Whiz Kids: Muscoot Gang 4-H Club
Accomplishment: This group of fourteen young people spends a total of 50 days a year tending to the livestock at and learning about animal science.
Key to Awesomeness: If you’ve ever noticed hard-working teens in green t-shirts at Muscoot Farm, you’ve seen the Muscoot Gang 4-H Club in action.
Begun over twenty years ago, the club’s focus has been on youth development through hands-on participation in farm activities and in particular, handling the animals that live at the farm.
The program that is open to students who are 11-19 years old is based at Westchester County’s 800-acre Muscoot Farm in Somers and is a part of 4-H—the Youth Development Program of Cornell University Cooperative Extension in Westchester.
And according to Westchester County 4-H educator Nancy Caswell, it is an excellent opportunity for young people to work with livestock while gaining a sense of independence.
“The gang really is learning to become good citizens and they get a sense of mastery as they become educated about animal science.” Caswell said.
Besides meeting on Saturday mornings to do chores and care for the animals, they are also taught about the different breeds, their characteristics and origins.
The members of the club are involved in events like Summer Fair, Dairy Day, Meet the Baby Animals, Sheep Shearing, Autumn Festival and Pumpkin Pickin’ as well as a career exploration event at Cornell University.
Somers High School student Tara Bergstrom said that being a part of the club for the past five years has given her a new appreciation for the work that is involved in caring for animals.
“I had no idea how much goes into caring for each breed—the importance of trying to connect with each animal and getting to know how to handle them properly,” the tenth-grader said. The experience with the Muscoot Gang has influenced Bergstrom to pursue veterinary science in the future, she said.
In addition, the club members practice showing the animals—the Muscoot Gang is represented at the Putnam County Fair, the Yorktown Grange Fair and the New York State Fair. Members display their skills in handling sheep, goats, cows, poultry and more.
“If you love animals, this is the best hands-on experience,” said Kristen Mason, a Lakeland High School student who has been with the 4-H club since sixth grade.
“I’ve gained leadership skills, I’ve learned so much about animals—and if you can believe it, I have even seen an arthritic pygmy goat get an acupuncture treatment.”