Members of our 4-H club, including me and my kids, spent last Saturday at a 4-H workshop learning about 4-H opportunity, surrounded by volunteers and Extension Specialist. 4-H is operated by the University Extension network that is present in each state. To find the Extension office nearest you, simply use a search engine to search the county you reside in and “University Extension” or look under the state government pages in your local phone book.
Were you involved in 4-H when you were growing up? If you grew up in a rural community chances are that you were exposed to 4-H in some way. I am happy that I belonged to a 4-H club when I was a kid. I was either taught, or motivated to learn many skills that I still use today. Most clubs offer projects ranging from sewing, cooking, animal science, bee-keeping to photography.
Besides the projects, 4-H offers a range and depth of leadership and community service seen in no other organization that I know of. On the local level there are youth officers that are elected, and run both the club meetings and county council meetings. But, it doesn't stop there, there are regional councils, state and national leadership as well. My son, Noah, is currently running for a regional representative position that could offer him the ability to represent our county at a state level. All meetings are run by parliamentary procedure, so the youth also get a chance to learn and use these standards that will serve them during rest of their lives.
4-H clubs are also encouraged to see
needs and opportunities in their community and find ways to be of
service. Our club made dog-biscuits for Christmas one year for a
local no-kill dog shelter that houses over 100 dogs and cats. Not
only did the kids enjoy this project, but brought awareness of the
shelter's needs to the community. They also get creative with club
fund-raisers and fun club activities. Every year the members also
get a chance to showcase projects at “Achievement Day” where they
can either enter projects they have made, present demonstrations and
speeches, show off clothes they have made for fashion review or
participate in judging events. These projects and skills, if
selected, then go on to be judged at Regional and State Fairs. Of
course, there are also local, regional and state livestock showing
events that members with animal projects enjoy competing in.
4-H membership starts at 8 years old and 6-8 year old’s can participate in “Clover-Kids”. I was a “Clover-Kid” when our club was formed in 1977. This is the same club that I am the leader of today and that my kids are involved in. Our club was one of at least a half-dozen clubs in our county during that time. Now we are one of only two clubs in our county. Moms of members are the typical project leaders that tackle the teaching process, but other members of the community are always welcome to join in and be a part of the club. One statistic, learned at the workshop last weekend, explained that if a child has a good relationship with at least 5 adults other than their parents will be successful and not cave to peer pressure. Hands-on learning opportunities in non-classroom situations, with people passionate about what they do, and learning together with kids of all ages as well as adults is a very valuable opportunity.
Government funding is getting less and less by the year, so volunteers are so very important in keeping this organization in existence. So, consider contacting your local Extension office and see if your local clubs could use your help! In the rural communities 4-H clubs, though offering a wide variety of projects, are very agricultural in nature. Volunteering as a project leader, planning a workshop, hosting a demonstration at a club meeting, providing a field trip venue are just a few ideas that could help prepare and influence what might possibly be the future leaders of horticulture, agriculture and others in the food-growing community that we must maintain.
photo credit: top; Nate with ribbons from livestock showing, middle; Caleb showing a dairy goat at a local livestock show, bottom; Noah giving an extemporaneous speech at 4-H achievement day.