Our first year in 4-H

Well the end of this year’s 4-H season is just a few weeks away for the club that we belong to and as I reflect back on the past year of our 4-H experience it has been a lot of fun, we learned a lot, we know what we need to work on next year and I would not have changed anything.

The wife and I have 6 kids, our youngest child just turned 9 years old this year, out of the 6 kids he is the only child that does not have any athletic ability whatsoever, playing sports is just not his thing. The wife and I talked and we agreed that we needed something for our son to do otherwise he would sit on the couch all day and play on his tablet. So last fall he showed an interest in horses and we got him signed up for riding lessons and he loved it. As spring time rolled around we asked him what he thought about doing some sort of 4-H program, neither my wife nor I have ever been in 4-H so we really had no idea what to expect. We did our research and made some phone calls and we found a bucket calf club that we could enroll our son in.

The club we belong to houses the calves on some property that is owned by the 4-H club leader, see we live in the city and putting a calf in our backyard just won’t work, in fact I am sure it probably violates some sort of city ordinance were we live. So each family in the club is assigned a day or time that they are responsible to go out and feed and water the calves. In addition to tending to the animals you need to go out a few times a week and work with your animal. You need to get it comfortable with wearing a halter, train it to walk next to you, and learn about overall showman ship and care of the animals. It is a great program that is tailored for city kids to get exposed to the agriculture industry.

Now I have been studying agriculture for the past couple of years, I have obtained my masters of beef advocacy from the beef checkoff, and I have a few friends now that own cattle operations, so I was really excited about finally being able to put all that I have learned into practice. I was also excited because this was going to be a project that my wife and I and our son could do together, it was a project that got us out of the house and created some good bonding time.

When I talk to college age kids and even some adults about their experience in 4-H the number one response I hear is that they all were appreciative of how being in 4-H taught them about public speaking. This intrigued me as to why so many people typically told me that their biggest take away was learning to speak to people. When the county fair arrived I got a glimpse of what these older kids were talking about. My wife and I saw a side of our son we had never seen before, even other parents in the club mentioned it to us as well, it was that our son had broken out of his little shy nervous high anxiety shell and was talking to anyone and everyone that would listen to him talk about his calf. We saw a joy in our son we had never seen before, he really loved talking about the animal, it was such a heartwarming experience for his mother and I, and that was the moment it all made sense to me why so many people attribute their ability to speak publicly to their experience from being in 4-H.

As far as showing the calf at the fair, our son came home with a blue ribbon, out of all the calves in his group my son scored the lowest points, he scored a 77 out of 100, but the best part about the entire event was when they handed my son that blue ribbon, he ran up to his mother with the biggest smile on his face, and he gave his mother the biggest hug he could give her. You see he had no idea that he came in dead last, he was just so thrilled he got a ribbon that day, it didn’t matter what color it was to him, he was on cloud 9 the rest of the day. His mother and I could not have been any more proud of him for working so hard to overcome his fears and anxiety of learning something new in a world that is fairly new to us.

In closing we are excited to see what next season holds for us. It was such a great way to for us city folks to learn about where our food comes from, it also exposed us to just how warm, loving and welcoming people in the agriculture community are. Not one time did anyone ever treat us poorly or look down upon us, in fact when they learned this was our first year they seemed to go above and beyond to make sure we got all the help we needed. If you have a child that does not fit in to a certain crowd or they show interest in wanting to learn about animals or agriculture look into 4-H, they have so much to offer kids from all walks of life.

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