Made up entirely of six local homeschoolers, the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club will be the first team from the state of Virginia to represent the Commonwealth in the National 4-H Quiz Bowl this September in Omaha, Nebraska.
Teenagers Claire Gleason, Abigail Williams, India Williams, Jessica Vass, Michael Robinson and Jeffery Vass earned the honor April 5th by winning Virginia’s Inaugural 4-H Quiz Bowl in Fishersville. Ironically, it was another competition, the Stockman’s event, that the team thought would be its ticket to the nationals.
“They placed second in the Stockman’s event. I told them that morning, ‘The Quiz Bowl is for fun. We are going to take first in the state in Stockman’s and go to Kentucky in November,’” said Tammy Vass, who coaches the team along with Kay Williams. “We didn’t know there was a national for the Quiz Bowl and they just kept buzzing in and winning. We won five or six rounds and everybody is like, ‘Have fun at nationals.’”
Vass said the Quiz Bowl has been in existence for about six years now, but 2013 was the first time Virginia has held a state event for the competition. With Carroll County performing so well, the rest of Southwest Virginia quickly began rooting for the team to carry the state banner.
“Everybody was kind of blown away from the area. Everything happens in Roanoke and Northern Virginia, so Southwest Virginia, they are rooting for us too because Northern Virginia is pretty big,” Williams said. “They’ve got a lot of kids, so it is not uncommon for them to be sweeping the awards. For Southwest Virginia to pack in a little punch, it was kind of fun.”
Vass said Carroll County beat Augusta County in the finals to earn the state title and a berth to the nationals. She said the Augusta County coach told her the team thought it would be in good shape if it could just beat Montgomery County.
“She said, ‘Where did you guys come from?’” Vass said. “Anybody from our area, whether it be Pulaski County, Abingdon, we are glad to see each other do really good in these contests because there is not as many kids to pick from down this way as there is from Northern Virginia.”
While the team prepares for the Quiz Bowl, many of the other events it competes in such as the Stockman’s paid dividends at the Quiz Bowl. Vass said the team has been together now for about six years. The Stockman’s event is so all-encompassing with livestock, it has helped the team’s knowledge steadily increase, she said.
“We have books and videos, I’ve had speakers come in, we’ve went to farms, and then we’ve competed at every event we could. And when we get our results back, we go over what we missed and we study it again,” Vass said. “With the 4-H Quiz Bowl, they even asked about current events with your Progressive Farmer and Beef Magazine, and then there is a cattleman’s handbook, there is a swine and pig handbook, lots of stuff. We are responsible for the cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, including equipment, meat, feed, breeds, anything at all from those (areas).”
Ages range from 15-18 for the six homeschoolers in the Carroll County 4-H Livestock Club. Vass said the club was started because the students wanted to be in Future Farmers of America (FFA) but couldn’t because they didn’t take public school classes. So she approached former Carroll County 4-H Extension Agent Emily Nester about starting the livestock club.
“These six homeschoolers have stuck with it and it’s been fun,” Vass said.
The club meets the first and third Wednesday of each month at the local extension office. They are also members of the Grayson/Carroll Cattleman’s Association. The students all study on their own, with Vass sending them homework each week through e-mail to go over at each bimonthly meeting.
Donations welcome, support needed
Taking six students and their families to the National 4-H Quiz Bowl in Nebraska will not be a cheap endeavor, but it’s one both Vass and Williams are determined to make happen. Already, the team has held a fundraiser selling strawberries at the Galax Wal-Mart on April 12.
The team must come up with a $100 entry fee in addition to a hotel for three families for three or four nights and roundtrip airfare for 13 people, Vass said.
“And we want to make it a learning experience for the kids, too. We want to let them compete, but also take in that particular area,” Vass said. “If the families have to chip in, we will chip in, but our goal is we are going.”
Vass said the club has money in its account from a citrus fruit fundraiser around Christmas. She will also be sending out letters and trying to come up with more fundraising ideas for this spring and summer.
“The kids have done real well to raise money. They know what their year encompasses, so come fundraising time they are out there doing what they need to and we have almost been self-sufficient,” Vass said. “We have had a few groups support us, but overall they have worked at the county fair selling hot dogs, we usually do a Southern States sale, they pretty much know what it takes to run the club in a year and raise that money so we have some for next year.”
Anyone wishing to help can reach Tammy Vass by calling (276) 728-4602, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing her at 25 Kenmore Road, Hillsville, Va., 24343.
“Donations are welcome and support is needed,” Jessica Vass said.