4-H 4-Ever!

Hi Folks! Here’s a lovely letter about an organization I don’t hear much about, living in New York City. But it sounds just great! – L.
Dear Free-Range Kids:  I just got finished helping to enter one of my kids in the local 4-H fair.   She will be showing ducks and geese and it is a sun-up to sun-down committment for the whole week. At the end is a form that she had to read and agree to: I believe that my participation in the Open, 4-H and FFA programs should demonstrate my own ability, knowledge and skill as a feeder, manager, and still life exhibitor and an exhibitor of livestock/animal(s).
  I will do my own work to the full extent of my capabilities and otherwise will only accept advice and support from others.
  I will not use or allow to be used, abusive, fraudulent or illegal practices in the feeding, fitting or showing of my animal(s) or still life projects.
  I will read, understand, and follow the rules of the Benton Franklin Fair in which I am a participant without exception and ask that my parents and the supervisor of my project do the same.
  My still life/livestock/animal project will be an example of how to accept what life has to offer, both good and bad, and how to live with the outcome.
  I realize that I am responsible for:
     1.     The proper care and safe, humane treatment of my animal(s).
     2.     The production of high quality, safe and wholesome food (animal livestock projects as appropriate).
     3. Demonstrating strong moral character as an example to others.
  I consent to having my animal(s) subjected to drug/substance testing.

While I am not crazy about the drug testing of the animals (this is not big league action here and I really doubt it enters anyone’s mind),  I do really like the section on how the project is “an example of how to accept what life has to offer, both good and bad, and how to live with the outcome.”

I thought you may be interested in this, as it is an example of expecting the highest and best from our kids.    Kids are expected to care for their own animals the whole week and do get judged on how clean cages and areas are.  If parents even look like they are helping, the club gets marked down.   This goes for poultry and rabbits,  all the way up to milk cows and meat steer.     And yes, they expect that most kids will be somewhat disappointed when they don’t get the champion ribbon, because that can only go to one animal,  not all of them.   That is how life is. – Cheryl Walter

Kids + animals + responsibility? Hare hare! (Ok…lame. It’s late.)

34 Responses

  1. 4H is one of the best things for rural communities, though it could also be a lot of good for children in urban areas as well! I grew up in an area with a lot of farms and farm-raised children so it was something we took for granted. Knowing how to care for animals is important and a lot of my fellow classmates had a lot of responsibilities growing up because they helped out. There’s nothing quite like having a living creature under your care.

  2. My district still has a Fair Day holiday at the end of September. It creates a long weekend, for the kids showing their animals at the local fair. The kids go to or march/ride floats in the parade. Then the ones not showing swarm over to the fair grounds. Many of the younger kids get armbands and are let loose in the carnival/display areas. The parents help transport the animals to fair, for the kids that are to young for DL or aren’t allowed to pull a trailer yet. Then they meet up with their younger kids/enter their own items into the adult competition.

    My sister and I live in more urban districts. Both districts have a barn area where the 4H and FFA kids can raise their animals, if their homes are not zoned for or have deed restrictions about live stock. I think the district I work for also has ways to arrange for a student to board their animals at local farms for kids that are in similar situations.

    The kids do all the work, except in emergency situations like a flash flood we had last year. People who could get there evacuated all the animals.

  3. My sons are in a day camp in a local community farm this week. They have been hauling wheelbarrows full of manure, feeding rabbits, chickens, turkeys, sheep and cows, weeding fields, and manning the farm stand. They learned that “Baby turkeys are cute but they’re MEAN and they BITE!” (son #2) and that “Pig food is really disgusting!” (son #1). Both agree that chickens are really soft and cuddly and can we please get some? (um… mom will have to get back to you on that one). They are encountering all sorts of muck, dirt, and unpredictable animals, and they love it. They’re doing hard work, and beaming with pride about it. They’ll be going to a 4-H resident camp later in the summer, and I’m sure my little suburbanites will have a great time.

  4. 4H has a group for younger children too (5-7 yrs) called Cloverbuds. My son participated in it last year. 4H is a great program. I also like that it is secular in nature as I don’t agree nor support other organizations such as the Boy Scouts with the religious and sexual orientation discrimination they often display. The 4H provides community service throughout the year, along with doing independent projects they present to the group and at county fairs. We really like it.

