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What exactly is 4h?

The kiddos have been asking about it, when went googling we found soo much info, but some was contradicting, and I'd like to hear it from people who may have been it themselves or currently have their kids involved in it.
 

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I can't tell you much as we just recently got involved, and I am sure it varies widely from place to place. Basically, they meet once a month (and sometimes have field trips or special activities in between), they learn about the animal (how to care for, feed, groom, show), and they do shows. My kids are in Rabbit/Cavy Club, Livestock Club (includes poultry, goats, sheep, pigs, cows), and Dog Club. It does get kinda busy, so I may have to drop a club, but for the most part the people are very nice. It is a wonderful family atmosphere and they are learning alot.

The only negative for me (you may disagree and I may get slammed here!) is that some of the people are a bit "animal-rightsy" for me. Now, don't get me wrong...we love our pets and so far we haven't gotten into raising for meat or anything, so they are all pets. We have 2 dogs, 4 rabbits, 2 goats (working on 2 more), and about a dozen chickens so far. I take my dogs to the vet for rabies and other vaccinations, I worm my goats and rabbits when needed, and medicate my chicken's water when needed. But, there is NO WAY I am taking all those animals to a vet every time they act a little funny. This week I sent an email to all our rabbit club members about a sick rabbit. The leader was adamant about me taking it to the vet, but I just could not pay $65 vet bill for a $8 rabbit....sorry. Luckily, someone else sent me a great home remedy and bunny is all better. You just have to know what you believe, what you are and aren't willing to do, and stand on it. I take what we learn and weed through it...take what will work for our farm and leave the rest.

All in all, though, I think it is a great experience for the kids: it teaches them responsibility for their animal and they have made some great friends (which was important to us b/c they are homeschooled and we recently moved from a subdivision out to the country where there aren't any other kids around!).

It certainly wouldn't hurt you to try. It's basically free and you aren't really bound to anything (except meeting certain requirements if you choose to show). You can also call your county extension for more info.

Rachael
 

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My son was in a 4-H horse club. I was a volunteer (not a leader). The children attended classes taught by professionals in the horse field about every aspect of horse care, riding, and training. We had many shows, competitions, trail rides, and play days.
 

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As far as I know, 4-H is a national organization developed by the land grant colleges. It was originally intended to disseminate progressive farming and homemaking techniques to the younger set while the colleges did the same for the adult rural population through the Extension Service. They have even added Cloverbuds, which is 4-H for the 5-8 yo kids.

It has branched out a lot since then, and much of 4-H is now more urban or at least not just for farm kids. It does vary from state to state and even region to region within the state. Here in Ohio, for example, the areas down around Cincinnati no longer have livestock shown at the county fairs. But in my very rural county, the livestock shows and auction are a huge part of the county fair and the highlight of the 4-H year. I don't know about the AR people down there, but here the kids have to do lots of Quality Assurance seminars to receive training in raising food that is intended for consumers. While there are plenty of classes for breeding stock and some pets, most of the animal classes are clearly for things that are going to be eaten!

You do need to watch, though, because the competitive livestock business is very serious business indeed, even at the 4-H level. A producer who has had several of the calves he sold win big 4-H premiums at the state level will be able to charge THOUSANDS for even one animal next year. And I think at the Ohio state livestock auction in previous years, the winning beef cattle went for around $50,000--that's right fifty thousand! The kid doesn't get all of that, there is an auction premium and part of it goes to the general 4-H fund, etc, but they still get a big chunk of change out of it. So when that much money is potentially on the table, people get serious as a heart attack real quick.

I am kind of ambivalent about 4-H animal projects. Because we tend more toward the organic and natural side of things, we will not do/feed much of what it takes to make weight or win at the shows. We favor a slower, more natural growth rate and will not feed Paylean or any of the other chemical or medicated feeds. My dd can learn a lot and raise animals that sell well at our local farmers market, but her project animal is rarely competitive. Also, 4-H favors the philosophy of the large commercial producers and not the small homesteader. For example, they offer classes for suffolks, hamps, and other large meat breeds of sheep, but have nothing for our smaller Soay, which are much easier to raise on a homestead without major chemical intervention or lambing and medical assistance.
 

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ovsfarm said:
I am kind of ambivalent about 4-H animal projects. Because we tend more toward the organic and natural side of things, we will not do/feed much of what it takes to make weight or win at the shows. We favor a slower, more natural growth rate and will not feed Paylean or any of the other chemical or medicated feeds. My dd can learn a lot and raise animals that sell well at our local farmers market, but her project animal is rarely competitive. Also, 4-H favors the philosophy of the large commercial producers and not the small homesteader. For example, they offer classes for suffolks, hamps, and other large meat breeds of sheep, but have nothing for our smaller Soay, which are much easier to raise on a homestead without major chemical intervention or lambing and medical assistance.

This is part of what I meant by "animal-rightsy"...I don't know if that was a good wording....you put it much better than me.

