by Mary Rupert
Wyandotte County 4-H programs and events will now be held at the Due West Ranch at 134th and Donahoo Road in Kansas City, Kansas.
Youth and program leaders gathered on Friday for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the new partnership between 4-H and the Due West Ranch.
Nicole Crosson, 4-H youth development agent, said the new site at Due West will offer 4-H programming. An incentive program will be offered for youth enrolled in 4-H, she said, with discounted rates offered. Also, youth programming still will take place at the 4-H office at 1216 N. 79th, she added.
Area youth will be able to sign up at school for one of the horse programs, for example, and then go to the Due West Ranch for the program, Crosson said.
It is a way for 4-H to bring programs in a farm or ranch setting to urban children, she added.
There are horses, dogs and goats at the ranch, among other animals, she said. 4-H is planning a lot of agricultural programs there, she said.
Some programs that might be held at Due West include gardening projects and livestock projects, she said, including some food safety instruction. There also is an arena and meeting space.
The owners are really gracious and want to do education programming, Crosson said. The owners have already held conferences and educational-related events at the Due West Ranch, she added.
For several years, Due West Ranch has offered a riding center. The ranch, founded in 2002, moved its location a little west of the original one on 121st in 2015, and the new location has an indoor and outdoor arena and facilities designed for educational purposes, according to Bill Basler, co-owner of Due West Ranch. He said Due West’s arena has already served as a substitute site for a few 4-H horse shows when another site was unusable because of the weather.
Basler, who has extensive experience in training and selling horses, said the ranch is on 40 acres and it includes meeting spaces. An event space was built in a former shop, heating and cooling was added, and it has been used for graduation and wedding parties as well as meetings, he said.
He said Due West will be continuing its present operations while adding 4-H educational programs. Currently, there are about 140 riding lessons offered there each week, he added. Besides lessons, Due West offers boarding, camps, training and events.
For several years, the ranch also has served as the home for a therapeutic riding center that specializes in helping persons with disabilities. The ranch has six instructors who have been certified in therapeutic horsemanship instruction and riding instruction.
The 4-H program in Wyandotte County now serves about 8,000 youth through different programs, according to officials. While the youth club format still is ongoing, 4-H now also serves children through programs in the schools.
“It fits really well with 4-H,” said Mary Sharp, co-owner at Due West. She is a teacher in Olathe who has also offered riding lessons for about 32 years. She also has served as a long-time horse show judge and a collegiate equestrian coach. “We’re really excited to give the 4-H community a home. Anything education-related we’re interested in.”
The focus of Due West is on equine, with an education-based equine operation, Sharp said. Agriculture has always been important to her family, she said. The lessons at Due West focus on horsemanship and safety.
“Another big connection that we’re excited about that we can associate with 4-H is the move of the American Royal to Wyandotte County,” Sharp said. “This is going to be the epicenter of ag ed.”
“It’s definitely going to open doors to get inner-city youth exposed to agriculture,” Crosson said. Youth who go into agriculture don’t have to be in production, they can be agricultural scientists, researchers, extension agents and many other careers, she said.