  5. The drug testing of the animals is a best practice. It’s done so that it never DOES enter anyone’s mind to chemically enhance their animals. Humans are notoriously corruptible, even kids in 4-H. So best practices keep things clean for everybody BEFORE the problem arises.

    Sorry, that’s just my long-unused accounting degree coming out.

  6. My kids did 4H and the program was wonderful. As town kids whose parents refused to ferry them out to a barn daily to care for livestock, they stuck with photography, sewing, cake decorating – things like that. We always made sure they did their own work, just like most of the other kids in the program, even though the results looked like they did it themselves. When they did a good job, they got a good ribbon. When they didn’t, they decided to try harder next time.

    4H taught them skills, leadership, teamwork (4H carnival and fundraising) and was one of the best programs we ever had them in. The kids involved were nothing if not free-range, too, and fair was always a happy, busy mass of kids dominating the fairgrounds for several days. Watching these kids (many still in elementary school) feed, groom, clean up after and show their pigs, cattle, sheep, chickens, etc., was (and is) a good reminder of just how capable kids are, when we give them a chance.

  7. Lenore, you invited us to your put luck picnic and I would like to invite you and everybody else to the Putnam County 4H Fair (just 80 minutes north of NYC via MetroNorth, Southeast stop. Putnam Veterans Park) and see all that 4H has to offer. It is a fun weekend. The 4H kids show their animals, crafts, and other creations. There’s children activities, food and music. From June 27-29 and it’s free admission.

  8. My children have been in 4H for many years and have shown livestock, as well as rabbits. Raising animals taught them money management, responsibility and putting themselves LAST. Animals have to be taken care of! They have done arts and crafts, shooting sports and archery – GUNS and bows!!! The horrors!, and learned leadership skills for LIFE! 4-H is still one of the organizations that encourages children to do their best, try their hardest and WIN, and if you don’t win, to be gracious and learn from the experience. Of course, as with any organization, you still get the nutjob parents who try and control every aspect of their children’s experience and projects, but it’s not as prevalent as youth sports.

    I truly hope 4-H continues with this path, although as a leader I am hearing rumblings of more ‘rules’ and interference by ‘well-meaning’ officials.

  9. 4H is a neat organization — unfortunately the timing of the meetings was such that I never got my kids involved in it, but the kids (and adults) I know who’ve been involved with it have gotten so much out of it. One friend of ours raises dairy goats with 4H, and their homemade goat cheese is the hot item at the church fundraiser auction. Here in Silicon Valley, the local 4H group does rocketry and computer stuff as well as raising animals, crafts, and cooking. And the kids still show their animals at the county fairs — I love to go visit them!

  10. I was in 4-H for my entire childhood and then taught it briefly as an adult. It was so much fun letting children put their individual talents out there, all confident and willing to make a mess and mistakes while doing it! I ran a cooking class and my grade 1 school girls put on their own pizza/cookie bake off at a local kitchen show-room. Kids running an oven and using beaters???? No fingers were lost and money was raised for our group! We had a great time and they really enjoyed being a part of something so mature and responsible.

  11. 4-H is generally a wonderful organization that promotes so much independence. When i think of 4-H I think of free range. I really do wish 4-H was a better option in my area. There are so many wonderful growing experiences conected with 4-H that are simply frowned upon in other organizations. I love that the form talks about living witht he outcome of your work and effort, both the good and the bad.

    My daughter does girl scouts. It is ridiculous the amount of no that’s not safe or no they wouldn’t do well with that and might fail, that goes on in girl scouts. To teach ten year old girls to build a fire or use a pocket knife almoost seems a matter of national security with the amount of nay sayers, discusion and hoops to jump through. Independent skills aren’t expected of the girls until high school age. I have parents thinking I am nuts because I am allowing my first year juniors (9- 10 years) to decide what badges they would like to work towards in a year and I expect them to plan out the steps towards those goals (both of these thngs with heavy guidence and helping tools from me) instead of me telling them what they will do and walking them through each step. Apparently that is simply asking for them to fail. I thought it was asking for them to have an age appropriate voice in what they do and learn valuble skills in the process.

  12. Love 4-H and did it as a kid. They have an awesome Shooting Sports program to teach kids how to use firearms properly and compete on the National level.

