live in town or in rural, non-farming homes.

County 4-H Coordinator LeeAnn Howard said there has been an increasing trend of kids without an agriculture background participating in 4-H. It has become easier for these kids to experience taking care of a show animal through leasing them from producers. The lease program has brought the farm across city limits, a fact that the Raaen family wholeheartedly supports.

"It gives you something to do," explained Taryn Raaen who explained her love of farming and the countryside while adding, "I would be bored if I was living in town."

Kurt and Tracy Raaen are the parents of three children: Tyler, Taryn and Tori. Each of the kids have followed in their parents' footsteps and become very involved with the county 4-H program despite living in town. Their Preston residence is nestled not far from farms owned by their grandparents, so they each spend a lot of time at both during the summer. In fact, they all happily admitted they spend more time on the farm then they do at home once school gets out.

Living in both worlds has worked well for the Raaen family and allowed their rural roots to grow deeper. Participation in the local 4-H club Carimona Cruisers, supportive parents and grandparents, and self-motivation have helped prepare the Raaen kids for the highlight of their summer: the Fillmore County Fair.

Tracy participated in 4-H for 11 years as a youth and young adult and regularly showed sheep and dairy cattle. It was through 4-H she met her husband Kurt, who had helped with her show livestock when they were in high school. They both knew 4-H was something they would pass on to their kids as they grew up.

Tracy said she learned new skills and made many life-long friends through 4-H, which were opportunities she wanted for her children. Today, both Tyler and Taryn, 12, have been showing sheep and cattle for seven years. They started showing through the 4-H Cloverbuds program, which enables kids to start 4-H when they are five years old. Under supervision and guidance by older members and parents, Cloverbuds gain confidence in showing animals and completing non-livestock projects.

The Raaens' younger sister, Tori, 7, has also been actively involved through Cloverbuds and helped along by her siblings and parents. Once she finishes second grade, she will be able to show animals on her own.

The Raaens show animals that come from their grandparents,' Vernon and Kay Ristau, farm. The Ristaus own Suffolk sheep and Gelbvieh beef cattle and have owned the Carimona Township farm since 1964. They "lease" animals to the kids every year and allow them to take responsibility for them.

Once school got out in May, the three kids began waking up at 4:30 a.m. to ride out to the farm. Starting at 5 a.m. the group begins by taking turns walking the sheep. This walking exercise helps train the animal to be obedient to its leader. Tyler said they usually walk the animals around the farm and sometimes on the road. Getting used to different surroundings is important once the spotlights are on and the kids are showing the animals in the county fair barn.

Sometimes, even dedicated training won't matter when the animal finally enters the ring. "It's different showing them. They jump when you don't expect them to," shared Taryn. Still, the Raaens keep preparing.

While one walks the sheep, another works on giving the beef cattle baths. Teaching the cattle to accept bathing takes time as well. Tracy said the first bath usually consists of just a sprinkling of water. Over time, more water and soap can be added.

After all the sheep have been walked and cattle have been washed, the Raaens take the cattle for walks as well. In order to keep their animals from forgetting their training, the Raaens run through this procedure every single morning.

The kids have only been told they could have the next morning off from their chores only once this summer. They tried to sleep in, but were woken by their father who had them come help milk cows at their other grandparents' farm. Getting up early may sound tough, but Tyler stated, "It doesn't bother me."

According to the Raaens, they have been training the sheep for two months and feel confident that they will perform well in the ring.

Tyler is showing two sheep named Rosie and Sunshine and three beef cattle; a cow/calf pair named Ginger and Buck and a heifer named Ruby.

Taryn will be showing three sheep named Lily, Polly and Molly. She will also be showing two spring/summer yearling heifers named Cinnamon and Rosie. Bringing their livestock into the barn gives both Tyler and Taryn a sense of pride.

Taryn said she likes to show the animals and see her friends show theirs. They will be helping Tori show a sheep and the calf Buck. On the day of showing, the kids will wash, clip, and brush their animals again.

Besides livestock, the Raaens are entering many non-livestock projects into the fair as well. These projects were started after school ended. Both Tyler and Taryn will be bringing fruit from the orchard they take care of on the Ristaus' property. This includes raspberries, plums and pears.

Taryn will also be bringing a wooden chair she refinished for a garden she hopes to have someday. Making informational posters is also encouraged in 4-H. Taryn is making one on human trafficking. Both she and Tyler will also be making posters on the fruit they bring.

Tori will be bringing a chair she painted, a potted flower, posters about different animals on their farm including Buck, and a butterfly art project.

Besides preparing for the county fair, the Raaens have been involved with the Carimona Cruisers 4-H Club. Tyler and Taryn are the activity coordinators for the monthly meetings, which also have parent advisors. The Cruisers have helped out with community pride projects on the fairgrounds, such as painting the conservation building. Money for the paint came from a fruit fundraiser. The money raised from sales also went to Camp Winnebago, which is a camp near Caledonia for individuals with special needs.

Having responsibilities in 4-H meetings and in project preparations have taught the Raaens several skills. Taryn said she has gotten better at speaking in public through 4-H.

They each have their favorite parts of the fair, including seeing the rodeo and demolition derby. They also get to see good friends who don't live in Preston.

Tracy pointed out that they would have never known those kids if they weren't in 4-H.

While they are looking forward to the county fair, Taryn and Tyler are also hoping they can make it to the state fair in their first year of eligibility. If they do, they will be examples for others who have the same desire to be involved in 4-H and who love the farm just as much as they live in the city.