Visiting 16-year-old Lisa Chapman on her 10-acre farm out in Tenino on a beautiful sunny day conjures something from a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel. The white, picturesque farm house, two young boys playing outside, bleating goats in the distance roaming the pastures…it’s almost ethereal. Lisa, with her long golden hair wrapped in a twisted French braid, sits across from me at her dining room table, most likely a place she’s spent many hours completing homework with her siblings being homeschooled by her mother.
Lisa got her first goat when she was about 5-years-old, which introduced her to the world of 4-H. Lisa started by showing pack goats and then moved into showing dairy and meat goats. (She also has experience showing chickens, sheep and pigs.) Lisa is involved in every part of raising her goats, including breeding, milking, and selling them for meat. She lets me in on a little secret. “Not very many people know it, but goat meat is actually really good,” says Lisa. “It’s like eating a cross between pork and beef. It’s super lean and has so many health benefits.”
Lisa will be showing 13 out of her 25 goats at the Thurston County Fair this week, taking place Wednesday, August 1 through Sunday, August 5 at the Thurston County Fairgrounds & Event Center. She says the week of the fair is hectic, but rewarding.
“Anything can happen the day of a show, but it teaches you how to respond quickly and gracefully in all types of situations,” she says. “We learn about the animals, but the animals teach us about life.”
Lisa tells me 4-H is so much more than just showing livestock, and she would know. She’s participated in all sorts of categories, including sewing, cooking, photography, art and soap making. Lisa makes her own homemade soap from goat milk, creating scents like lavender, coffee, orange creamsicle, and honey oat. This year she will also be modeling a formal dress she designed and sewed herself in the 4-H fashion show that happened on Wednesday and will again Saturday afternoon.
Along with an endless array of craft-based competitions, 4-H continues to be a huge resource for child and teen development, specifically when it comes to honing real life skills such as leadership. As Lisa’s graduated to more senior levels within 4-H, she’s become more actively involved in the Team Leadership Club in Thurston County, which falls under the Youth Leadership category. This year she participated in the Know Your Government (KYG) program, a civic education program with a four-year rotating topic including The Legislative System, The Judicial System, Elections and Party Platforms, and Politics and the Media. Delegates study a chosen topic for several weeks before a weekend-long conference, where they have an opportunity to practice the skills they have learned, apply their knowledge to unknown situations and reflect on how they did.
Lisa recently returned from a trip to New Hampshire through the 4-H Thurston County Interstate Exchange Club. This program allows members the opportunity to travel to another state for one week and stay in the homes of other 4-Hers and learn about their area. The exchange is then completed the next year when teens from the chosen state will come and stay with locals here to learn about Washington.
This last April, Lisa was accepted as a Washington State 4-H Ambassador. According to the 4-H website, these young adults are self-motivated, enthusiastic leaders who promote and portray 4-H in a positive manner through cooperation and communication, with leadership and planning, as a bridge between state and local 4-H events and learning.
Within its rich, 116-year history, 4-H continues to evolve and be a valuable resource for kids and teens across the country. Lisa says 4-H taught her many skills, including professionalism, time management, independence and, perhaps most importantly, confidence. “Five years ago I was super nervous, I couldn’t talk to anybody,” she adds. “So many different parts of 4-H have brought me to where I am now. It’s truly an amazing program.”