    I am an Archery instructor for Girl Scouts so I have to disagree with the previous poster. Of course it all depends on the leader and what she wants to do but you don’t have to jump through hoops for the girls to light a fire and cook on it. They have Brownies working on that skill. My 12 yo daughter was the fire tender at the last cookout @ GS camp. They use knives and put up tents……. They have a wonderful zip line at camp…. I taught the girls how to shoot a bow and arrow. We use the real target arrows that you use on real targets! Of course some activities need parental permission but that is about it. Once they reach 6th grade they can pretty much do any high adventure activity. They can even participate in destinations which include world travel as long as they raise most of the funds themselves (mom and dad can not just stroke a check).

    All competitions require 0 parental participation. My daughters did first lego league and a Solar Sprint competition and parents could not be seen helping their kids. My dh gave some guidance but let my girls come up with their own design and they constructed it on their own. Of course no one really knows because the judges just see them at the competitions. It is in the rules that only the child can do it.

    Last year in school every project and paper was done in the classroom because to many parents do the work for their kids and the teachers wanted to see what they can do.

  13. I have been involved in 4-H for over 35 years, as a exhibitor, leader and now as a parent. I have a graduate degree in engineering, played Division I college basketball and have served in three combat zones over an eighteen year Army career, and 90% of the skills that have allowed me to succeed at all three, were learned in 4-H! The first thing we do as a family, with each PCS, is locate our local 4-H and immediately get our children involved. It’s not just for farm kids, it’s for ALL kids! One of the best 4-H clubs that we were ever involved in was in Washington, D.C.!

    P.S. The drug ban is in place because the pay off for having a state level winner in beef and swine is HUGE! I know kids who financed college with what their state winning hogs bring at auction. In fact, my first truck was purchased with money I made selling my State Champion heifer!

  14. This makes me happy as my daughter will be joining 4H as a Clover this year. While I didn’t get to participate as a child. My husband wants her to participate in 4H as it is a co-ed program that provides lots of great experiences for the kids.

  15. I grew up in a semi-urban area (Orlando, Florida) and was heavily involved in 4-H, although not the traditional livestock/agriculture model. Our club focused on more accessible skills like sewing, baking, photography, marine biology (the BEST field trips!), civics, and business leadership. It was an incredible and empowering experience to be learning these skills, interacting with kids of all ages, and being expected and mentored to take increasing leadership roles within the club.

    We’d join with rural 4-Hers for monthly county meetings and for the yearly county fair — it was good for us all to interact and learn that other kids’ worlds looked different than our own. 🙂

  16. I have two in 4H and a 6YO in Cloverbuds. 4H is so much more than farm animals these days. In addition to poultry, my kids all do performing arts, visual arts and entomology- yes, they actually catch and kill bugs and stick pins in them 🙂 Nobody worries too much about the possibility a kid might get stung or poke the insect pin into her finger. OTOH, there are some paranoid parents, like anywhere else. The kids’ club meets at the extension office 2 blocks form our house and one of the moms freaked out a little on me for letting the kids walk home from the meeting without me. 😦

  17. I have to chime in with TRS: Both Girl and Boy scouting totally depend on having good leaders who a)are willing to get messy and b)are willing to manage parents. I was a girl scout from first grade through senior year in high school. My mom was our leader, and never did anything for us that we could do ourselves. If we made a mess, we cleaned it up, but she didn’t get up in arms about it. We hiked in the creek, then filed into the bathroom, changed, and cleaned up the mud, all with her blessing.

    My cub scouts think I’m the coolest leader ever because I bake with them, build fires, do messy crafts and engineering projects, and get muddy in ponds with them. I tend to disagree with the BSA’s policies on religion and homosexuality. However, you really, really don’t hear about anything like that down in the trenches. Those two things never come up in our pack, at all. For most of the ‘duty to God’ things, we tell the families – you fulfill those at home, the way that it works for your family. Or the kids learn to have friendly, nonjudgemental discussions about religion – ‘We celebrate Hannukah’. ‘I have to go to Sunday school/CCD/Hebrew school/Muslim school and it’s boorrrring!’ (hatred of religious ed is pretty universal in grade school boys of all religions I find). ‘We only go to church on special days.’ ‘We don’t really go to church, but we celebrate Chinese New Year with my grandparents.’ ‘My parents are evil and make me go to mass EVERY WEEK!’ ‘We don’t go to any church’ ‘Lucky!’

    Yeah, okay, maybe by national’s standard we’re bad cub scouts. But our kids are learning useful skills, having fun, and respecting each other. That’s the whole point of scouting, in my opinion.

