There’s a pile of ribbons in a box in our house from the June county fair. Our girls sent a few static projects on to the state fair but most they brought home.
Some 4-Hers and clubs value static projects over livestock projects or vice versa. But I think a variety of experiences in life brings us all the greatest value, which is a part of why I love 4-H and county fairs so much.
4-H doesn’t dictate your path. Your 4-H member finds their own passions through hands-on learning and honing new skills. Long gone are the days of 4-H focusing solely on farming or farm homemaking.
“Static projects give me more variety of experiences and skills. Livestock projects are far more of a time commitment. Both are processes to learn. Talking to judges in statics prepared me for livestock projects,” Elizabeth said.
That's just one person's opinion, which she allowed me to share, but I think there is value to listening to that feedback.
Our girls have a father and grandfather who put them right into the workshop of our family-owned lumberyard to teach them woodworking at a young age. For many years we’ve engaged 4-H clubs in woodworking projects annually. We also assist FFA members in ag sales by selling products from our small business.
What we’re doing isn’t about the ribbon, the county fair or the state fair. It isn’t quantified by recognition or awards. The rewards come later in the kids’ skills development and how their future careers choices may be honed from the experiences they’re being given by an organization such as 4-H. The same can be said for FFA, ag and tech education programs, an array of extra-curricular school arts programs, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, and the list goes on.
We choose experiences for kids. 4-H static projects this year for our girls included woodworking, environment projects focused on repurposing old items from a farmhouse we were tearing down, baking, photography, small animal care, horticulture and more.
Not all of the ribbons were the coveted blue, purple or pink. One of our daughters received a red ribbon on a project. She was initially upset. Nathan and I talked to her about the learning process she took to make the rustic barn wood table. She learned. She improved. She created. It’s a useful item she wanted to create. Her definition of success isn’t defined by the color of a ribbon one judge gives. She can improve on suggestions given to her and hone her skills to expand on the woodworking projects in her future. Her disposition changed and she said, “I still love the table.”
Yes, love your work. Love your experiences. Love the skills learned. Let’s engage more kids in new experiences to build their futures. Influence the next generation to join an organization to expand their skills and learning, away from screens, away from specializing.
For our family, we started in 4-H and are sticking with it for years to come.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.