Growing up in rural New Mexico, many kids historically had a front row seat to agriculture and farming. Many of these traditions are passed on from their grandparents who depended on these skills to sustain their families. As societies raced toward modernization, many of these skills and traditions have been lost or forgotten to younger generations which is why programs like 4-H are so crucial to refining and maintaining these skills.
Denise Winslow-Lawrence is a Questa local who runs the local 4-H program for kids in the Questa, Red River, Cerro, Costilla, Amalia, Lama, and even Taos communities. When her family moved to Questa, she decided to get the kids involved in 4-H so they could meet other kids and learn new skills in their new home town. Her family’s first year in 4-H was 1996 and at the time, Esther Garcia was the 4-H organizational leader. She admits that, being a city girl from California, she knew very little about the program.
So much has changed since then, including Denise’s love and passion for the program. She has been a crucial leader, keeping the local 4-H program known as the Questa Achievers active and in good standing. Overall, she has around 17 years of service in the program. Through her work, she has engaged many local youth in growing their basic life skills in agriculture, sewing, baking, and arts and crafts.
The current membership of Questa Achievers includes 17 active members. Some of the current agriculture projects include poultry, rabbits, lambs, and goats. Kids are responsible for caring for their animals and documenting their work to keep their animals healthy and safe.
The program also has niche projects which give kids the opportunities to learn new skills. One recent project the students took part in was orienteering, which helped kids learn how to use a compass to orient themselves, a vital skill to help kids find their way if they’re lost in the wilderness, should cell phones fail.
When the County Fair comes along in the fall, members of the group can choose to enter their projects to show at the fair, where they can win awards for their projects and in some cases, have their work auctioned off for a cash return. This process can be lucrative for the youth, but Denise notes it oftentimes depends on the year and audience of attendees of the fair.
“One of the most fulfilling parts of this program is seeing the kids gain confidence and come out of their shell. It’s just truly so rewarding,” Denise says of her time working in the program. She encourages the youth to get involved in the program to build leadership skills and basic essential life skills.
Enrollment is Oct. 1 through Feb. 1. To be eligible, kids must be ages 5 to 17. There is no cost to sign up. Parents and guardians are responsible for the costs associated with raising agriculture and other projects chosen through the program. For more information, contact Denise Winslow-Lawrence at (575) 200-9947.