  18. I spent my childhood working on my 4-H projects and now my two children are heavily involved in 4-H as well. (Fair is in two weeks!) We’ve never done any livestock — just sewing, cooking, photography, geology, leadership, shooting sports, etc. While parent involvement is certainly important, I’ve always appreciated the way 4-H encourages/requires kids to take responsibility for their own projects and activities. I have learned a lot about parenting now that my kids are in 4-H — I spend so much time holding myself back from telling them how I would do something, and letting them do it their own way. So hard for me! One thing nobody has mentioned is that in 4-H the kids run all of the meetings and learn about parliamentary procedure and how to run a meeting! There are 9- and 10-year-olds in my club who could chair a proper meeting and make proper motions better than most adults I know!

    OK, I’m biased, because my Dad works in 4-H. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true! 4-H is a great place to learn responsibility, independence, and free-range values — both for the kids and for the parents.

  19. 4-H is a GREAT organization. Did it all through my youth. One of the absolutely best things it did for me was teach public speaking. Mom and Dad made sure we all did educational presentations (but we had to come up with the entire presentation on our own!). When you learn to speak in front of a large audience at age 10, you can do it very comfortably as an adult, and that has been an invaluable skill. My daughter is six, and I’ll be enrolling her in Cloverkids this year.

  20. Someone else already mentioned it, but for another 2 cents, the drug testing is a necessary clause. Not because kids are likely to do anything at the county fair, but because heading to a state or national fair can be a *huge* deal with a very large cash prize and sometimes that makes people try stupid, unethical things. When I was in 4H there was a controversy still being talked about: one of the state fair contenders glued a (apparently convincing) ‘wig’ onto his prize-winning bull to make it look healthier. It came off in a judges hand when he was inspecting the bull.

  21. It just now occured to me that big city dwellers don’t have 4H….sad! I can honestly say it’s an amazing organization that has impacted several generations of my family. So many great memories from 4H, and yes, those include Free Range stories! I think I am the way I am today partly because of the responsibility I learned in 4H.

  22. One other thing no one mentioned in the comments: animals are sold at auction at the end of the fair and become someone’s bacon and steak. It is a fabulous example of the circle of life and how our food ends up on our plates. I was in 4-H and didn’t get to show animals, but had a champion house plant one year:) My cousins shed many tears when their prize steers and boars were sold at auction, but it was a great experience for all of us!

  23. Some cities do have 4H. The club I used to belong to was the largest urban club in our county (which includes the capital city where I live.) 4H is not just animals. It includes all kinds of projects. If you haven’t seen what is available check out your county fair and look for the 4H animal barns as well as the 4H club displays. If that isn’t available look online at a county fair and you can probably access the 4H catalogue which will give you an idea of what projects are available. I am still active in the fair for 4H and absolutely love it – it is great for all kids.

  24. My daughters were in 4H for many years. The youngest started showing hogs when she was 13. Since we lived in town, that meant that on her weekends and breaks, she roomed out at the farm where her hogs were housed. She was responsible for getting someone to take care of them when she couldn’t be there. When it came time for the county fair, she had to plan on staying in the hog barn near her hogs 24 hrs a day until the final sale was completed. That meant she slept there (along with all of the other kids), she took her meals there, she had to get someone to watch over her hogs while she showered. (There was an amazing amount of time trading going on with the other kids!) I loved the skills my daughters learned and the amazing amount of real life experiences they received!

  25. I didn’t participate myself but often tagged along with 4-H’ers to fairs and shows. Those were about the only times I ever really felt envious of other kids. Incredulous as it seems, even as a callow youth I seemed to realize they were working hard, being responsible, acting unslefishly — and Enjoying it!

    While I know of several of us who regret missing 4-H, I’ve never met anyone who regrets have experienced it.

  26. Have to agree with Connie, there are many great 4-H opportunities available for urban, suburban and rural youth across the country. National 4-H has put a lot of energy in the last few years into developing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs, which includes Robotics curricula and the National Youth Science Day experiment (part of National 4-H Week!). 4-H really is for everyone, there are projects for every interest!

  27. I did 4-H as a kid, but never animals as our club was more focused on public speaking, sewing, and photography and a few did cooking and canning.

    In my travels around the country I see many models of 4-H. They have electronics clubs. One place I lived the kids formed a skate board club, wrote a curriculum (for safety and how to use) built portable ramps for touring, and lobbied the city successfully to build a skate park with money that they raised.

