I am a firm believer that when oppurtunities are presented to you that you take them and run with them! You never know where you could end up, what you'll learn, or who you'll meet along the way! One of the oppurtunies I am talking about that really impacted my life is 4-H. My family has been involved in 4-h for YEARS! For the most part we have been involved in dairy showing but also some other static exhibits such as cooking, sewing, woodworking etc. 4-H is a program that really allows today's youth to find something they love and are good at and really just practice and learn! Now I am a little biased because when I think 4-H I automatically think animal exhibits, which actually is a very small part of 4-H now. But none-the-less I see the importance it has with today's future farmers and consumers and it gives me hope.
This last week and a half was our county fair which of course my siblings exhibited dairy and beef (our first year with this crazy idea). Last summer I worked at our county's extension office helping with fair preparations and really got to see some of the really cool stuff that 4-H can offer kids; classes on almost everything, really fun camps about any and everything (I went to a few in my younger years and had an absolute blast, met some of my good friends I have today). But sitting at the fair I really noticed something; in order for 4-h to really inspire kids you really have to let them be in charge, let them learn! The reason I'm mentioning is that while sitting at the fair I noticed how many parents were out there working with their kids projects; fitting them, watering them, some did pretty much everything! While some of the kids just sat around looking bored. Some parents were so obssessed with perfection and winning that they wouldn't let their kids even touch the animal until they went into the ring, yeah I would be bored too!
Now my parents have always been busy with the dairy and other jobs so they would always try to help out with our projects and fitting and such but were always so willing and encouraging to have us be in charge of our 4-H projects. They always were willing to teach us and then let us take the reigns, even if that meant a few screw ups. I can proudly say that me and my siblings did absolutely everything for the fair ( I did help even though I am technically not in 4-H anymore, I'm 4-h support staff at my house!). We got the calves to the fair, groomed them, and got them into the ring. My parents showed up on show day to watch and that's about it which is perfect (it's not their projects). But dairy isn't really a big deal because we've been doing it for years, numerous times a year. Don't get me wrong we love our dairy cows but there is just so little competition in this state that sometimes gets unchallenging and boring so this year we decided to do a new project; Market beef steers,it was a way to be competitive and a lot of family friends showed beef.
But boy we were about as clueless as they come. But I am so proud of my brothers. They did their research, sought some advice from fellow 4-Hers and our extension agent. They did really well at the show with the older one getting a blue in showmanship while the little one finished with a purple and was one minor screw-up away from placing. But it was through this project that I noticed my brothers really did like their beef cows, they loved working with them and watching how fast they grow (how fat they get compared to our lean dairy cows). What is really cool is how many questions we got after the show was over about how we got our cows so tame or how many new people were asking about our projects because they were considering doing it next year! People noticed that my brothers really had fun showing their calves, yeah they worked really hard and although beef wasn't normal for us that it is possible to do something that you've never done before and be successful.
Point of this post is that if we want our 4-Hers loving what they're doing we've got to give them the freedom to do it themselves and choose! 4-H is not about perfection or winning, it's about learning and exploring. Finding something that you didn't know existed and learning about it. Whether that be rockets, woodworking or livestock, allowing a kid to have a little pride in what their doing will go a long way in helpig them find a passion! I know that without 4-H I wouldn't have my found my passion for dairy and agriculture. It helped me understand the role of what my family does on my community, my country, and my world.