I decided to produce the film, Rabbit Fever, because I became fascinated by the thousands of kids involved in showing and breeding rabbits. They all possessed a certain confidence and unabashed passion that I truly admired and found uncharacteristic for angsty adolescents. In fact, many of the top competitors seemed so articulate and mature for their ages, I felt like I was interviewing adults trapped in teeny bodies – not kids who might normally be snapping gum in my face and rolling their eyes at anything that reeks of educational activities outside of school.
When I asked how all of them got started with rabbits at such a young age, many of them attributed 4-H to their success.
As a computer geek growing up in a suburb near San Francisco, California, I never actually heard of 4-H until I visited the 2003 National ARBA (American Rabbit Breeder’s Association) Convention. It was only then that I learned about this vast organization that consists of 7 million youth, 540,000 volunteers, 3,500 professionals, 90,000 clubs and more than 60 million alumni nationwide.
Pictured Above: Teenage rabbit breeders get a case of the giggles prior to the sneak preview showing of the feature-length documentary, Rabbit Fever, at the American Rabbit Breeders Association Convention and Show.
For those of you who don’t know, 4-H stands for: Head, Heart, Hands and Health and their mission is “engage youth to reach the fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.” While 4-H cultivates various programs that focus on good citizenship, science, engineering and technology, I personally find their heavy focus on agriculture the most interesting and unique.
Featured Image: Napoleon Dynamite judges dairy milk.
In popular culture, you can see an example of an agricultural (or “ag” for short) competition in the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, when Napoleon judges and identifies dairy milk for the FFA (Future Farmers of America). The FFA organization is very similar to 4-H in that they organize learning opportunities and competitions on a regional, state and national level. Some kids will choose to raise and judge farm animals or crops, but a lot of other kids who don’t have enough land for such endeavors will choose to raise rabbits.
Featured Image: Redwood 4-H Rabbit Club
Although mastering the proper technique for responsibly raising, breeding, showing, and judging rabbits is enough to be an adult career on its own, kids who follow through with their 4-H program and successfully graduate to joining the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeder’s Association) must learn many “life” skills along the way. These skills become brilliantly apparent in the young cast of contestants filmed in Rabbit Fever.
All of this combined time and effort helps kids develop five positive traits to succeed and thrive in life:
In other words, if I ever have children of my own, you can bet that I will encourage them to participate in a local 4-H program.