Wednesday, March 9, 2011

4-H Rocks! Stories from the Goatherd's Youth . . .

Recently I was asked to speak at a 4-H club on how my life was impacted by 4-H. With that approaching engagement, I have thought quite a bit about my experiences. I am proud to have been an 11 year 4-Her in Fairfield County OH! Despite growing up on a livestock farm, I took only one animal project during that entire time. Most of my projects were related to home economics: cooking, sewing, genealogy, health, laundry, etc. One of my proudest moments was winning the state in the bread competition in 1990, which earned me a trip to the National 4-H conference in Chicago! This was a big trip for a little 14 year old from the farm! Chicago seemed cold, but full of great restaurants. I remember being super excited for our "formal" event at the hotel ballroom so that I could wear my new black velvet & hot pink satin dress! (Truly, I was ready to rock fashion in the 90s!) I still make my winning yeast roll recipe from 1990 for many holiday gatherings!

As much as I enjoyed cooking I hated sewing! My mother & I would battle constantly over her efforts to get me to sit down and SEW! I remember getting in trouble because I would hide in our closet (that had a light!) and read novels when I was supposed to be sewing. It taught me a great deal of resposibility, however, to take charge of completing my projects. The week before project judging was always stressful as I hurried to complete everything. My mother would intone: "If a task is once begun, never leave it 'til it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all." Oh, I got so tired of hearing that! I knew it meant that if I signed up for a project there was NO way she was letting me quit. Here's the amazing thing, though: I find as an adult that I never even contemplate quitting something no matter how hard the task. And, I even find myself repeating that same saying at times! I may still struggle at sewing buttonholes, but through 4-H I learned the value of hard work, leadership, and responsibility. I like to think my mother would be proud!

Having these memories at the forefront of my mind was great during today's OSU Extension Legislative Luncheon at the Statehouse! This is an event to help educate legislators on the work that Extension does and the value that it has. The 4-H program helped to shape me as a young person, and I now use those skills when I serve as a speaker at Extension events related to sheep & goat production! Part of the mission of land-grant institutions is to share research with the community. Thus, numerous programs have grown out of Extension such as 4-H, Master Gradener groups, money-management classes, etc. Extension is funded jointly through federal dollars, state funds, and county monies. Extension has a vitally important role as more people are interested in growing & preserving their own foods, as farmers need to feed an ever-increasing population, and as young people need opportunities to develop skills for the new economy.

I had the pleasure today of seeing my personal State Representative, the wonderful Anne Gonzales! In addition I got to speak with Franklin County Representative Michael Stinziano. Both of these freshmen legislators have been very supportive of agriculture, and I applaud their efforts! Our Great State of Ohio is looking at significant budget cuts, which will undoubtedly impact every program. Despite this awareness, any opportunity to educate our legislators on agricultural and community programs is valuable! The highlight of the day for me was getting to see the Extension Home Ec educator who was based in Fairfield County during most of my 4-H career! It was very rewarding to see this lady who had such an impact on me as a young person and to thank her for all that she did!

4-H was such a key part of my youth and I was honored to be able to share with our legislators the impact of this program on me personally as just a small part of the good work that OSU Extension does! And even though my mother accused me of faking illness during the summer of 1988 so that I wouldn't have to do my 4-H projects, I am still incredibly grateful for her efforts as my parent & my 4-H leader! I ended up getting PLENTY of mileage from the maternal guilt she felt when I was diagnosed with emergency appendicitis! But despite that hospital stay, I still got my 4-H projects completed on time . . . If a task is once begun, never leave it 'til it's done! Thanks Mum!

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