Posts Tagged ‘4-H’

…My hands to larger service…

“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.”

The 4-H pledge is one of those things that is buried in the deep corners of my brain, along with my childhood address (Rural Route 2, Box 17), how to ride a bike (at least I hope that’s still in there), and the words to “Jesus Loves Me.” I attended a club meeting last winter to talk about my job in agriculture, and even though I hadn’t been to one in more than a decade, I still knew every word.

I’m a proud Happy Hustler with a 10-year 4-H career that began at age 8 (well, 4-H age 8) and ended after my senior year of high school. I took nearly every project offered in Woodford County with the exception of showing any kind of livestock, rocketry, and woodworking. I made Jackpot Drop cookies, nine-patch pillows, chalk/carbon/pigment art, simple circuits, and bookmarks. I researched foreign countries, collected stamps, took pictures, and explained how to test toys for safety. I looked at every school assignment through the lens of “can this go to the fair?” (Sixth grade bug collection, I’m looking at you!) and spent summers putting the finishing touches on all my projects, reading and re-reading the fair book to make sure I had every detail right.

4-H taught me about leadership, citizenship, and parliamentary procedure. I gave my first public speeches in front of my club, explaining various things about the projects I was working on. I served on committees, then in officer roles, then as a county ambassador for a year. I learned how to look a judge in the eye and confidently tell them about what I created. I met other 4-Hers, some older ones who I looked up to and learned from, and some younger ones who I hope I was able to help along the way.

You could say it’s a family tradition. My grandpa was a long time club leader and helped run the fair’s food stand for years. My mother showed sheep, among other things, and was our county’s fair queen. She became a leader when I started my 4-H career and served for 20 years while my brother and I were involved. I hope Little C will choose to be in 4-H, and when she does, I plan to volunteer my time as a leader as well. It’s a small way to give back to an organization that survives through volunteers and their efforts.

For the last five years, Big C and I have served on our county’s food stand committee – just like my grandpa did many years ago. We have a much nicer, more modern building than he had, but the menu is still almost identical. You can’t come to our fair without trying a homemade lemon shake-up or a Pronto Pup (which most people call a corn dog).




Early in the day, before we got too sweaty – but we were still smiling 14 hours later when we got home!

We manage all aspects of the stand for one day of the fair, everything from coordinating volunteers, cooking food, and maintaining health department standards. It’s always hot, always tiring, and always a good day knowing our efforts help keep the fair going another year.

You see, our fair is a true 4-H fair. We don’t have a carnival, we don’t have an open show, and we don’t charge admission. It’s held in a beautiful park with mature shade trees perfect for escaping from the late July sun. All the items on display were made by 4-H members in our county, and their accomplishments are celebrated with ribbons and plaques. Most judges are local people who volunteer their time to evaluate projects and provide constructive feedback.

It’s the kind of thing that only works because of people who care. We’re not the biggest or the most entertaining, but when it comes down to what matters – helping young people develop skills they can use for a lifetime – I’d say we come out on top.




Day 21: Be a Part of the Fun!

Some of my best childhood and young adult memories revolve around 4-H and FFA activities. I was a proud Happy Hustler for 10 years and active in FFA five, throughout high school and one year into college to complete the requirements of my American Degree.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without these two organizations. Especially for young people interested in agriculture, there’s no better way to learn skills and make connections that will lead to future success.

4HJoining 4-H at 8 years old, I was instructed in meeting etiquette, encouraged to make a speech in front of the entire club, almost all of whom were older than me, and educated on the importance of recordkeeping. Choosing a project, completing a set of specific activities related to it, and talking with a judge at the fair developed curiosity, perseverance, and elocution. As I became more involved, the opportunities to mentor younger 4-Hers and volunteer for projects both within and outside my club taught me the importance of working together for a common goal and the value of community service. The wide variety of projects I worked with over the years, from cooking to sewing, electricity to fine art, and Read-A-Book to child care provided me practical skills I still draw on today.

FFAI clearly remember looking at a picture in my grandparents’ office of my dad in his FFA jacket receiving his American Degree in the late 1970s, and knowing even as a child that someday I wanted to wear a blue jacket of my own. I signed up for Intro to Ag as a freshman in high school and never looked back. Career building skills I learned in the FFA have proven invaluable many times over as I now both work in an agribusiness and am involved on the family farm as well. But the lasting value of FFA membership for me was the friendships I developed that followed me to college and still find me today. I was able to meet others my own age excited about the agricultural industry, and many work in ag today. I can hardly attend an agricultural event without running into at least one person whom I first met through FFA.

