There are few programs available for kids to participate in today that are greater than that of 4-H. I’m between seasons, if you will, with 4-H at the moment. It’s been a couple decades since I’ve participated as a youngster myself and our own children are a bit too young to join just yet, so at this point I’m more of an occasional volunteer and an interested observer of the numerous and diverse projects that are out there. It was some recent occasional volunteering that got me thinking about 4-H and the values that it continues to instill in youth today.
As a kid, I participated in a sewing project for a few years and later on a craft project. Now as an adult, I recognize that I’m not exactly going to craft my way out of a drought, or sew myself a mortgage payment, but participating in these projects was less about the tangible outcomes and more about the intangibles. I didn’t notice it at the time, but partaking in 4-H was training me to learn how to work with others, meet new people, and take on different challenges. I learned the proper way to conduct meetings, I did some public speaking, and of course I photographed my projects with my mom and dad’s Polaroid camera, documenting them in my record book. I even ended up on a curling team where we somehow won a medal in spite of my participation. I had fun and learned fresh skills and I didn’t even realize it.
I recently had the opportunity to assist with a marketing judging exercise for several groups of youngsters at the regional 4-H show. I really didn’t know what I signed up for when I said I would help, but the faithful adage “learn to do by doing” worked for this grown-up and I figured it out as I went. Marketing is a new judging category and it is a useful skill for young members to develop in today’s savvy world. There were kids of all ages who were eager to learn about what makes a good display advertisement, how and why we should advertise and the role that marketing can play in their own beef projects.
I started out each discussion asking the members to think about the types of advertising and marketing they experienced in their daily lives, partially to help guide the discussion, but maybe more because I’m snoopy and curious about the daily life of a 4-H pre-teen. I got answers like “I see lots of ads for hay” and “I’m phoning people who may be interested in buying my steer” and quickly realized these kids are probably well on their way to teaching me about the finer points of marketing.
The kids who participated were polite, they were articulate, and they were respectful. They asked thoughtful questions, made valid points and listened closely. The most commotion I encountered was having to break up some adolescents who had spontaneously formed a group and were quietly discussing moisture and the price of hay. I hated to interrupt them (I was trying to eavesdrop and learn a thing or two!) but alas we had to stay on time.
The experience left me feeling optimistic and thinking that there is a lot of potential in the youth of Saskatchewan. There are many kids out there with a firm grasp of reality and a lot of common sense, and I have no doubt that they will be excellent leaders in our communities. If our future lies in the hands of teenagers who are matter-of-factly discussing local forage conditions, I am perfectly good with that.
If you aren’t involved in 4-H, think about becoming involved. If you’re a kid, you can join a local club and if you’re an adult, maybe you would like to be an audience member at the next Achievement Day or are even interested in volunteering. It will be good for your head, your hands, your health and especially your heart.