Are you a former 4-H member? Can you remember making your first tea towel or apron for the sewing project or do you remember the name of your first registered calf for 4-H? Did you have an electrical or woodworking project as a kid? Many of us here in Northeastern Ohio have fond memories of 4-H years ago.
It wasn’t just the projects where you “learned by doing” and gave demonstrations at your meetings. It was also learning how to conduct a meeting, going to county meetings to learn how to be a secretary or a treasurer and of course all the fun of participating in the style show with your school dress or showing your cow at the county fair.
For my Mom it was also getting to represent Ashtabula County at the Ohio State Fair style revue with her complete costume project she made in the late 1930’s. That was a real experience. But for her, another highlight of being in 4-H was getting to meet the founder of 4-H in Ohio, A.B. Graham, at an annual meeting in Columbus for outstanding 4-Hers called Club Congress.
For me 4-H was meeting many people from all over the county and continuing those friendships many years after the projects were finished as a Junior Leader. It was being a camp counselor at 4-H Camp Whitewood with so many memories of singing songs, climbing to Vesper Hill, fun campfires and the crafts. 4-H also gave me the chance to be an exchange student to West Germany through a program called International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE) where I lived in 6 different German farm homes and learned about their life styles and how it compared to ours.
When our kids joined 4-H there were lots of new projects. They enjoyed ones such as Ohio Ponds, rockets, fishing, and raising pheasants as well as the more traditional ones of sewing, cooking, and dairy cattle. Our daughter got to go to the state fair with her cooking project one year and our son went to the state fair with a project about Ohio ponds. The boys both served as camp counselors for Camp Whitewood and were on the Junior Fair board.
Today there are so many possible 4-H projects- something for everyone. Whether you want to learn how to ride, show and care for a horse, learn how to grow a garden for your family, raise a pig to sell for market, build and launch a rocket or learn about photography- there is a 4-H project for you. If you call the Extension Service in Jefferson at 576-9008 they can tell you if there is a 4-H Club near you, the name of the leader or how to start your own club. The rewards of “learning by doing” are only the beginning of how much 4-H might impact the life of a child, grandchild, or young neighbor.
Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.