As our county fairs wrap up, I’ve been reminded of my own years in 4-H (all ten of them). I grew up on a dairy farm in Elkhart County; I also tried several other projects and served as a Junior Leader. Many of my colleagues are now reliving their experiences as 4-H volunteers and parents. We got together and compiled this list of 10 lessons we learned in 4-H. We may not have realized their significance at the time, but as adults we look around and see so many hard working 4-H members, parents, volunteers, and educators. Here’s the lessons we came up with (saved the best for last)…
10 Lessons We Learned in 4-H
Volunteers are vital. Planning, preparing, and executing the fair takes countless hours. Club leaders, Council & Fair Board Members, Project Superintendents, and the many others who jump in to help are generously giving their time so our young people can have this experience, many using vacation time to do so.
Hard work is rewarded. Hard work, mixed with an ounce of patience, pays off. Beyond the ribbons and trophies, hard working 4-H members receive valuable scholarships, internships, and job offers. The work ethic cultivated in 4-H stays with you throughout your adult life.
Family memories last forever. The County Fair often brings together multiple generations of a family. Grandparents are in the bleachers or helping behind the scenes, cousins play together in their downtime. You may not remember the color of your ribbon, but those memories will be cherished forever.
Life Skills. 4-H members learn how to cook, sew, garden, drive, take photos, lead meetings, speak in public, meet deadlines, and so many other skills they can use throughout their lifetime.
Help others. There is always someone willing to help in the 4-H program. A missing ingredient the night before judging, a hand in the show ring when your animal won’t walk, or a hug when things don’t go as they’d hoped. 4-H teaches our youth (and adults) to be there for one another.
Responsibility. Nothing will teach you more responsibility than a trek to the barn at 6 am in January because it is your job to keep an animal alive. And if your dad was nice enough to feed for you, there were still pens to clean out when you got home from school. Now for the funnier ones…
How to play Euchre. The many hours spent playing on the show box have proved beneficial in our Saturday night card games.
Don’t eat right before you go on the rides. Our moms tried to warn us, but we had to find out for ourselves. Lesson learned.
Wear closed-toe shoes. There is an art to getting through a barn without stepping into a giant pile of you know what. We learned really quick to save the flip-flops for the beach and watch where you’re walking.
Last, but certainly not least…
Have fun! Last, but certainly not least. Long after the shoes are washed, the tears dried up, and the ribbons fade, you will remember the fun memories you made growing up as a 4-H member.
Of course, this list could go and on (like a judge who loves to give reasons). The moral of the story is 4-H is an invaluable youth development program, coupling essential life skills with leadership opportunities, and lifelong friendships. A special thank you to everyone in our communities who play a role in the 4-H program. Have a lesson you would add to the list? We’d love to hear about your experiences; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll close with one last memory from my Happy Hustlers club meetings…
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.
Here’s a few photos of our Alliance bankers doing their 4-H thing. Enjoy!