Why 4-H is great for everyone
Every year I come to appreciate 4-H more. There are several reasons.
I was a small town kid while growing up. Our city of (then) about 15,000 people was considered the biggest town north of South Bend. Of course now, South Bend and Niles, Michigan, are almost indistinguishable along U.S. 33.
My cousins, on the other hand, grew up on a farm outside Dowagiac, Michigan.
I loved going there to visit. I tasted raw milk at their house. That is not the same as whole milk or “Vitamin D milk” as we called it. Raw milk comes right out of the cow’s udder and immediately taken to the refrigerator. It’s nasty stuff but it is an experience everyone should have.
I would help my cousin, Rick, with his chores if we were at the farm at the right time.
Over the years, my cousins had cows, chickens and everything else one would associate with 4-H. My cousin, Lou Ann, made clothing (as dim memories of the past indicate) and I’m sure there were lots of other projects that were taken to the Cass County Fair in Michigan.
Starting in 1994, one of my assignments was to cover the Montgomery County 4-H Fair. I covered the fair for newspapers or radio from 1994 to this year.
In 1994, I was so dumb! I didn’t understand any of the various types of hogs or beef or sheep but I “covered” the shows for the local media.
Joe Jarvis, the farm director at the Crawfordsville radio station, was one of my mentors and he tried to get me to take the job of farm director for a radio station in Danville, Ill. The program director approached me about it also and I told both of them I didn’t know anything about agriculture.
I learned a lot over the years even though I still don’t know as much as most 4-H members.
I have learned enough about agriculture just to be dangerous. I can ask a few intelligent questions of the kids who show kids (goats) in the fair.
One thing I learned was to appreciate all the hard work that went into the 4-H exhibits, whether it was clothing or showing animals.
I have come to appreciate why 4-H members might not be very street savvy and why that is a very good thing.
4-H members are kept busy from morning to bedtime with school work and taking care of their animals. They truly do not have time to get into serious trouble.
One reason for their dedication is that parents often spend thousands of dollars each year to buy baby pigs and other animals for their children to raise and show at the fair.
I compare it to my parents’ decision to spend $300 on a clarinet so I could be in the band when I was in seventh grade.
I didn’t want to play an instrument but dad had so much fun when he was in the high school band he thought I should be in the band.
It was a disaster. After a year, I asked to quit band and my mom came unglued.
The $300 my parents spent on a musical instrument back then would be equivalent to the many hundreds of dollars parents spend on 4-H projects today.
Bad tonsils and adenoids gave me an out. I couldn’t march, breathe, and play at the same time so mom and dad “understood” why I wanted out.
The kids I met this year want to be in 4-H. They love their animals.
I will never forget the young girl who began crying uncontrollably when I asked her about selling her pig in the 4-H auction. I will never do that again!
4-H members either love doing their projects or they find out they would rather study something else.
The 4-H program is a wonderful learning experience, no matter what kids choose to do when they become adults.