I am a third-year 4-H Cloverbud mom and leader. I do not sew unless it’s an emergency button or seam fix. I have never shown an animal at a county or state fair. Other than the few 4-H club meetings my parents drove me to as a kid and my short-lived horse obsession, I never wanted anything to do with 4-H or farming as a kid. My mother, a 4-H alumna with grand champion honors, tried though.After making plans to get as far away as possible from North Dakota and agriculture, I found myself right back where my roots are deeply planted. Today, agriculture is one of my greatest passions, alongside my faith and family.
When my oldest daughter was of age to join Cloverbuds, I didn’t have 10 years of 4-H membership under my belt so there was no way I thought I had the credentials to be a 4-H mom, much less a leader. What I did have, though, was a desire for my kids to learn and explore while fostering friendships and serving others. I want my kids to know—and care about— where their food comes from. I want my kids to be more attentive to the world around them than the TV or computer screen in front of them.
For all of these reasons, when our local Extension agent called to ask “a favor,” I said yes, I would try. At that time, our small town didn’t have a 4-H Cloverbuds club, which is for five to seven-year-old kids. I agreed to help start a club and serve as a 4-H leader, alongside a fellow inexperienced 4-H mom and friend.
I’ve learned the 4-H pledge right alongside the Cloverbud members: “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 pledge embodies all that 4-H offers, which is so much more than I realized before I became involved.4-H is for kids who live on a farm … and in a city or small town. Yes, it’s about agriculture as well as science, technology, citizenship, healthy living and leadership. As the motto reiterates, it’s about learning by doing. There is a project and program that could spark a lifelong interest for any kid. For example, our local 4-H club, for kids ages 8 to 18, has a growing archery program. I’ve always wanted to learn about archery and already am looking forward to giving it a try with my girls. Whether or not the experience jumpstarts an interest in competitive archery or not, I hope we can bow hunt together.
Last week, our first Cloverbud lesson for the new year was on table setting and manners—simple and rewarding yet both forgotten in this day and age. If the 20 Cloverbuds in attendance all set the table for their families this year and learn to serve by doing, the reward has endless benefits, which includes family time around a table and healthy family relationships.
Organizations such as 4-H need inexperienced members and leaders. It’s OK if you don’t have oodles of experience to fall back on or grand champion ribbons to show for your work. You don’t even have to have any kids in the program. If you’re willing to pitch in and share your talents/interests with a group of energetic kids, your local Extension office will train you and catch you up to speed. It’s up to you and me to raise a next generation that can learn by doing.
(This is my weekly column, originally published by Agweek.)