4-H relevant by changing with times

If you were to ask people what 4-H is about, a large number would say, “cooking and cows.” Yes, that’s where the emphasis of 4-H was years ago, and those quality projects are still important today.

Teaching good animal husbandry and efficient home-economic practices were founding ideas in the 4-H program. Although our lifestyles have changed over the last 100 years, our needs for quality meat products and humane animal care, and safe, nutritional food preparation and service has not.

4-H started as the conduit to reach parents with research-based information and techniques from the land-grant universities. Today, although it still reaches adults, the 4-H program strives to teach youths skills that will be used throughout their lives.

The traditional animal projects of beef, sheep and swine are still strong among 4-H’ers. In La Plata County, more than 200 youths are involved in one or more of these. The main goal for these members is to provide humane care and housing for their animals while producing the best possible marketable animal for consumer consumption. Market and breeding project members must participate in the Meat Quality Assurance program to ensure they are following current production practices.

It’s important for members to know the project from its beginning to its end – from the pasture to the plate. Consumer markets these days are very influential on the quality of meat, milk or eggs they will purchase. It’s important for the youths involved in these projects to understand current market trends and respond in kind when raising their animal.

Looking at the family and consumer science side, the foods and nutrition project has come full circle from when enrollment numbers were high in the beginning. When fast food and processed foods became popular, numbers dropped significantly. People are now again learning the importance of preparing their own food and practicing better nutritional choices.

The Decorate Your Duds and Recycled Clothing projects show members how to embellish and/or change what they may already have in their closets into new, fashionable clothing and home accessories. This has proved to be very helpful in these current stressful economic conditions.

4-H has answered needs for new and evolving projects such as computer, wind power, geospatial, robotics and more. Furthermore, our shooting sports projects have expanded to meet the needs of emerging outdoors men and women.

However, the same main principles apply to the diversity of all our projects. Responsibility, self-determination and learning, community engagement and leadership skills are essential elements to the success of our program. We develop these traits through the positive relationships and partnerships our youths make in their clubs and their community.

The community can support our members’ hard work at the La Plata County Fair this summer. The theme for this year is “Sow it, Grow it and Show it.” At the annual Livestock Auction on Aug. 11 (Saturday of the fair), you can also purchase an animal that our members have raised throughout the year. In addition, welding, woodworking projects, pies and cakes will be auctioned off to support our youths.

felsengh@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6463. Greg Felsen is La Plata County 4-H youth development agent.