Maya Johnson and Nathan Carrico tend to some of the Funky Farmers 4-H Club pigs at Ridgeway Farms on Strawberry Road. Eleven of the 4-H Club's chickens, a duck and a goat were recently slain by a brown bear sow and two cubs, but the clubs pigs were spared.
Photo by Phil Hermanek
Many children across America spend the first half of the year learning about raising farm animals and preparing farm products for market through 4-H clubs.
The youth learn to feed and care for livestock and small animals such as chickens, rabbits and ducks, and they learn animal first aid, how to give shots and where their food comes from.
On the Kenai Peninsula, one additional big lesson was learned by 4-H members this month: Wild animals can ruin all plans.
Three weeks ago, a brown bear sow and her two cubs ripped through a barn, dismembering 11 chickens, a goat and a duck that were all part of the Funky Farmers 4-H project near Strawberry Road on the outskirts of Kenai.
The chickens were an egg-laying project of Maya Johnson, 13, who reported the slaughter last week at the Soldotna City Council meeting while she made a formal presentation on 4-H.
The duck was going to be a 4-H project of her brother, Keir, 9.
Maya also planned to show the dairy goat Annie at this year's Kenai Peninsula State Fair in Ninilchik.
"I've had her since she was born five years ago," Maya said.
Luckily, the bears did not get into the club's swine pen, and the Funky Farmers are continuing to pursue their goal of readying their Yorkshire-Hampshire crossbreed pigs for the August fair on the peninsula and the Alaska State Fair in Palmer on Aug. 25.
Besides the Johnson youths, others raising the seven pigs include Scott Haberman, 10, Nathan Carrico, 12, and Christian Carrico, 11.
According to the Maya's mother, Natasha, bears have gotten in with the family's animals previously, but never killed them.
"That night it was just like carnage. There were animal parts everywhere," Natasha Johnson said of the chickens, duck and goat.
Those small animals were being kept at the Johnsons' 10-acre farm across from Ridgeway Farms, and the pigs were in a pen at Ridgeway.
The pigs, which were born Feb. 28, currently are between 110 and 180 pounds, and Maya said her goal is to have her pig at 270 by Aug. 20, the day of the fair auction in Ninilchik.
Part of the 4-H market livestock project includes tracking the day-to-day weight of the animals and learning pricing of the animals for market, Maya said.
In the past, she has received bids on her animals from prominent figures such as former Gov. Tony Knowles, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Kenai Mayor John Williams.
So far, none of the politicians has bid successfully on her animals, she said.
When asked about the impact the bear attack had on her business plan, Maya said, "It ended the egg-laying business."
People interested in supporting area 4-H clubs can do so by participating in the auction in Ninilchik, or by joining the 4-H Buyers Club. Additional information on the 4-H program is available through Nancy Veal at the 4-H offices, located on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna.
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