Clare County Review & Marion Press

Faces in the Crowd: Jacob Stieg

Osceola County 4-H Program Coordinator Jacob Stieg has always had a knack for teaching.
After graduating from Reed City High School in 2004, Jacob earned his degree in secondary education at Lake Superior State.
And although he’s not a teacher in the traditional sense, he’s spent the last 13 years teaching area youth various life skills. His tagline: “In Osceola County, 4-H youth learn animal science. And through animal science, youth learn financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and life skills.”
Having been involved in Osceola County’s 4-H program for over 30 years, Jacob enjoys interacting with his students through a number of county-wide programs. After all, 4-H is more than just “fairs”.
But there’s more to Jake than just his job. In his free time, he enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. And, of course, he enjoys spending time on his own Osceola County centennial farm.
We caught up with Jake recently where we learned a little bit more about his story. We also learned a lot more about the county 4-H programs. Most importantly, we learned that Jacob Stieg is more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised?
Jacob: I was born and raised in the Reed City area, specifically Hersey. I’m the fourth-generation farmer on my centennial farm – it became a centennial farm in 2018. Alumni of Reed City High School, graduated in 2004.
MP: What kept you busy growing up?
Jacob: I did a lot of sports, and growing up on the farm, we did a lot of livestock. At the start of the 2000s, we had over 100 head of goats; 35-40 head of sheep; two dozen pigs and a dozen steers growing up on the farm – all 4-H projects. My story is that I’ve been active in Osceola County 4-H for over 30 years, so you can do the math!
MP: So did you get into 4-H because of the family farm?
Jacob: Yes, my father heard about the program when I was very young, and he believed in it so much that we couldn’t do anything else – sports or anything – unless we did 4-H. Unfortunately, he passed away at a 4-H event in 2000, and it’s kind of surreal that I’m the 4-H coordinator, going on 13 years now.
MP: Tell us about your job. What does a 4-H Coordinator do?
Jacob: What a lot of people see, is fairs. They hear 4-H, and they automatically think “fairs”. That’s two weeks out of the year – we’re blessed to have two fairs here in the county – but the other 51 weeks I do a lot of different programming; guest speaking in the classrooms. One of my favorite activities is called “Rock the Bike”. I partner up with my colleague here in SNAP-Ed, and she talks about nutrition, and I have a bike with a blender on the back. We create smoothies; with our dairy families in the county, we do milkshakes. It’s just a fun activity. Depending on the age group: the elementary and middle schools, we have MyPlate with the smoothies, and in high school we actually do the scientific experiment, starting with the hypothesis, and then doing factors and stuff like that – I really built it around science.
My big program, a big staple, is our Project Rural Education Days up at Gingrich Meadows and Rose Lake Park. That has been going on [for a long time]… I was a participant in the 4th grade when I was going through school, and now I’m leading that. It’s a way to get the youth of the county out on the farm and out in natural resources where we have guest speakers come into Gingrich Meadows. We talk about milk production, crops, feeding management, and they get to pet calves and see how they’re fed. And then on the natural resource side at Rose Lake, we talk about as much as we can: We’ve had retrievers out of the LeRoy area come down; we’ve had the DNR, fire safety… it’s mostly hands-on.
MP: And like you said, when people hear 4-H, they think about the fairs. What goes into that?
Jacob: When it comes to the fairs, we start educational programs back in September. I run educational series from September through June. Always the second Monday of the month, back-to-back meetings with small animals [goats, poultry, rabbits] and large animals [beef, sheep, swine]. And during those educational meetings we talk about the parts of the animals, the skeletal structure, the feed; why we’re doing market animals, and how to understand what we’re learning. My tagline that I like to always use: In Osceola County, 4-H youth learn animal science. And through animal science, youth learn financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and life skills.
MP: Are there a lot of youth still interested and active in 4-H?
Jacob: If we go back to COVID, that was a hard 18-22 months, but we’re starting to see the kids come back. I did lose a couple staple programs, but those are coming back as well. Another program that we have is shooting sports. It’s a 12-week program where youth 8 – 19 can come in [8-12 use BB guns; 13 and above use pellets]. They shoot high points. They have four positions that they sit in: prone, sitting, kneeling, and standing. They do those 3 times in a rotation over the 12-week period. After week 4, they get divided out into their own divisions, so that all youth on the same capability level are competing against one another. Also, they’re learning how to fire a gun properly, in a safe zone.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Jacob: I like teaching the youth and the families the importance of 4-H, and every meeting can be different. Ultimately, my favorite time of the year is the summer season. I get to see the youth at their events, showing their mastery of their projects at the fair. The fair is the county-wide platform for all the youth to show what they did, and that goes anywhere from the baked goods and the still exhibits, all the way up to the animals down at the barn. We’re all together, making memories.
MP: When you’re not working with 4-H, what keeps you busy?
Jacob: My wife and my two stepdaughters keep me very busy. My wife loves to travel, so we always try to go on a vacation or two every year. We’ll go to spots that we don’t normally go to. It’s hard to do it in the summers, because I also farm. My wife and I own our centennial farm; we own and operate about 140 acres on the farm. And then my family has more property so we’re pushing about 200 acres of meat animals – beef, swine, and poultry – and then I also do a lot of square bales of hay. My daughters keep me very busy: one loves to farm, and the other one is active in sports. It’s going here and there to each event, and with my wife traveling, she loves the downtime that we have now – where all of us can just relax. But ultimately, I’m a homebody. I love working on the farm.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about living in Osceola County?
Jacob: My heritage. The Stieg family came to this area back in the late 1800s, and my great-great-grandfather had a store here in Reed City, and would travel down to Grand Rapids on the old Mackinaw Trail with his ox-cart.
The thing I like about Osceola County is our communities. We have very traditional agricultural communities, and they’re all very supportive of our youth. Take Marion, for example, they support all their youth activities; LeRoy, the same thing. We’re a community, and you can really see that.
MP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Jacob: Failures in life are successes in life. If something fails, take a look at why it failed, and move forward on it. You don’t dwell, you move forward. And life is what you make of it.

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