Our family has plenty of old photos related to the Stafford County Fair and the 4-H program. The photo at the top is from 1967. Randy was a 5th grader and in his first year in Stafford County 4-H with his first 4-H beef project.
Our kids continued that tradition 25 years later or so. Jill's and Brent's 4-H records take up a yardstick-long piece of book shelf real estate in the office. But what you learn in 4-H is much more valuable than you can encapsulate in a record book.
Before you can confidently lead your bucket calf into the show ring at the county fair, you have to put in the time.
You sometimes have to dig in your heels and keep practicing - day after day after day.
But the 4-H program does more than help you figure out how to lead a calf in a show ring or how to show a pig.
It's about becoming a leader and teaching what you know to other people, too.
|Jill's friend, Holly, & Jill making pretzels for a demonstration|
|Jill, several years later, teaching that skill to someone else.|
A few years ago, The High Plains Journal ran a story about 4-H that shared this study:
Young people in 4-H are three times more likely to contribute to their communities than youth not participating in 4-H.
4-Hers all across the nation are empowered to take on the leading issues of their towns, counties and states and make a lasting difference. ... 4-H youth get the hands-on, real-world experience they need to become leaders and to make positive differences in their communities.
"The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development"from Tufts University
While I didn't take livestock to the Pratt County Fair, I did my share of foods talks and experimented with recipes before taking them to the fairgrounds to be judged. I learned to sew and crochet, too. But it was the leadership skills that most impacted my life as a child and today.
|I made the cookies and the dress.|
Randy's parents were leaders in the Stafford County 4-H program, too, though we're not sure they were 4-H members themselves. For a dozen years, Randy & I were community leaders of the Corn Valley 4-H Club, the same club Randy was a part of back when he took his first steer to the fair.
In 2006, we celebrated 100 years of Kansas 4-H. The youth program has been part of the national landscape since 1902.
The 4-H website says:
The 4-H idea is simple: help young people and their families gain the skills they need to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy. That idea was the catalyst to begin the 4-H movement, and those values continue today.
There's no sleight of hand. It requires putting in the time and effort - as an individual, as a family and as a community.
That's how the magic happens ... the kind that lasts a lifetime.