    My kids do poultry, and have a lot of fun with it. I have seen great improvement in responsibility, public speaking skills and self learning (to find out what exactly their birds need.) They have been doing fund raising to pay fair fees for the group, so as to not have to rely on parents to pay. And yes, the kids, the oldest being 12, run the group, following all the parliamentary rules. It is a great thing.

  28. 4H gave us the opportunity to have a school affiliated(!!), competitive trapshooting team when I was in high school. They are active in our area in many facets and have proved over and over to be an amazing organization. Support your local 4H and FFA. Don’t have a local 4H or FFA program? Why not? Help start one!

  29. Here are some samples of what curriculum (and areas of potential interest) that 4-H has: http://www.4-hmall.org/Category/4-hcurriculum.aspx

    There is so much now – cooking, microwave cooking, service learning, butterflies, computers – they really have changed with the times and have something for everyone.

    And yes, if you want to be a leader, or join your kid up, call your local extension office. They can give you more information.

  30. Here is where you can go to find the Extension Office nearest you: http://www.4-h.org/get-involved/find-4-h-clubs-camps-programs/

    They even have clubs in New York City!

  31. Urban 4-H is on the rise.

  32. I directed a teen theatre program this summer in a relatively rural town. Several of my teens were VERY involved in 4-H (as many of my friends were, when I was growing up). Many of them care for animals or do sewing or building projects for their 4-H fair project. However, one of my teens, a 14-year-old, acted as my Stage Manager. For anyone who has ever done theatre, you may know that it is a huge responsibility – she runs the entire show from backstage while I just hang around. She decided to use this experience as a 4-H project under “Leadership”, had judging last Tuesday, and was selected to take her project to State. I know that I am proud of her, as are her parents. 4-H is not only giving our children skills to survive and deal with life’s outcomes, but is also helping form our future leaders. I can’t wait until my own child is old enough to get involved!

  33. Some of you may be wondering what an urban chapter of 4-H might do. Well, try this on for size: Beekeeping! There are more and more suburban and even urban beekeepers. It doesn’t take a whole lot of space, and it can even pay for itself.

    Above all, the kids learn to pay attention to the environment for their bees, observe and treat diseases in the hive, harvest appropriately, process the honey and the wax, account for the productivity, and plan for the future.

    Beekeepers do get stung. There are ways of dealing with bee stings so that they do not hurt too much. Obviously, this isn’t for those with severe allergies, but that is thankfully rare.

    Though we live in a less and less rural area, our children can still participate in 4-H shooting sports, including archery, rifle, and shotgun sports (trap, skeet, and sporting clays).

    I spend a great deal of time teaching my children to deal with potentially dangerous equipment safely. When they’re old enough to drive a car, I want them to have a frame of mind that is already familiar with the concept of risk and responsibility.

    I highly recommend 4-H. If you do not already have a chapter in your area, consider linking up with some community gardening groups, and see about beekeeping.

    And as for shooting sports, well, that seems to be a rural thing for the most part. I would imagine that a teen with a modern compound bow and a quiver full of arrows would not get very far in most cities on public transportation, never mind other firearms.

  34. I was just encouraged by the statement put out by our local Boy Scout council. They basically said that, yes, we know what National said with regards to sexual orientation, but all scouting is local, and this policy doesn’t work for our area. They put out the following statement:

    The mission of the (Local) Council, Boy Scouts of America is to provide character development,
    citizenship training, growth in physical and mental fitness, and leadership opportunities for the young people of
    the Boston metropolitan area. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our members, and we are committed to
    providing young people with an educational and stimulating environment in which to learn and grow. Through
    the Scout Oath and Law, we pledge to respect all people and to defend the rights of others. Bias, intolerance
    and unlawful discrimination are unacceptable within the ranks of the (Local) Council.
    The (Local) Council serves youth through volunteers in Packs, Troops and other units without
    regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or economic status.

    They go on to say that:

    We believe that all people should at all times be treated
    in accordance with the Scout Oath and Scout Law. We strongly oppose treating anyone in any way that is
    contrary to the Scout Oath and Scout Law, because of sexual orientation or for any other reason.

    The whole tone of the letter, sent to all the scouters in the council, is that we are not going to tolerate discrimination of any kind in our council. I have always thought scouts was important for my particular boys. But I am really, really glad to see our council taking a stand for what’s right, and I’m even gladder!

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