Hanna ag program is making big impact

Posted on June 13, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun
The agriculture program at Hanna Boys Center provides hands-on learning about farm animals and agricultural livestock management.

The Hanna Boys Center has a long history of changing young lives. While all its programs aim to build confidence and self-esteem, Hanna’s agriculture program presents an additional element – caring, in every sense, for farm animals.

“The impact the agricultural program makes upon these kids lives is remarkable,” said supporter Marcia Mickeslon. Animals in children’s lives teaches important lessons about love, loyalty and responsibility and respect, she believes.

“For an ordinary child this means a lot,” she said. “But for these kids who often come from such destructive circumstances in an urban environment, the animals intervene in a way in their lives that brings out the loving nature within them.”

Mickelson, a fourth-generation wine grower, is the marketing director for Kunde Winery. She is producing a July 13 event to raise funds specifically for the ag program.

Lead by agricultural specialist Dave Redden, the program provides a very rare opportunity. Most of the students come from urban neighborhoods and have limited, if any, experience or knowledge about agriculture. The focus of the program is on breeding sheep, market sheep and steers, and competitive livestock judging. Participants learn and get involved with the annual Sonoma County Fair and Livestock Auction.

Redden is in his fifth year at Hanna. “Our program is very similar to 4-H in that we help train and educate our Hanna boys about farm animals and agricultural livestock management.”

He noted that because Hanna is focused on providing stability and discipline, students must demonstrate a real commitment to the program. “It’s a very structured program,” said Redden. This year, 30 boys applied and 11 reached the goal of competing in the market and county fair level this summer. Hanna will have 14 market lambs and five steers to show at the county fairs.

“Our goal is to get as many Hanna students to participate as possible,” Redden said, “and having a full livestock and life cycle of cows, sheep, showing the students what it is like to manage a farm or ranch year-round.”

The process, Mickelson said, can really turn a troubled kid’s life around. “I believe in this program,” she said. “I have seen the good that does for these kids.”

The July 13 fundraiser is a barbeque dinner and dance at the Hanna Boys Center, from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $50. For information call 337-0943 or 396.7365.