According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, across the nation over 4,000 farms sold nearly 500,000 rabbits and, judging by the number of members in the local 4-H Rabbit Club, there are rabbit producers in Greene County as well.
Rachel Courtwright, organization leader of the Greene County 4-H Rabbit Club, said there are currently 28 members, split roughly half and half between boys and girls. The age range is 7 to 17.
Courtwright, who was a member from 2015 to 2017, said that when she aged out of the club, she “had a calling to be a leader” and thought she could share useful information to the members from her time in rabbit club and from a class she took in veterinary assistance.
“Club leaders are all volunteers who pass a short interview, get the appropriate clearances, have knowledge of their animals and are at least 18 years of age,” said Chelsea Glover, 4-H program assistant at the Penn State Extension office.
Each year the 4-H club shows meat production rabbits at the Jacktown Fair while the Greene County Fair focuses more on rabbit breeding.
At this year’s county fair, 18 rabbit club members will show animals. On check-in day, after the rabbits are checked by a veterinarian, they are put in cages. When the breed is called, the 4-H kids place their animals on a table for judging and demonstrate their showmanship skills.
At the fair, the judges will determine the Best of the Breed and the Best of the Opposite Sex then award ribbons. Whoever earns the title of Best of the Best will get a trophy and a carrying cage.
The rabbit club is only one of many in the 4-H clubs in Greene County.
Glover said all the clubs work on projects throughout the year, care for their animals and learn how to get the best product for market. Every club meets once a month at the fairgrounds and more than half the rabbit club members belong to other 4-H clubs like the goat, sheep, swine and steer.
Since the first Greene County Fair Queen was selected in 1986, eight members of the rabbit club have been chosen to wear the crown. At least half of these girls were also members of another 4-H animal club.
“Most of our candidates have some sort of livestock connection, although one year we had a queen from outside the livestock field,” said Debbie Stephenson, fair secretary. “One year the fair didn’t have a queen.”
Most of the rabbit club members raise their animals for meat, which is the healthiest meat produced by a domesticated animal, according to Ruth Ann Bell, director of the American Rabbit Breeding Association.
Per the Penn State Extension website, the four best rabbit breeds for meat production are Californian, New Zealand, Flemish Giats and Champagne d’Argent.
“Rabbit meat is low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and most of the animals are raised on commercial, antibiotic-free pellets,” Bell said.
The Greene County 4-H Rabbit Club also plans community service projects and fundraisers and attends events like Kids Fest at the fairgrounds, the annual Easter egg hunt at Bowlby Library.
Rabbit club meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Monday of every month at the 4-H Building #10 at the Greene County Fairgrounds.
“We go over what the members have recently done, share experiences and information on the care of the animals and occasionally have guest speakers who talk on subjects like showmanship and how to administer a shot,” Courtwright said.
This year 4-H check in is from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on August 4.
For more information on rabbit club and other Greene County 4-H clubs, visit the Penn State Extension Office, 26 West High Street, Room 1 in Waynesburg, or call 724-627-3745.