4-H is a youth development program that allows kids ages 9 to 19 to explore and learn about their own strengths and weaknesses while empowering them with the skills to lead for a lifetime. For all of these to be successful, youth and adults must be willing to work as a team to get it all done. One great example of this is happening in a small parish right in the middle of Louisiana.
Evangeline Parish has around a thousand 4-H members, and they have so much support that it spans generations. Bob and Katy Marcantel live in a rural area near Mamou, Louisiana, on a farm that has been teeming with sheep — and kids and now grandkids who are all involved in 4-H.
The Marcantels have been active in 4-H since the beginning. They met at 4-H Camp Grant Walker as kids themselves dancing under that old pavilion. It was there that the seed was planted that grew their relationship with 4-H and each other.
They entered parish cooking contests, showed sheep, competed in public speaking and attended short course, which was the forerunner to 4-H University, and later they showed their kids what 4-H was all about.
The Marcantels have eight children that are now grown, with 21 grandkids and four great grandkids between them. Every one of them began showing sheep at the age of 9, attended workshops, competed in 4-H contests and have become junior leaders that go on to volunteer in their community. Each of them has a favorite story from 4-H that helped them to realize they were members for life.
Katy remembers being the leader at Vidrine School where she taught. She did it all. She helped her members with record books, chauffeured them around the parish to contests and activities and worked at 4-H Achievement Day every year and still does today.
Her husband, Bob, served as one of the original members of the Evangeline Parish 4-H Foundation, helping to form the governing body for Evangeline. He also served on district and state livestock advisories throughout his career and was inducted into the Southwest District Livestock Show Hall of Fame.
Their kids, Ben, Beth, Jacob, Robbie, Amy, Sarah, Caroline and Seth, continue to support 4-H. Amy Deshotel, one of the four girls in the family, remembers fondly going on the Louisville, Kentucky, reward trip for livestock.
Amy said she will never forget all the new breeds of sheep and cattle that they saw there along with the size of the facilities. She was truly amazed, and they even went back as a family several times after winning this state-sponsored livestock trip.
By eighth grade Amy’s brother Ben had built his flock of sheep to 30 head and was not only a very competitive exhibitor, but he was also helping his siblings to get in on the action. Ben is now the owner of Marcantel Club Lambs. He sells lambs to 4-H members around the country and buys market animals from 4-H members across the state in support of their projects.
It was nothing for Jacob and Robbie to get out of school and leave with their dad to drive to Wichita Falls, Texas, or to Oklahoma to pick up new sheep. Sarah said they even showed pigs for a while. These chores, washing and grooming animals, and even doing a demonstration on how to bake something made them who they are today.
Beth, Caroline and Seth, while not in agricultural careers, buy animals from the sale, donate to the Junior Leader Club and have even assisted with the Trash Bash clean up at Chicot State Park. 4-H taught them how to be responsible adults, and they are passing that down to not only their own kids, but to all of those they touch in the community when they help with 4-H.
The grandchildren have also gotten in on the action and are very active 4-H members or graduates of the program. All three of Amy’s kids, Jose, Javier and Briseyda, are in the Junior Leader Club that does volunteer work around the parish. Jose is a licensed auctioneer at the age of 20 and volunteers in surrounding parishes as well as Evangeline to help with their 4-H animal sale, while he is working his way through college.
Sarah has four kids: Eli, Ana, Sebastian and Nadia, who compete in parish contests and attend camps and clinics all year long. Eli, while still in high school, is building his own flock and plans to major in veterinary medicine.
Caroline’s three, William, Nick, and Isabella, not only showed sheep, but won buckles, banners, and went on the same trip to Louisville their parents went on before them.
Their cousin Ancil, Jacob’s son, has already begun a program for veterinary medicine for high school members at Texas A&M University. The rest of the grandkids range in age from 2 to 15 and are being brought up right alongside their siblings in the world of 4-H.
Whether the kids attend a cooking workshop, electric workshop, fishing clinic or a citywide cleanup, they have a goal. Even though all their goals may be different, 4-H is helping them to build the skills they need to become well-rounded, hardworking, self-motivated leaders. It has also helped them to make many connections that have turned into business partners, lifelong friends and even family.
4-H welcomes young people of all beliefs and backgrounds, giving kids a voice to express who they are and how they make their lives and communities better. It “makes the best better!”
Kimberly Deville is an AgCenter 4-H and Youth Development agent in Evangeline Parish.
This article appeared in the summer 2022 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.
Multiple generations of the Marcantel family from Evangeline Parish have been involved in Louisiana 4-H. Photo by Marie Soileau
A new generation of Marcantel family 4-H’ers, Isabella, Ana, Izzy, Sebastian and Nadia, pose with the winning entry in the Evangeline Parish Livestock Show. Photo by Caroline Manual
Bob and Katy Marcantel’s grandson Javier shoots at a 4-H State Shooting Sports match. Photo by Amy Deshotel