The Thompson siblings of Orcas Island — Hailey, Grace, Rhys and Anwyn — are a true 4-H family.
The oldest three are now grown and have carried their love and knowledge of animals into their adult lives. Hailey Averna operates West Beach Farm on Orcas, is a 4-H leader and ran the recent victory garden project through Washington State University extension. Grace Hargrave, who lives in Olympia on a half-acre, and Rhys, who resides in North Carolina, both maintain a small flock of chickens. Anwyn is 17 and participates in 4-H poultry, sheep, goat, performing arts, baking, photography, fine arts and Know Your Government.
As a child, Grace started with chickens and quickly expanded into dog, cavy (guinea pigs), horse, photography, baking, gardening, and even table decorating. Her favorite activity was showmanship.
“4-H meetings were always very hands-on,” she said. “You not only learn how to show your animals, but also how to care for them. We learned the 4-H motto is to ‘learn by doing,’ and I continue to live by that.”
She and her husband currently have a flock of 10 hens that Hargrave raised from chicks. She says they love to have fresh eggs every day.
“I started a garden this past spring when the pandemic started, which has been wonderful. We also got a puppy recently and I find myself training her to the 4-H obedience standards,” Hargrave said.
Hargrave, who works at the Washington State Health Care Authority, says 4-H also gave her presentation skills.
“Every 4-H year, you are required to do a demonstration. This teaches us public speaking, and I use that in my job,” she said.
Her younger brother Rhys enjoyed chicken and dog showmanship.
“For chicken showmanship you have to learn how to handle a bird and general anatomy,” he said. “Things like spreading the wings and pointing out the various different feather types. Dog showmanship and obedience is a much larger investment of time as you have to train a dog. My little terrier, Jack, always had the hardest time with staying focused around other dogs which made things like the ‘down-stay on leash’ for a minute feel like an eternity.”
Like his sister, Rhys enjoyed giving yearly presentations and uses that knowledge today in his career.
“This was a time for everyone to show off their interests and learn a really important skill,” he said. “I have even carried the presentation skills I learned in 4H into my career as a scientist where communicating my research effectively is critical. My wife, Tika, and I are currently in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. During the lockdown we finally filled the coop I had built the previous year with five hens and just a few weeks ago our first egg was laid. We do not have any kids yet, but I am positive they will be 4-H’ers.”