This is a story of how two simple gifts from caring adults can have a life-long influence on the interests of a child. Little did Mike Avesing know when he became a 4-H member that it would lead him on a path that would take him around the world.
Mike joined the Sweetland Royal Busters 4-H club in 1966. In need of a 4-H project, he suggested to his dad that pigeons would be a good idea, but his dad nixed that suggestion. Since Mike lived in town, his grandfather suggested rabbits and gave Mike his first rabbits as a gift. He enjoyed the competition of showing his rabbits and the fact that he could live in town and show an animal at the fair.
In 1969, fate took over. When Mike’s rabbits were the victims of a dog attack, he saw an ad for English Spot show rabbits. This is how he met the second caring adult that sent him on his “rabbit trail”. A lifelong friendship with Gary Erickson developed and he became Mike’s mentor. Gary took Mike to his first rabbit show in Rock Island, IL, in 1969. From then on Mike was hooked. He joined the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) and has made many lifelong friends.
In his later 4-H years, Mike noticed there was no 4-H rabbit show at the Iowa State Fair. With the help of John Wanfalt, Muscatine County 4-H & Youth Program Director at that time, Mike was instrumental in getting one started. After his graduation from 4-H, Mike took over as 4-H rabbit superintendent for the Muscatine County Fair in 1973 and continues in that position today. He also started judging 4-H rabbit shows and enjoyed it so much that he explored the possibility of judging open shows. In the early 1980’s, Mike started working his way through the American Rabbit Breeder Association’s rabbit judge apprenticeship program, receiving his judging license in 1987. Since then, Mike has judged hundreds of rabbit shows in 45 states as well as Canada, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. This year alone he will be judging at seven state fairs!
Mike has put on hundreds of seminars for 4-H’ers, including the series of statewide 4-H rabbit workshops as his schedule permits. As a member of ARBA he has served the organization in many ways by chairing or being a member of the Standards Committee for several specialty clubs, chairing the ARBA Constitution and By-Laws Committee, assisting with the youth contests at several conventions, and serving in the ARBA Board as the District 3 Director for three years. Mike was recently elected to his second term as National ARBA president, providing direction to staff at the headquarters in Bloomington, IL, and presiding over board meetings.
From a simple decision to raise a few rabbits as a 4-H project, Mike’s curiosity and love of learning has led him to a lifelong hobby and taken him to the top in the rabbit world. With the help of caring adults along the way, his grandfather for purchasing his first rabbits and a local rabbit breeder taking Mike under his wing, Mike has been able to achieve much success from his humble 4-H rabbit project.