Goat Getters ... for Everyone

September 2021

With 4-H and FFA youth as mentors, participants with special needs as buddies, and a few local goats, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Buchanan County has launched a partnership for successful learning. The learning grows from the relationships that develop between mentors and buddies as they take care of a goat, prepare it for the show ring and show the goat during the Goat Getters event at the county fair.

The buddies met their mentors during an early summer workshop in preparation for the fair, noted Angie Dougherty, 4-H youth program specialist. The mentors arrived first, and Dougherty offered them a challenge.

“Can you help our buddies be successful learners?” she asked. Then she told them about the essential elements of positive youth development. Youth-driven 4-H experiences provide youth with access to safe learning environments; challenging experiences that build skills, competencies, and resiliency to address life’s challenges and to actively contribute to society; and partnerships with caring adults to help meet youths’ basic needs of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

“4-H isn’t just about the fun stuff. There is logic behind what we do,” Dougherty told the mentors, and today the focus was on generosity.

“You put your whole heart into it. We’re going to help the buddies feel safe,” she said.

The mentors approached their role seriously, doing their best to guide and help their buddies during the workshop and later at the Buchanan County Fair.

“It was really neat to get to work with all the buddies, get to know them, hear their experience,” said 4-H mentor Sam Yexley. “To see them really excited to work with the goats, I think that was really cool – and seeing them excited to get to talk to people.”

Goat Getters mentors and buddy.Goat Getters began with an idea: How could Buchanan County adapt Bacon Buddies, an experience that pairs buddies and their mentors with pigs? County director Roxanne Fuller had seen Bacon Buddies at the Iowa State Fair a few years ago.

“Our county director thought the idea was pretty cool because it helps serve youth in all aspects that we represent in our county. Our county youth coordinator decided to write a grant to the Iowa 4-H Foundation and that grant was accepted and awarded, and so began the process – contacting the Iowa Special Olympics Board as a partner, B and D Services of Independence, as well as our local 4-H club members and FFA members,” Dougherty explained.

“The 4-H youth and FFA members applied through a written application, and once received at the extension office, members of our Goat Getters committee then conducted interviews along with county staff. We looked for leadership, inspiration and spark, and interest on their end, as well as experience in showing goats at the county or state fair level,” Dougherty said.

But why goats? Larger animals might intimidate someone who doesn’t have experience in the show ring or knowledge of how larger animals may react, Dougherty said. “Goats are fun-loving, smaller animals and they’re easier to handle.”

2021 was the first year for Goat Getters in Buchanan County, but Dougherty, the mentors and the ISU Extension and Outreach Buchanan County staff are determined it won’t be the last.

“We hope to continue this in the future, expanding our reach to other species, to more youth and to more participants in general to be part of our Buchanan County Fair,” Dougherty said.

ISU Extension and Outreach and 4-H Youth Development serve all Iowans, Dougherty said. “We want to include and represent and be reflective of populations and communities that we live and work in.”

For more information about Goat Getters, contact ISU Extension and Outreach Buchanan County.


Written by Laura Sternweis, Advancement Communications, lsternwe@iastate.edu.