Did you know that more than 60 percent of the youth participating in Boyle County 4-H live in the city of Danville?
Of the more than 3,000 young people we have enrolled, only 8 percent of them live on farms. And yet there is a persistent notion that 4-H is for farm kids.
Granted, 4-H did begin more than 100 years ago with agricultural projects for farm kids designed to introduce their parents to hybrid corn seed. But it’s been many, many decades since the majority of 4-H’ers were farm kids.
When farmers constitute less than 2 percent of the national population, clearly, 4-H can’t be the largest youth development organization in the world by exclusively catering to farm kids.
The stereotypical 4-H project is a calf, pig, or sheep or a crop or horticulture project such as field corn, hay, or a vegetable garden. Sometimes people associate 4-H with home skills such as cooking, sewing or needlework. And we do all of that … but 4-H has so much more to offer young people.
Our largest education areas are nutrition and personal finance. If your child comes home from school talking about Professor Popcorn (the food pyramid and healthy physical activity levels), that’s 4-H.
If your child tells you about APES, Reality Store, Reality World, Dollars and Sense or Now and Then, that’s 4-H. If your teen/tween comes home talking about the guest speaker who gave them change to invest or talked about good vs. bad debt, or talked about college reality, that’s 4-H.
Dozens of tweens/teens in local art classrooms made creative piggybanks in art classes. You might have seen them at local banks. That’s 4-H.
Your child might be using LEGO Robotics in their elementary or middle school sciences classes. Guess what? 4-H!
This year, all the boys at Sunrise Children’s home and interested kids at Kentucky School for the Deaf have made bulletin boards, blankets, wreaths and keychains; wired their own lamps; and taken photos. Kids at Hogsett Elementary School have done similar projects every month in their afterschool program. How? 4-H!
We take about 100 local youth to camp each year; fewer than 10 are farm kids. We have more than 100 local youth participating in our Shooting Sports Club and its Youth Hunter Education Challenge program and again, not many farm kids.
We have scores of kids in Craft Club, Dog Club, Fishing Club, Livestock Club,and Horse Club, too. And, once again, many, many non-farm kids are enrolled.
Don’t get me wrong … 4-H is the only program that has ag-related programs for pre-high school youth, including our fantastic local livestock and horse programs.
We have a stellar history in livestock judging, and we have great hopes of bringing home some booty from the state livestock Skillathon contest this month.
We have projects in horticulture, entomology, poultry, crops, soils, tractors, etc., too.
But it’s a fact that the number of farms, farmers and farm kids is shrinking. But Boyle County 4-H is growing. So guess who’s in 4-H these days? Any child, ages6-18, can be in 4-H.
If your child is in elementary school, we’re probably in his/her classroom this year. If your child is in middle or high school, they may spend time with us through Reality Store, the piggy bank contest, APES, etc. But 4-H has so much to offer outside the classroom.
And to participate, all you need to do is friend us on Facebook (Boyle Cty Extension), visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/#!/boyle.extension), follow us on Twitter (@BoyleCtyExtensi), visit our website (ces.ca.uky.edu/boyle/4HYouthDevelopment), call us at (859) 236-4484 or email email@example.com.
Kim Ragland is Boyle County extension agent for 4-H youth development.