Empowering Youth Through Agriculture
by Peggy Schooley
Paula VM Photography
It is so easy to look around your community and see amazing things — and you sort of assume they just ‘happened.’ That they just appear, and have always been there. Think about that in Boerne – the places you see that have just always been there. The Fair-grounds. Veteran’s Park. The local swimming pool/soccer fields. Just always been there, right?
I learned the error of this kind of thinking when I had the opportunity to spend some time with Andra Wisian, a key leader and a driving force behind the Kendall County Youth Agricultural and Equestrian Center (KCYAEC) on IH10 East. You’ve seen the KCYAEC off IH10E, you may have even attended events or activities there without realizing the work it took to bring it to fruition.
“For a little background, my whole family is very modern, but we definitely have our roots in stewardship and agriculture. I grew up in DeWitt County – I’m proud to say I’m a seventh generation Texan! My family came to the State as a part of Stephen F. Aus-tin’s Old 300. My Texas roots are deep and secure – as are my American roots – an ancestor was on the Mayflower!
After college, I was hired as the “weather girl” and then promoted to the evening anchor position at the ABC affiliate in Victoria, Texas. I enjoyed journalism a great deal, but left TV news to take on a global role as a producer/writer with a travel video production and marketing company based in Houston. For more than six years I traversed the globe with video crews producing travelogues tailored for the American traveller.”
“One night after literally flying in from Cairo, I was visiting my hometown and met some friends for the Friday night catfish fry at a local spot. I ended up meeting my future husband, Kirby Wisian. Although we grew up in the same county, we had attended different schools and didn’t know each other. We married in 1992 and I marvel at the irony of traveling the world and then marrying someone who lived 10 miles down the road from me while growing up.
Because Kirby was employed with USAA, in 1992 we decided to make our home in Kendall County and we have enjoyed our life here immensely. In fact, we have loved it here from the first moment, and we love it still. I’m also glad to report that our two boys, Hans and Trent, seem to have really lucked out — they have Kirby’s math brain AND my “English” brain! Hans is a private pilot working on his commercial certification. At the same time he is busy ranching in South Texas and working with the breeding program. Trent is a rising junior at Texas A&M, math major. He is in the Corp of Cadets and has made the Parsons Mounted Cavalry!
“At one time our family business was focused on cattle trading, but then we decided to start a registered Red Angus herd. These cows are bred here in Kendall County and then turned out at our ranches in South Texas. As I mentioned, our oldest son, Hans, is involved with this program right now.
‘In each of my previous roles, from weather-girl to evening anchor in Victoria Texas to meeting with ambassadors and tourist executives in various countries around the world, I knew that when we moved here, I would need a new career, and to do something for the community, so I volunteered to be a 4H leader. The next thing I knew, I was running the local club. In this role, it seemed we were constantly challenged by set-ting a date and organizing an event – a clinic or free rides or playdays- and it would have to be cancelled due to some type of weather issue – too wet, too hot, too something! So, I started floating the relatively simple idea of a roof to cover the existing arena at the Kendall County Fairgrounds here in Boerne.
‘Before I move on, however, I want to make sure people realize that the work we do with the 4H Clubs is vitally important. While I admit I’m partial to this organization, I also know without a doubt that it is one of the best ways for kids to develop an honest view of themselves in the world, and general preparation for life. Youth face many challenges: ranging from depression, drug and alcohol use, peer pressure, academic problems, obesity, bullying, to cyber-bullying. Our youth are key to the future of our country. Positive youth development programs can prevent a variety of risk behaviors among young people and improve social and emotional outcomes. We are helping to cultivate the next generation of leaders who will create a healthier society.
“In addition, working with animals in the 4H programs shows children of all ages the facts about life, death, how to deal with weather — especially as it relates to their animals. How to handle sick and injured animals, escaping animals, the whole gamut of responsibility of care. When kids do this, they stop thinking about themselves as number one. They learn that they are a part of a much larger ecosystem than just them or their families. In fact, they learn that milk and meat doesn’t come from just HEB but from hard working farmers and ranchers – and they learn about that work themselves. Such a great program! I encourage every parent to have their kids involved in 4H. It can be a life-changing experience.
‘In retrospect, my idea for a covered arena at Kendall County Fairgrounds was such an easy and simple goal and, if we had obtained only that, I probably would have been satisfied. But, like so often happens, God had much bigger plans for us. And, through an interesting process, Kendall County ultimately offered a lease on 33 acres of the Joshua Springs Park land for our county’s youth to use and enjoy.
Andra on SHESA FUNKY MONKEY at ACHA (American Cutting Horse Association show).
‘At the time I thought “Well, apparently God’s plan is that He wants a county-wide multi-purpose center.” Far above and beyond a simple cover! So, no matter how skeptical we might have been on occasion, we just kept walking through the doors God opened for us. Easy? Well, I always say that with God, a couple hundred volunteers and even more donors, the folks at Parks and Wildlife, those who run Kendall County, and the entire community, well, then, things were really “easy” and just got done!
‘I would have never imagined the Center on my own. It was just too big, too hard to even dream about…but the doors just kept opening. Snags would get fixed and we’d move one more step forward. I rolled off the Board for the Equestrian Center this past August. I feel like I birthed a baby and now it is time for others to raise it into adulthood. What an amazing journey it has been. By the way, readers, we can use all the volunteers we can get!”
Now that Andra is off the Board for the Equestrian Center, God knew she needed her next community service role. And it came in the form of an invitation from Governor Abbot for her to become a member of the Guadalupe Brazos River Authority (GBRA).
An avid cutting competitor, Andra says cutting horses are amazing animals. “The bond I have with my horses is very special and I’m blessed to be able to do this.”
(On SKIP MATE HICKORY at a National Cutting Horse Association show)
“Water is such a precious commodity and the very fact that our government allows citizens, just normal folks like me, to participate is amazing. It is a 9 person Board, one from each of the 9 counties these rivers cross. What a great example of government “for and by the people”! I’ve attended a few meetings so far and we are touring the entire length of the watershed. I’m pleased by the depth of the training – it is quite extensive. Remember, it isn’t just the rivers, which are the commodity, but also the “utility’ of that water – wastewater, hydro electric demands, recreation demands. It is a huge job with a lot of challenges.”
I asked Andra to share some final thoughts with me and they demonstrate her level of connection and commitment to our little County. “We’ve loved Boerne since the day we moved here. It has been good to our family, and we hope we will be considered as being good for it, too. We are active at St. John Lutheran Church, Kendall County Fair and Rodeo sponsorships and parade, the Boys and Girls Club, and Hill Country Daily Bread. We work hard for the Family Ranch Rodeo Fest (on this past October 2 at the KCYEC). It was our 5th annual ranch rodeo. The “Family” part of the title is important — in order to compete, each group must be a family! The rodeo has everything from dancing to mutton bustin’! This past year, twelve teams—many from Kendall County—competed for prize money, buckles and other awards. To reflect the very real makeup of many ranching families, the rules called for at least one of the four team members to be a female or a youth under the age of 17. Everyone in the area would love the event— and the folks – kids and adults – who work so hard to make it all happen would love the support!”
I’ve never seen a community that gives to others like Boerne does. Just look around at all of the non-profits and not-for-profit organizations that are being supported diligently by all of us. We are an extraordinary group of caring people.
Boerne is a treasure and we don’t want to lose our rural charm. The growing population of Texas, and the entire state, is going to challenge everything we know – and urban encroachment is always the biggest challenge of all. It is an important and exciting time to live here, and it is rewarding to work within our community to make the best even better!”
Contact Andra Wisian at