Exchange programs don’t happen just between students from different countries. Sometimes they happen between groups from different areas within our country.
The Bryan County 4-H group hosted its counterpart group from Eddy County in New Mexico on June 10-14.
It was the return portion of the exchange, as the Oklahomans went to New Mexico in 2016.
Kim Shires, a member of the adult council of the Bryan County 4-H, said the process got underway about a year and a half ago.
“We had a 4-Her who has family in Carlsbad, N.M., and we started working with them on the idea of an exchange program.”
Six 4-Hers and three adults headed west last summer. Among the experiences they had were touring Carlsbad Caverns, touring a chili pepper plant that was working on a new way to extract oil and visiting Roswell, N.M. They visited some of the other natural features in the state, as well as learning about farming processes.
The numbers involved grew in this second year as 16 4-Hers and four adults made the trip from New Mexico.
“The first day we introduced them to our sod industry here at Top Notch Turf,” Shires said. “And from what I saw in New Mexico, there is very little grass in a lot of the yards. So I think it was amazing to them to see is that grass is something that we grow and we sell and we ship most of it to the Dallas area.
“And we had shooting sports in the afternoon. Our certified coach from Bryan County was there and their 4-H educator that came with them, Wayne Shockley, was also certified. So both groups were able to shoot on the range and there was some friendly competition between us and them.
“Then we took them to the lake and went tubing and had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.”
The days here were filled with activities. On Monday, they went up I-35 to the Turner Falls area, ate fried pies and chocolate and learned about culture.
“We wanted to introduce them to our Indian Heritage in this area, so we picked the Chickasaw Cultural Center,” Shires said. “And then we finished off the evening with them swimming in the Chickasaw Rec Area and Little Niagara.”
On Tuesday, the groups toured the Blue River Valley Winery in Caddo, learned about the importance of honeybees in this area and were treated to lunch provided by the Oklahoma Home and Community Education group.
The group from New Mexico headed home on Wednesday.
But this home-and-away exchange is not set to end with just the two-year stint.
And it appears to be growing each year.
“I think (last year) the kids were unsure about how things were going to work with it being our first time,” Shires said. “But I feel like when we go back next year, our numbers will be doubled, if not tripled.
“And we’re already working with them. We’re thinking about taking our group to Carlsbad as our first stop, but then taking both groups over to the west side of New Mexico and maybe even into Arizona and making it a bigger trip for also the host county and have both groups see something new together.”