Lane Electric Supports FFA and 4-H

Lane Electric buys animals at auction every year to ensure the kids raising them get a good price for their work.

By Craig Reed

In 2006, Gary and Sally Foster wanted to support kids and their 4-H and FFA project animals. Lane Electric Cooperative General Manager Rick Crinklaw wanted the co-op to support those young people and their projects.
Together, they made their idea a reality.

Gary was a serviceman for Lane Electric and Sally was a leader at the Fern Ridge Clovers, a 4-H club. The couple had been involved with kids, their animals and the animal auction for many years.

students and livestock
Area students show their animals at the Lane County livestock auction. Lane Electric buys several animals to support the program. Some of the meat is bought by LEC staff or donated to area food banks.

Rick had experience with animal projects and auctions from his youth while attending the Douglas County livestock auction in Roseburg with his father, Howard Crinklaw, the general manager of Douglas Electric Cooperative. Years later as Lane Electric’s GM, Rick wanted his co-op involved in the Lane County auction.

It took a couple years of discussion by Lane Electric’s board of directors and staff, but eventually money was approved and the co-op became a bidder at the Lane auction for the 4-H and FFA animals.

“We wanted to be more engaged in member affairs with an emphasis on youth,” says Rick who was the co-op’s general manager from 1995 to 2014.

The Fosters and Rick represented Lane Electric at the 2006 auction, and the co-op bought two steers, two hogs and a pen of chickens. The co-op has been a bidding participant at the annual auction ever since.

“Any kid who is in a 4-H program or FFA, you won’t find them getting into trouble,” Gary says. “They don’t have time to get in trouble. Those are the kids we want to support.”

“The 4-H, FFA programs are positive,” Sally says. “We love it for the kids. The end result for the kids is selling their project animals, and we want to support them.”

Since 2006, the Fosters have bid on animals for the co-op.

“I knew and recognized that Gary and Sally Foster were already very involved with the kids,” Rick says. “They were the perfect fit to represent the co-op. They know the kids who have worked hard with their animals, who have put in the effort.”

Gary and Sally say the 4-H and FFA programs give the kids an opportunity to learn responsibilities and gain confidence in themselves.

“To raise your own animal, to care for it, to feed it, learning those responsibilities is important for a young person,” Sally says. “It’s not just livestock in these programs, but it can also be raising flowers, photography, cooking, giving a speech. Nowhere else can kids learn these things. It’s all about learning.”

students and livestock
Area students show their animals at the Lane County livestock auction. Lane Electric buys several animals to support the program. Some of the meat is bought by LEC staff or donated to area food banks.

A year after the co-op got involved, its employees could sign up for a whole, half or quarter of a beef, hog or lamb. The co-op buys an animal at auction and the employees pay the buy-back market price for whatever amount was pre-ordered.

An average of five employees sign-up for beef, pork or lamb each year.

“With some of the employees involved, it allowed us to spend more dollars, to leverage the contributions we could provide to the program,” Rick says.

In 2010, Rick expanded Lane Electric’s participation in the auction by bidding on and buying a steer for the food pantries in the co-op’s service territory. The animal was cut and wrapped into hamburger packages and evenly distributed to the Oakridge, Veneta, McKenzie, Lowell and Cottage Grove food pantries.

“They are very appreciative of that program,” Rick says. “Having everything made into hamburger, rather than steaks and roasts, made it easier to divvy up.”

After Rick retired in 2014, former General Manager Matt Michael and current GM Debi Wilson have continued the co-op’s support of young people and their animals at auction.

“I’m very impressed with these kids and the work they put into raising their animals,” Debi says. “Gary and Sally are amazing partners. I could not imagine doing this without them. I look forward to continuing to support our youth with our participation.”

Gary retired from his serviceman’s job at the co-op in 2009. He was congratulated by a board member on his retirement, and promptly asked, “Are you going to continue to bid for us at the auction?” The answer was “Yes.” The Fosters have bid on behalf of the co-op at each auction since. “Rick was very, very supportive of the programs and the auction, and each general manager and the board since has been,” Gary says.

Rick says he is pleased to see the co-op continue its support of the 4-H and FFA kids.

“People may complain about the youth of today— their values, that they don’t work hard enough—but when I see the youth involved in programs like this, that is a counter to the negative comments that I sometimes hear,” he says.