As a child, growing up in 4-H, I had no idea that the experiences I was having were going to help me in any way when I was an adult. How in the world would feeding my pig, walking my lamb, baking my cake or documenting my horticulture project have anything to do with my future?
Honestly, at the time, I could have cared less. 4-H was fun! 4-H was something that my brother, sister and I enjoyed doing even though our interests were completely different. My parents were not club leaders, however, they were always there to help us in any way that they could. They believed that by us doing projects with our own two hands that we would learn more, and they were right! I often think about how I learned things like counting change back or introducing myself. The answer that always comes in my head is, “I learned that in 4-H!”
Oftentimes when I speak to people about 4-H, the first thing they tell me is that they do not have animals or their children aren’t really into farming. I like to tell people that if they live in a house, wear clothes or eat, they have a vested stake in agriculture. My 4-H agent when I was growing up would always tell us that. However, this does not mean that everyone will raise chickens or grow tomatoes in 4-H. The world needs the engineer to design skyscrapers, the teacher to educate our youth and the ditch digger to lay the pipes that carry our water from one place to the next. The best thing about 4-H is that we work with young people from varying backgrounds and ethnicities in order to prepare them to be the best at whatever they choose to be — exposing them to different opportunities and expanding their minds to think outside the box.
For instance, a few weeks before Christmas, our STEAM Science Club visited the Sandhills Research Station to learn about how drones are being used to track crop growth. The club, led by Christina Dietrich, had been learning about drones and their usefulness, so this was a great way to see drones in action! While at the research station, director Jeremy Martin discussed several topics with the youth. Although we were there to learn more about the drones and their function, the group also wanted to know about pesticides, GMOs, and careers in the field of agriculture. The trip sparked a lot of conversation on the way home!
Another area 4-H deserves a great deal of credit for is public speaking. Public speaking is a skill that requires immense practice and can make some of the toughest people cringe. The more public speaking encounters a young person can have, the more prepared they will be in the future when speaking in front of a crowd. As a young adult, this can mean the difference in being employed and unemployed. I think we can all agree that most young people need guidance when speaking, especially when giving a presentation. One of the best parts of being a 4-H Agent is seeing youth start the program shy and then, within a few short years, they are giving presentations with ease or speaking to judges confidently.
Richmond County 4-H currently has five clubs that meet at various times during the month. The clubs are: Richmond County Livestock Club, Cooking Clovers, Shooting Sports, STEAM Science Club, and a new club that will focus on all types of animals. Joining 4-H is free and meetings are once per month with some optional educational field trips throughout the year. Your family can be as involved in 4-H as you want to be! There truly is something for everyone. If you would like more information about Richmond County 4-H, call me at 910-997-8255 or email [email protected] For the latest information and pictures, check out the Richmond County 4-H Facebook page at RichmondCounty4H. Come join our Clover Family!
Alyson Hoffman is the 4-H youth development agent with the N.C. Cooperative Extension office in Rockingham.