This post was sponsored by the National 4-H Council as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
I was ecstatic to receive a big box on my doorstep this week from my parents full of childhood memories. My dad won’t admit to the hours spent in his workshop looking for this box and although I know it’s one that hasn’t been opened in many years, these memories very much crafted my parenting skills and so much more about me well into my adulthood. Participating in 4-H for several years made more than just great memories. For three years I raised lambs and belonged to several different clubs including crafts and sewing. 4-H is highly recognized for their livestock programs but they offer many other educational opportunities too, like their food smart families program. The responsibilities and organizational skills created a foundation for learning and I definitely credit my experience working with animals in part to our family’s interest in animal science and specifically my oldest daughter’s desire to work with marine animals.
Nearly 16 million children in the United States are food insecure and do not know where they will receive their next meal. The 4-H food smart families program teaches families how to successfully create food secure homes by teaching how to shop, budget and prepare healthy meals on a budget. Healthy living programs like the food smart families have been delivered to over 340,000 families in 14 states by UnitedHealthcare and 4-H since 2011. 4-H programs also teach teens to teach programs helping empower them with lifelong confidence and skills necessary for continued success.
My own experience with 4-H was very positive and I learned so many valuable life skills. I’m sure beginning at just eight years old, the thought of raising a baby lamb was the first interest but looking back on the experience, I know it wasn’t easy. My parents held me accountable and the club responsibilities included attending weekly meetings, caring for my lamb daily, vet appointments, organizing receipts and tracking expenses, show skills and so much more.
My very first year raising a lamb in 4-H, I received the Grand Champion ribbon. It was quite an honor and made my confidence soar. I went on to raise two additional lambs and while they weren’t grand champions, the experiences were invaluable.
My very favorite memory in the box was seeing my 10 year old handwriting. Having an eight year old daughter who is a writer herself, it’s been fun to compare me at her age to where she is now. She has so much more experience with animals at her young age but we both have so many of the same interests.
My 4-H Story
Written by me at age 10: “My name is Heather and I am 10 years old, I love animals, I like to sew and make crafts. Also, I live with my mom and dad and I have two brothers. I joined 4-H just for fun and so that I would have something to do. I am in two clubs the Baas and the Happy Workers. I chose these two clubs because I like lambs very much and I like to sew and make crafts. In sewing I made a skirt. I wanted to make some other things that I didn’t get around to. In crafts I made a nativity scene, a wooden rabbit, and I worked on plastic canvas. I learned how to make shrink art. In the Baas club I raised a lamb. Her name was Fantasia. I raised her for a market lamb. While I was in sewing I was the photographer. I took about 10 pictures. That was fun. While I was raising a lamb I had a lot of fun. At first I thought that it was going to be a terrible year because my lamb wouldn’t do anything with me but then I started to work with her more and she started to cooperate with me. For my first year I was so surprised because I got grand champion lamb and also grand champion junior showmanship. The thing that I enjoyed most was when I walked her I would tell her ‘wanna race?’ and she would take off running and jumping. One time I was walking her and she got away, she started running and then I hollered, ‘Fantasia’ and she came back. I hope next year is as fun as this year. I want to be in clogging, crafts, and raise another lamb.”
I did go on to raise two more lambs and have equally amazing experiences. By the end of my third year I was in junior high and pursuing other interests but my time in 4-H built a great foundation for additional learning opportunities.
The proven influence of young people by engaging teens to empower their peers establishes life-long healthy habits for their families and communities. As a result of the 4-H Food Smart Families program, there have been positive changes in youth behavior. My daughters are growing up in a food secure home knowing exactly where their next meal is coming from. They are also growing up with healthy eating habits learning how to properly fuel their growing bodies.
Unfortunately many children do not have this same experience with food security. As an adult, I’m very proud to share my 4-H experiences in hopes of helping the community understand everything the council has to offer. Youth are engaged at a critical age for gaining sustainable skills, just like those I learned when participating in 4-H programs.
Do you have experiences with 4-H from your childhood too?