Five Things to Love About 4-H

My Generation

Day 14 of 30 Days: working like the Little Red Hen, making plans, digging deep for determination...it's a sliver of what you get from 4-H.

Published on: November 14, 2013

1. Work today pays off tomorrow. Our county's adopted legislator, straight from the Chicago suburbs, visited our place a couple summers ago. We had a wonderful visit; she brought along her husband and her three teenage/pre-teenage children. Our kids had a ball. And she remarked that she couldn't believe our kids get up and feed bottle calves and show cattle, all before getting ready for school. It's true. But our kids wouldn't have it any other way. These are their animals and work today pays off down the road. That's the lesson of 4-H. 

2. Make a plan. Roll with the plan. In 4-H, you sign up for your projects in the fall. You work on them (theoretically) throughout the winter and spring. You exhibit them at the shows in the summer. Having a 4-H project in the back of her mind has made my girl intentional about photography, about cooking, and about potential sewing projects. Oh, the potential sewing projects...

Image design by Erin Ehnle, Keeping It Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.
Image design by Erin Ehnle, Keeping It Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl.

3. Family time. Speaking of sewing, we have a bit of a tradition in the Spangler family. My mother-in-law is a champion seamstress. No kidding; she has ribbons and prizes like you wouldn't believe, and no project leaves her house that is not Illinois State Fair quality. She's taught nearly all of her grandchildren to sew - girls and boys - plus countless other 4-Hers in our county. You can well imagine the hours it takes to construct a garment from a pile of fabric, and there is nothing in my girl's mind like quality time sewing with Grandma.

4. Determination. And maybe a bruise or two. If my children walk away from their experiences showing cattle with nothing else, they will have learned the value of raw determination. This tale is Exhibit A. (Part 1 and Part 2).

5. Good people abound. This summer, as Adam Dryer judged the cattle show at the Fulton County Fair, my girl and her cousin were in the ring for Champion Simmental. I think Adam pretty well had his champion chosen in his mind but before he slapped the champion heifer, he had a little fun with Jenna. "How bad do you want to win?" he asked. "Really bad!" Jenna told him. "On a scale of 1 to 10?" he asked. She didn't miss a beat: "100!" He laughed, named her heifer champion and everyone in the stands in the background of that photograph is laughing. It's one of my favorites. And it's proof there are good people everywhere in 4-H and in livestock. They're there for the kids, or they wouldn't bother to make it fun for them. And at the end of the day, the fun is the very important part.   


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