Since this is 4-H Week, it's a good opportunity to think about how to parlay your 4-H background into some positive spin for agriculture. Many people from rural communities are involved in 4-H either as a former member, children involved in their local club, or as a community supporter.
When the topic of 4-H comes up and you get a chance to discuss your experience with non-farmer friends, talk about the benefits of being involved in 4-H. Kids learn life lessons in leadership, mentoring, and dedication to completing tasks, like 4-H projects. The completed projects might be rewarded with a Champion ribbon or suggestions for improvement, but it's always an opportunity to learn what could have been done better next time. 4-Her’s are put into roles that allow them to gain skills such as public speaking or running a meeting – all in a safe environment for them to hone new skills. There are opportunities to create friendships that might last a lifetime.
Most likely, we can agree that programs like 4-H give kids wonderful opportunities to learn and gain skills.
Teachers have said that they could tell which students had participated in 4-H. They say that 4-H members show more confidence in giving speeches in class and more complete in their class work. Perhaps some of these young people have an advantage going to college and into the professional world.
How can we translate the skills that are taught in programs like 4-H into something that combats the general public’s negativity towards agriculture?
A 4-Her who shows livestock must learn proper nutrition, exercise and care for their animal. The youngster must then explain to the judge what they’ve learned about caring for their animals. This takes a lot of knowledge and courage to communicate what they’ve learned to an adult that they may not know. What is so different about what we expect of our young people in 4-H compared to what we need to be communicating to the general population about how we care for our livelihood?
As farmers we know better than anyone else what we do and why it’s important. People want to understand what happens on a farm. We need to be willing to explain what we do. Next time you have the opportunity to share what you do on your farm remember the skills you learned in 4-H. Remember the 4-H motto - to make the best better.