Ride for the 4-H Clover raises awareness, draws a crowd

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Bikers love to ride, especially for a good cause. That’s what most of the 45 or so riders who participated in the first Ride for the 4-H Clover said about the 656-mile trek they made last weekend to bring awareness about 4-H to people all over the state.

Susann Mikkelson/El Defensor Chieftain: The riders for Ride for the 4-H Clover are loaded into pickups and driven into the arena at the Catron County Fair in Reserve, where they were presented with belt buckles and other gifts from the Catron County 4-H Club members for their effort to help raise awareness for 4-H. Approximately 45 riders participated in the ride for 4-H.

The ride encompassed the southwest corner of New Mexico, with stops in numerous communities. Riders dodged rain most of the day on Saturday as they made their way from Las Cruces to Silver City, and then north through Glenwood Canyon to Reserve and on to Datil, Magdalena and Socorro.

The riders were hosted by county extension offices and 4-H leadership teams in four counties — Grant, Catron, Socorro and Lincoln counties — for meals and refreshments, including one county fair, as well as the Extension Research Center in Corona. There were also a few unofficial stops along the way.

The ride was the brainchild of New Mexico State University Regent Chair Mike Cheney.

“We go to Santa Fe every year to speak to our legislators, and last January, when funding for 4-H was cut by over 30 percent, we were talking about how to get the word out about 4-H,” Cheney said. “I told Jon (Jon Boren, NMSU Extension Service director) that we should start a rally. Those of us who ride love a reason to ride. There is no better reason that 4-H.”

The New Mexico 4-H youth development program, the flagship programs of New Mexico Extension Service, impact some 65,000 youth in the state through its various horticulture, agriculture, crafts and leadership programs. 4-H is a dynamic, non-formal education program that focuses on science, math, healthy living and citizenship. The program provides youth with opportunities to learn life and social skills, gain knowledge, have fun, and make contributions in such areas as environmental education, community service and current youth issues.

The Ride for the 4-H Clover was a means of raising awareness about 4-H and extension programs among populations who may only be generally familiar with them.

The first event anticipated around 20 riders; over 40 signed up. Riders came from as far east as Carlsbad, as far west as Quemado and as far north as Albuquerque to start the ride in Las Cruces on Saturday morning. There were also several riders from closer to the starting point, and other riders joined the rally along the route. Stops were made in Silver City for lunch, Reserve at the Catron County Fair and Rodeo, Socorro for dinner and the night, then on to the Extension Agriculture Research Center in Corona on Sunday morning, then to Ruidoso, and back to Las Cruces. Most of the event’s riders are not actively affiliated with 4-H or the Extension Service.

This is the first Ride for the 4-H Clover, but future rides are planned. NMSU Extension hopes to make an annual event of this, and to expand it to include all four regions of the state.

“There is already talk of this going national,” Cheney said. “That kind of exposure will be so great for 4-H.”

According to Cheney, statistics show that youth who are enrolled in 4-H are half as likely to get involved in drugs.

“4-H teaches kids about science, healthy living and a lot of life skills. It keeps them busy in a productive way,” Cheney said.

Although the ride’s focus was to build awareness for 4-H programs in the state, about $1,000 was raised by clubs that hosted the riders for a meal or other activity.