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young Drew DeSutter talks through his corn and soybean 4-H projects with Ted Mottaz Courtesy of the DeSutter family
THROWBACK: A young Drew DeSutter talks through his corn and soybean 4-H projects with Ted Mottaz, volunteer judge extraordinaire.

4-H, Bt and the lessons you can impart

Judging a 4-H project this summer? Here’s where your time and wisdom can take a kid.

Drew DeSutter was 8 years old the first time he stood before Ted Mottaz, a judge at the Knox County 4-H fair. He was a farm kid with corn and soybean projects who’d carefully chosen his plants, dug them up, washed off their roots and took them to the fair.

Drew was excited. And nervous. But Ted was kind. And he was a teacher.

For the next 10 years, Drew brought his corn and soybean projects to the 4-H fair, and every year Ted asked questions that taught him stuff.

Like the year he asked Drew what the letters Bt stood for.

“Honestly, I had no clue,” Drew recalls, “but to this day, I have always remembered that Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis.”

That’s the hallmark of a good teacher and a good volunteer: To impress some lesson on a young person that they’ll remember forever.

“I always left knowing more about corn and soybeans,” Drew says of his time presenting at the fair.

That teachable moment made a difference for a kid. And in this case, a kid who grew up to join the family farm and head the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leader committee.

We’re not sure how 4-H judging will look this year. We may get to have conversations like this with kids and judges standing together, or we may be doing it over video conference.

Regardless, you’ll likely get a call to help somewhere this summer — to share your time and your knowledge. Do you wonder if those hours will matter to anyone? Do you wonder if the words you share will matter? If the encouragement you give will help?

Those are honest questions.

But Drew has an honest answer: “I’m sure judging corn and soybean projects at a 4-H fair doesn’t mean a lot to many people in the grand scheme of life. But to an 8-year-old kid, it means a lot — more than anyone can realize.”

So there you have it. Spend the time. Share what you know. And know it matters.

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