Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Clearer Thinking, Greater Loyalty, Larger Service, Better Living

Buyer ribbons, 2021 Stafford County Fair

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.
The 4-H Pledge, Written in 1919 by Kansas 4-H Leader Otis Hall

Our family's newest 4-Her experienced her first fair last week. 
Kinley collected a champion ribbon for her six decorated cookies, along with a bonus $20 premium, for her frosted watermelon cookies. (The recipe is from Sally's Baking Addiction. Click here for the recipe.)

And while it's great to collect those purple ribbons and extra prize money, I hope what she ultimately collects from the 4-H experience is to take the 4-H pledge and the 4-H experience to heart. 
It would probably be a better world if all of humanity would think about the principles that 4-Hers vow to uphold: Clearer thinking, greater loyalty, larger service, better living ... those are all attributes that would do this old world a whole lot of good.

For 115 years, 4-H has been changing lives. Back 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.
Kinley comes from a long line of 4-Hers, including her maternal great-grandparents.
Bob & Janis Moore - Pratt County Fair service award recipients in 2011
My family's involvement with 4-H started with my parents back in the 1940s. Both were members of the Lincoln Bluebirds 4-H Club in Pratt County, the club that my siblings and I later joined. (That club later merged with another, and we became the Lincoln Climbers.)

All four of us and all seven of the grandchildren have been part of the 4-H program, two in Pratt County in the same club their grandparents attended, two in Stafford County and three in Clay County. Now some of their great-grandchildren are 4-Hers - some in Clay County and Kinley in Shawnee County.
Randy also spent his childhood in 4-H.  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 animal to the fair.

That's not Kinley's only 4-H legacy. Eric's dad spent his career in Extension in both Kansas and Iowa, so, of course, Eric and his brothers were active 4-Hers. Eric and Jill actually met for the first time at the Kansas 4-H Emerald Banquet when they were seniors in high school - Eric earning a state scholarship for his work in 4-H and Jill earned state project winner in foods and nutrition. (It evidently wasn't love at first sight, since they didn't start dating until later as students at K-State.)
I grew up in rural Kansas (and stayed there), so I was curious how a county fair in the "big city" of Topeka would differ. And I suppose there were some differences ... but there were similarities as well. 

When Jill sent me the photo of Kinley getting her foods entries judged last week, I couldn't help but think of Jill's first experience, too. 

This photo was from Jill's very first year for foods judging. She looks a little scared by the whole process. It also makes me think about how much she - and I - learned during her 4-H career. The top picture shows a microwave cake. Yes, it was a category back in the early '90s. We should have skipped that particular entry. But, then again, we both learned a lot from that cake ... and all the other cakes and cookies and breads after it.

Jill's very first year of 4-H foods judging

By the time she was veteran 4-Her, Jill was teaching others, and she, too, was serving as a foods superintendent at the county fair.

There are definitely more options for families and kids than there were when I was a child – whether that’s playing MAYB ball during the summer or other activities. But I contend that 4-H gives kids – and their families – more long-time skills than any of those other activities.
Besides collecting ribbons for her foods and crafts for her first year in 4-H, Kinley and her parents worked at the pancake feed, a fundraiser for the 4-H program. (For Pratt and Stafford County 4-Hers, it's always time in the concession stand.)

Kinley & Eric before their shift at the pancake feed. As Uncle Brent says, 4-H t-shirts haven't evolved a lot from the '90s.

She worked in another fundraising booth on Friday. (Both sets of grandparents were willing customers.) And, on Saturday, she got to tour the fairgrounds with her fellow club members, which may help her figure out her project choices for her second year of 4-H.

She got a couple of other purple ribbons - one for her "Glamping" table setting

... and another for her raspberry thumbprint cookies. She got blues on her mango muffins and her poured painting art project.

Animal projects may not be in the future for our Shawnee County 4-Hers ... though Brooke was certainly a fan of a miniature horse named Spot. She also joined Grandma and Grandpa in watching the dog agility contest while Kinley and her parents worked at the pancake feed. 

I didn't do livestock either, but both Jill and Brent did. And it taught them a lot. How to get from Point A ...

to Point B ... by digging in your heels and practicing - day after day after day.
They learned about dependability and consistency and experienced a whole lot of other character development, too.
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 or bake a loaf of bread.
I like a meme that a 4-H mom shared after a fair earlier this summer (sorry it's blurry, but I think it's still readable):

I'm thankful that it's been all that and more for my family ... and will continue to be.

Thanks to all those extension agents, fair boards and volunteers who keep the 4-H program growing well into its second century of impacting the lives of Kansas youth and their families.



  1. Wonderful to see Kinley so happily joining the family history. Growing up Rural Youth Club that would have been similar. Schools had Project Club. My 2 teacher school had a pine forest. I doubt either of these exists in any form now. Sad!

    1. Yes, 4-H has been an important part of our lives. It does sound similar.