Also, here....it is semi-urban/semi-rural depending on which side of the county you're in. So, for example, our rabbit and dog clubs are very urban...lots of people in subdivisions own rabbits or dogs, so there are lots of people that own a rabbit or a dog and no livestock. Our livestock club is my fav. Alot of the demonstrations we go to will focus on the big business end, but most of the people in the club are small homestead types, so we get a good balance.

Actually, for some of the same reasons you mentioned, we are considering staying involved, but not getting into the shows (DH calls them "bunny pageants, goat pageants, etc.). The kids really want to, so I don't know yet. I'm not sure what I really want them to get from this yet! I know that I am not going to spend a fortune on animals, feeds, shampoos, meds they don't need, show supplies, etc to do it. So even if we do, I don't think we will get past county!

Rachael
 

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I was in 4-H for 9 years and LOVED it!

Basically you find a club that interests your children. Their are all sorts of clubs. These are the projects that are offered: Aerospace, After School Ag, Arts and Crafts, Beef, Bicycle, Changing Spaces, Child Development, Citizenship, Communications, Computer, Consumer Savvy, Dairy Cattle, Dairy Goat, Dog, Embryology, Entomology, Entrepreneurship, Experiential Learning, Exploring 4-H, Financial Champions, Fishing for Adventure, Foods, Forestry, GIS/GPS, Health, Horse, Leadership, Making Youth Organizations Work, Moving Ahead, Outdoor Adventures, Rabbit, Robotics, Science Discovery, Service Learning, Sewing, Sheep, Small Engines, Swine, Theatre Arts, Veterinary Science, Visual Arts, Workforce Readiness.

You can choose 1 project or several to get involved in. You can create your own club to meet your children's interested if their isn't one already formed. I mainly did arts and crafts, sewing, cooking, and veterinary science.

It is not like the scouts where you earn badges. You are working on building your knowledge. You can keep record books if you like, or just have fun. It also makes your college scholarship applications shine.
 

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In our area, we don't have project specific clubs. We have general clubs in which the kids pick their own projects. If several kids pick the same project, they may get together and work on it together. The parents help the kids with the chosen projects. We picked Aerospace, Forestry, Swine, and Wildlife this year. We made bird houses, bird feeders, and took pictures of all the species coming to the bird feeders. We used the pictures to make a bird journal with info on each bird. The feeders and houses were entered in the fair. We made model rockets for Aerospace and made a display of different styles of paper airplanes for the fair. We made a model of a pig with the body parts labeled and made leaf prints of the different trees on our property and labeled them. I think it is a great way for parents and kids to work together. My big probelm is when I go to the fair and see projects that are not something a kid did. You can't really expect me to believe that an 8 year old welded up that yard art and laid better beads than I can.

At our club meetings we talk about our projects and how things are going, we have demonstrations from members on things related to the projects - how to make chococlate chip cookies. We had a family fun night carry-in dinner and game night. We went caroling at the nursing home and had a gift exchange party for the holidays.
 

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Keep in mind that while 4-H is administered at the county and state level through your land grant university's extension program, ALL club leadership made up of volunteers in the community. If there are sheep clubs, or archery clubs, or what-have-you, it's because somebody is interested enough in sharing their knowledge, to volunteer to lead a group in a project in which they are knowledgeable. If you are unable to locate a group that offers the activities and learning you want for your kids, contact your extension office and find out what you have to do to start a club yourself. Of course, when you are just starting out in 4-H, it's probably preferable to join an existing group so that you get the hang of things, and make lots of new friends. Just don't get lulled into the idea that it's a set curriculum that you can treat like the Y or the Boys and Girls Club --- every 4-H club is unique in that the county extension office sets the guidelines, but the rest is dependent on the motivation and ideas of the volunteer leaders and the parents of the membership.

Of course, the fair is the highlight of the year, but in reality, 4-H isn't about competition. It's about using the individual interests of youth to help them develop real life skills, leadership skills and character.
 

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I have been in 4-H for 6 years, and I have 4 years left that I can do it. IT IS AWSOME!!!

In my area, there are clubs, and most of them have all animals invovled, though some only do crafts, some only do large animals, and some only do small animals.

What everybody else said is true. But, here, large animal competitions are occasionally based on who you know, as are crafts. This is awful, but we live with it.
The other bad thing is paperwork! At our fair, registering all of your animal and craft calsses, with section number, department number, and age group, can get pretty hectic.
All of that aside, 4-H is a great oppotunity for your kids. I'd sign them up as soon as possible!!!!!
:) :) :)
 

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Your 4H experience is going to depend on which state you're in. We're in Michigan and the 4H program is in decline. What your children will get out of it depends a lot on the commitment of the leader of the group. We've been in several groups and have had our own for the last four years so we've seen it from the bottom looking up and the top looking down. We've also had experience as a Fair Superintendent and live in one of the stronger Ag counties. The commitment of the leader(s) and adult family members will shape the 4H experience of your children more than anything else, so ask around before joining a specific group. All groups are not run the same and not all people are in it for the same reasons.
If they are interested in "things Ag", check out FFA. Between the two (4H & FFA) FFA is the far superior program for learning skills that will last a lifetime, and not just related to animals or farming. The FFA's current slogan: "Blue Jackets, Gold Standards", says it all. Many kids are involved in both (like ours).
 

