AJ Elks Bring Home the Bacon… and Goat and Veal

Apache Junction Elks Lodge #2349 Encourages Business Education through Local Country Kickers 4-H Club

By Dana Trumbull

In many rural communities, local farmers, banks and feed stores work together to purchase the animals raised by local 4-H Club members when the livestock is offered for sale at the county fair. Those farming coalitions don’t exist in the Apache Junction area, so the local Elks Lodge #2349 has stepped up to even the scales.

The lodge uses grant money, available through the Elks National Foundation, to purchase animals, raised by the young agricultural entrepreneurs in the local Country Kickers (ages 9 and up) and Goldmine Farms 4-H Club (ages 5-8; must be 8 to compete). Dennis Mack, past exalted ruler and current trustee, bidding on behalf of the lodge, purchased four animals this year, with $4,000 from the organization’s Gratitude and Anniversary grants.

Rebecca Dillard, Goldmine Farms 4-H, with her goat, purchased by the AJ Elks at the Pinal County Fair.

After the animals are butchered, the meat is auctioned to members of the Elks Lodge. “I’ve got people waiting!” said Mack, explaining that the event has become quite popular with members. “Everybody gets a chance to bid.”

Winning bidders also receive a thank you note and a gift basket, created by the 4-H members, with items to complement the purchase, such as BBQ sauce and accessories.

“The better the animal shows, the more money it can pull at auction – but I always try to give them the average price… not the grand champion price, but the average: generally $3-$5/lb,” explained Mack. “If the animal receives no bids, then it only gets market value, which might be only $0.47/lb.

Emmalee Hibbitts, Country Kickers 4-H, displays the young steer sold to the AJ Elks at the Pinal County Fair.

“4-H is like a business: you buy an animal, you raise it, you keep track of the feed, take care of the animal; there’s a lot of responsibility! Then you take it to the fair, hoping that you get enough money to cover your expenses. When you get done, you pay off your debts and have enough money to start the next year. So it’s as much about business education as it is about farming.”

The Country Kickers placed 12 animals in the Pinal County Fair this year, including goats, lambs, pigs, cows and poultry.

According to the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pg/CountryKickers4H, “The Country Kickers 4-H Club serves those kids in Pinal County who reside…in and around Apache Junction, San Tan Valley and Gold Canyon, AZ. In 4-H, young people make new friends, develop new skills, become leaders and help shape their community. Youth have the opportunity to participate in 4-H experiences that strengthen a young person’s sense of belonging, generosity and independence.” Call 480-612-5347 or email countrykickers4h@gmail.com to learn more.

To learn more about the Apache Junction Elks Lodge, go to: ajelks.com.

Photo above: Makena Myers, Country Kickers 4-H, sold her pig and her carcass hog entry to the AJ Elks at the Pinal County Fair.

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