Big C and I have already talked about how many activities we want to see Little C pursue as she gets older. I think there’s a real danger in overscheduling kids today, and I don’t want to see that happen in our family. But at the same time, we want her to experience being part of a group other than her family and realize the importance of taking part in something greater than herself.

We’ve decided that we will very strongly encourage 4-H membership when she’s old enough. There are so many benefits that children in grade school receive from 4-H that they don’t get anywhere else. I hope she enjoys it enough to stay involved though high school, because I intend to raise her to be a good role model for the younger kids coming along behind.

I also hope she’ll consider FFA membership, even if she chooses a non-ag career. Keeping a record book, learning things for contests, and meeting new people are skills any employer will value. The FFA mission of training members for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success reflects the kind of person I hope Little C will become one day.

Little C, my little farm girl, I hope you’ll be as excited to join organizations like 4-H and FFA as I was. You’ll gain so much more than you ever thought possible.

Day 14: A Helping Hand

Acts of service. Giving back. Volunteering. Whatever you choose to call it, one of the most important things we as human beings can do is look for ways to help and serve others.

Growing up, my parents provided an example of that mindset through church activities, 4-H club leadership, and helping in many ways in our rural school district. Preparing meals for the sick, organizing classroom parties and field trips, giving up precious free time to guide children in community clean-up projects – my parents were almost always doing something in service to others.

We’ve already started to show Little C the value we place on helping, even at her young age. Big C and I volunteer with several different groups, sometimes together and sometimes independently. We both enjoy spending a (usually VERY hot) day running the 4-H Food Stand at our county fair each summer, and we’re both involved with our local FFA Alumni chapter. We also give a lot of time to church-related activities, and when Little C gets older I know we’ll spend plenty of time at her school. Any time we can, we bring her along to these events, and we’ve started letting her “help” as appropriate. I hope as she grows up, she never remembers a time when our family wasn’t trying to help a person or group who could benefit from our time and talents.

Nearly a year ago, a devastating tornado ripped through our area. Our church and others organized a relief center to help victims of the storm. This photo was taken one afternoon when we were volunteering to staff the center.

Nearly a year ago, a devastating tornado ripped through our area. Our church and others organized a relief center to help victims of the storm. This photo was taken one afternoon when we were volunteering to staff the center.

Too many people in this world have the mindset of “it’s all about me.” What they don’t know is that when you do things for others, without expectation of reciprocation, not only does that person benefit, but you as the giver also benefit, quite possibly even more than the person you’re helping. We all have ways we can give back, if we only will open our eyes and look around.

Little C, my little farm girl, I hope you strive to be a giver more than you are a taker, and remember to look for ways to use your unique gifts to make the world a better place.

Thanks for joining me on this journey!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12

Day 13

Day 9: Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’?

The day I finally felt like a real grown up wasn’t the day I graduated from college, the day I started a real job with benefits, or bought my first car.

It was the day I cooked a meal for my whole family, start to finish, on my own.

Salad, ham, potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert, all cooked correctly and done at the right time, it was quite an accomplishment!

I enjoy cooking and baking and have been doing both for years, starting with 4-H (Jackpot Drop Cookies, anyone?). I think it’s fun to take a recipe from a cookbook or magazine and try it, making it my own with ingredients from my well-stocked farm freezer and pantry. Even though I work in a larger city and drive right by several grocery stores every day, I still keep many staples on hand “just in case,” just as my mom does. I like knowing that no matter what, I can always at least make something for supper on nights I just don’t feel like spending one more minute in town.


Sharing a meal is a time-honored connection with those we love. Knowing where the ingredients come from and the love put into making even the simplest of meals makes every bite taste better. Time I spend in the kitchen making healthy, delicious meals for my family is a great joy in my life, and sitting down together to eat is an important ritual I will protect even as Little C grows up and life becomes busier with her activities.

Even during the busiest of times – spring and fall – we still make an effort to share a meal together, even though our table is the folding kind and our dining room is a field. The short break in the day to recharge, catch up on the day’s happenings, and of course fill our bellies is so important when Big C goes to work early in the morning and often doesn’t return until Little C’s been in bed for a while.

Fall of 2013 - enjoying a cracker during the evening supper break.

Fall of 2013 – enjoying a cracker during the evening supper break.

One of her favorite toys right now is a kitchen set and box of play food and dishes, and I love it when she goes in the playroom and says “Cooking!” when I ask what she’s doing. I’ve already allowed her to help me add ingredients to cookie batter and she’s a pro at licking the beaters.

Little C, my little farm girl, I hope you learn to cook with love and enjoy sharing meals with your father and me, and the rest of your family, for many years to come.

Thanks for hanging around!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8