4-H: An activity that brings families together

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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School has started, and the calendar is full.

There are days when I feel overwhelmed, running between work, school, swim practice, ballet and 4-H activities. While trying to manage the various schedules, we’re also bombarded with solicitations for other sports, groups and gatherings.

It can leave a parent wondering which activities are best and which most benefit their kids.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

We’ve had to make some hard decisions at our house about what we have time for as a family and what activities the kids will pursue. I know every family faces the same challenges, but when choosing activities for your kids, I strongly encourage you to consider 4-H.

I’m a 4-H alumnus, and I’m here to tell you it’s about more than showing livestock and participating in the Wise County Youth Fair. While those are fun endeavors – I showed cattle and entered countless projects in the fair – they are only a small part of an enormous organization that not only teaches kids a variety of skills, but also instills in them integrity, a good work ethic and devotion to community service.

Through the 4-H program (and the blood and sweat of my parents) I grew from a shy little girl, who regularly hid behind my dad’s leg, to a young woman who ventured alone from Alvord to Texas A&M. 4-H allowed me to practice meeting new people and basic public speaking in a safe setting. Without those skills I would have been hard-pressed to leave home for college, much less pursue a journalism career where I regularly cold-call people, interview strangers and deal with conflict face-to-face.

I also gained an appreciation of where our food comes from and the work that goes into producing it. I learned the importance of serving our communities and how to be a leader.

World famous rodeo announcer Bob Tallman is also a 4-H alumnus, and he credits the organization with teaching him the recordkeeping skills that helped him establish his rodeo stock business.

In a testimonial video at wcmess.com/tallman4H, he says, “When I started 4-H, it started a career… 4-H gave me a broadening of life.”

He says 4-H was the foundation of his education.

And it’s true.

There are some things that can’t be taught in a classroom. It gives children a chance to taste success not related to grades, standardized tests or even athletic ability, which I believe instills a rare form of confidence.

Tallman also notes in the video that 4-H is good for parents.

“It brings families back together,” he said. He notes that parents drop their kids off at most other activities. You buy groceries while one is at piano lessons or run to the cleaners during football practice.

But 4-H requires the parents to be present. Families work together on these projects, and everyone learns something.

My husband and I have experienced it first-hand. Last year our 10-year-old showed broilers, which are chickens raised for meat. No one in our house had a clue how to raise a bird, and frankly, poultry frightened me.

But just eight weeks later, we all knew how to feed chickens, clean up after them and administer medicine. We learned what makes a good, quality bird that’s fit to eat.

We laughed a lot, mourned the loss of a few chickens, had countless stories to tell, and a freezer full of meat.

In fact, we enjoyed the experience so much that we’ve started raising chickens just for our family in addition to the kids’ 4-H projects.

Last year my son also participated in consumer decision-making, which teaches kids how to be smart shoppers and find the best product at the best price. The options in 4-H are endless. It is an organization that can truly be molded to meet the needs of your child or family.

A few other project areas include photography, food and nutrition, clothing and textiles, livestock judging, shooting sports, dogs, and many more. 4-H membership is open year-round, and most local clubs have only had one meeting so far this year.

Call the Extension office at 940-627-3341 to find out when your local club meets.

Trust me, it’s an activity that will pay dividends in the future.

Kristen Tribe is news editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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