Do I even need to introduce 4-H? Most likely, you or your kids have or do participate in your state's 4-H Livestock Program, or you know of the 4-H organization. 4-H has a long-standing history within the world of agriculture for teaching youth value skills. Moreover, it provides friendships and opportunities for children and young adults to grow and learn through their plethora of programs.
I grew up in 4-H myself, showing goats at our county fair and participating in 4-H kids' club activities. When I started showing goats, the animals, at their adult height, were as about as tall as I was. You may have heard that goats are stubborn, and billy goats are mean. The first is quite true, but the second, I never found to be the case. Perhaps, it was luck, or it was the cookies we fed our goats as treats, but our goats were always happy to see us and quite tame.
The 4-H Club pledge says, "I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
These are the four H's: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. I cannot think of a better symbol for the community-centered organization than the four H's inside the four-leaf clover, representing the club's pursuit of growth. Within the organization, there are even more programs besides the livestock program. From workshops with "Cloverbuds" (members five to eight years old) to leadership programs for young adults, there is something for every kid.
The process of raising animals, such as steers, pigs, goats, and sheep, in 4-H teaches lifelong skills such as discipline and the value of hard work. It also teaches you much more. Through raising animals, I learned responsibility and how to care for and work with animals. Not every child can say they know how to bottle feed goats or have seen a nanny goat give birth, but at around eight years old, I could.
As 4-H youth livestock shows approach this January and February, I am reminded of days spent at the fairground, showing animals myself or watching my brother show pigs. If you have ever gone to a pig show, you know how chaotic they are as kids try desperately to stay with their animal and not let it get lost amongst the others in the ring. I always preferred showing goats because you could lead them with a short leash or by the collar, which is much easier in my option, but pig shows are fun to watch.
If you grew up in 4-H, I am sure you have some fond memories too of showing animals at the fair with friends and family. For those with children getting ready for shows this winter, I say good luck and make more happy memories.