This past week I’ve attended my county fair for the 22nd time. I have two brothers currently participating in 4-H with their Lamb projects. I have only the fondest memories from my 4-H years and I am grateful for the opportunity to watch them show. I dearly love 4-H and my county fair and much of that love is because 4-H had a very big impact on my life.
As a 9-year old, with the guidance from my parents, I decided to join 4-H and to take Market Lambs, Rabbits, and a cooking project. We have about 3 acres out in the country that was perfect for my small project. The 4-H club that I joined was a small group, at the time, of friendly and helpful members and advisors. This all sounds great, but there was a small problem. My shy, 9-year old self didn’t want to speak in meetings or leave my parents’ side.
For the beginning of my 4-H career, my parents and advisors slowly pushed me to speak up in meetings and be more engaged with the club. This was the hardest part for me and I often felt uncomfortable. I could do my 4-H workbooks all day and work with my animals all day, but having to speak in front of people was challenging.
I can’t tell you exactly when this started happening because it was gradual, but at some point I had made good friends with the other 4-H members in my club and I felt more comfortable with my advisors and speaking in meetings. I eventually became an officer in a small position and grew from there to later become the president of my club that had grown from 10 to 40 members.
My advisors, older members, and parents encouraged me to continue to expand my leadership roles and I also was on Jr. Fairboard, served as an officer on Jr. Fairboard, Lamb and Wool Queen and was 1st runner-up on the fair court. All of these prepared me for further leadership involvement in college as Student Body President. It was also a pathway to where I am now at my job as a Fellow for Ohio Farm Bureau doing research and outreach on food policy issues and the drug epidemic. This is not a self plug, this is to show how 4-H changed my life.
It’s impossible to tell you what exactly it was about 4-H that helped me get out of my shell and become a leader. It was most likely a combination of things and I’ll share a few:
- Support System. There is no lack of support in 4-H. 4-H is a family affair and your whole club becomes your family. I still to this day watch and support not only my siblings, but the other 4-H kids in our club.
- Discipline and Responsibility. This commonly refers to taking care of your animals and following through with your project, but I would also say that this refers to the leadership positions of running meetings, planning events, running shows, and representing your county.
- Real life circumstances. I’ve talked about all the good things, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you don’t win. Sometimes parents are mad at the way the show was conducted. Sometimes your animal gets sick and doesn’t make it to the show. 4-H teaches students to deal with the hard stuff too.
These are the top three out of the millions of ways 4-H has impacted my life. I’ve shared with you my personal story to encourage involvement in this organization and to share memories with those who have similar experiences as me. Know that everyone has a unique 4-H story and that it will impact students lives in different ways, but I believe it can only be for the better.
I titled this blog 4-H for Life because no matter where I go in life 4-H will be a very real part of who I am.
The 4-H motto: To make the best better.
The 4-H Pledge: I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
I’d love to hear from you!