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It is our 4H fair this week. The girls went to set up today with their dad. They are taking their dairy goats, market goat, laying hen, and market pen of chickens. One girl will sell her market goat and the other her market pen (3) of chickens at the auction on Saturday. They love 4H but we have a great dedicated leader and great girls in our group.
 

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I think True Blue was right about the leader & county group really making a difference in what your 4H experience will be like. My ds did 4H horse for 2 1/2 years. His first year was great - lots of emphasis placed on learning and just participating. 2nd year was quite a bit more competitive and 3rd year was just too much. There was more focus on who had what horse trainer and the flashiest tack & outfits. Lots of horse committee meetings were focused on "he said, she said". He quit, and I'm not sorry.

He's now in Shooting Sports and is enjoying it a lot more. It's low key compared to horse 4h, and the kids support each other a lot. Parents are friendly also (the horsey parents were nice enough, but just too much for us), and everyone has a good time. This is a new club for our area so although they have to follow some 4H rules, they have some freedom to do what works for them and the leaders to seek input from the other families in setting dates & events which is really nice.

It teaches a lot more than just your project and has some great leadership opportunities for older teens. I would encourage you to give it a try.
 

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I can't say enough about 4H. I love it my kids love it. I teach the sewing and quilting for our group. Currently we have 2 calves and 2 birds at fair and numerous still exhibits.

DS 10 won a trophy for a poetry book he did at school. He seen one of his teachers at fair and went up a whispered it to her and then came home and tried to call his 4th grade teacher to tell her. He is so proud of himself. Caitlin 12 got a rosette for a leather key chain and pumpkin bread and other son Kyle 8 got a rosette for his dirt cake.

Kathryn our youngest is 8 and still gets the green participation ribbons.

They talk all year about what they are taking to fair. Lost of times they save school projects and enter them. I found out to late that there is actually a computer section now. Caitlin did a power point prject for school and I would've had her enter that if I had known; it was so awsome!

If you choose to put you kids in 4 H and I beg you to do it send them to all the camps you can. It gets them to meeting other kids who share the same interest and starts them to networking and shareing information back and forth. For instance I took the kids to see the swine show yesterday and while there ran into a young lady that I had met at exploration days at MSU well my older 3 kids had met her at summer camp. Yesterday we discovered that she shows pigs (she actually took grand champion pig title and second in the skillathon) Kyle followed her around and watched everything she did to ready her pig for showing. He says he learned a lot too.

4 H also allows kids to make their own money raising and showing animals. the rules in our house are Large animal money is college money and small animal money is school clothes money and bake sale money is fun money within reason. I've heard of kids going to college for four years on their cattle money.

also if finances are an issue that are always money grants available from leader's councel that will pay half of camps.

please pm me with any questions. We are at fair right now and I am so tired. It may be sunday before I get back to you.

Caren
 

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4H is an awesome organization that combines fun and friendship with education and learning life skills like leadership, record-keeping, public speaking, good sportsmanship, etc. I have been a volunteer in dog and horse programs in two states and was sad when my daughter "graduated" (though it's so fun, many parents keep on serving after their kids are out). There are programs for so many different interests, be it an animal, a hobby, or other special interest. Programs vary from state to state and county to county, and clubs vary one from another in leadership and emphasis. You may need to try out a few before you find a good fit. I highly recommend 4H--and when my grandkids are old enough I hope they'll want to join, because I'll want to help!
 

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we're in Michigan, St. Clair County to be exact. Haven't really met anyone here yet, other than Dh's friends that he's made while quading, which has been nice because a few of them have children our kiddo's ages. But for me, it's been very very lonely!

The 4h fair is this coming week..we're going on a few different days to check it all out...I'm hoping it'll not only give the kiddos an opportunity to learn more about it, but me too.

Thanks for all the tips and inputs it's been an eye opener!
 

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I give 4H a big 10! Our granddaughter, 16 is very involved in 4H, and I have to say, it's made all the difference in the world for her. She's gained so much confidence, self esteem, knowledge and happiness from her 4H participation. We did change clubs--just a lot of 'things' going on in the old one I don't want to go into, but people are different all over the world. You can pick a project you are interested in, even if it isn't an official one, and call it 'self directed'. Shooting sports is great, teaches safety, courtesy, and gives the kids confidence. Ashley does archery, and loves it. Just made it to state competition, so we'll see how she does there.

There are many programs, some for kids who can't have animals, or don't want them, model rockets, even some do welding and make chain mail! I've never seen animals go for $50,000 around here, but they do get more than the standard market price. Usually because the buyers know the kids are working for college money. Give it a try--and don't be discouraged if the first club doesn't feel right! Jan in Co
 
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