It was National 4-H Week again. I have 60 years of involvement in Scott County 4-H. If you add my mother’s career we have 80 years of the nearly 100 years of 4-H covered. I am a parent of successful 4-H members. I believe 4-H is a tool in raising successful children.
The folklore is that Elsie Leibhardt and her neighbor Alice walked barefoot down the gravel roads of St. Lawrence Township signing up families for a new 4-H club, the We Do It 4-H Club, my club. The current Belle Plaine 4-H Club is a direct descendant of that club formed in 1922.
If you ask about 4-H today people will think of the 4-H building at the State Fair and how to get an exhibit there. Or others will think of the youth livestock shows with fluffed up coats and polished hooves and the beauty parlor trunks the 4-Hers work out of. But 4-H is and always has been more.
Fifty perecnt of a 4-H educator’s salary is paid by the University of Minnesota Extension Department. 4-H is a delivery system for the research done by the University. In the 1920s it was enriched flour to improve the families nutrition. It was the Mason jar and improved canning techniques to protect food safety. It was hybrid corn and purebred hogs and certified seed to improve the economics of farming.
The next time someone near you talks about 4-H as just another youth activity, disagree. 4-H uses "learning by doing" to "make the best better" in the areas of environmental studies, citizenship, community development, entrepreneurship, community health, family health and safety, and gardening. 4-H is not keeping children busy. It is about improving life within our communities.