It is hard to believe that my 4-H career is coming to an end. Being a fourth-generation 4-H member and growing up with my mom serving as our county 4-H program coordinator, it seems I’ve been immersed in 4-H my entire life.
It was during my early years as a 4-H Cloverbud – kindergarten to third grade – that I became accustomed to life on the farm. While I grew up in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb, our home was conveniently adjacent to a pasture of my grandparents’ cattle farm. In fact, my grandparents’ farmstead remains as the last one standing in the heart of this Twin Cities’ suburb.
From an early age, going to the farm was a daily ritual. My siblings and I would perform chores each morning and night and, as the youngest, I’d take orders from my older siblings as we fed and worked with the lambs and cattle.
As a child, feeding and walking the 4-H lambs was one of my favorite, but most daunting, tasks. After learning how to halter them, I would catch a lamb and follow in my sister and brother’s footsteps as we walked them. In those early days, these excursions usually ended in the lambs getting away and me leaving the farm in tears. After many days of failure and frustration, I didn’t think a young career in 4-H would ever be for me.
Ten years later, my family moved from the suburb to a rural area where my siblings and I could partake in more agricultural opportunities. With the move, my family multiplied its lamb and cattle population, and I have swapped showing dairy calves for beef cattle.
Throughout my 13 years in 4-H, I struggled through training countless livestock projects and other non-livestock competitive challenges. Many were not successful, but many were. I’ve been fortunate to earn champions at county fair, state fair and national 4-H expositions. While winning awards has made the journey more exciting, it was neither the failures nor the successes that made my 4-H career beneficial. Rather, it is what I learned in between that resulted in the most personal character growth.
The four “H’s” – head, hands, heart and health – have guided me in my numerous academic and extracurricular activities. My 4-H experience was significant because I learned by doing. However, confidence, leadership, responsibility and communication skills are only a few of the lifelong lessons that I have gained through my involvement in the program.
From these skills, I have personally defined ambition, perseverance, faith and hard work; and applied all of these values to my daily life, as well as my future goals.
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My participation in school sport teams taught me temporary perseverance. Only 4-H has taught me true determination, and that life is not always fair. I learned that what you put into projects often determines what you get out of them. Additionally, there are innumerable youth and adult connections that I have been fortunate to gain along the way.
Growing up, I felt my 4-H career would never end; but that day has arrived. Training the last of my 4-H cattle and lambs this summer, I have done so with a diligent smile knowing that Ak-Sar-Ben National 4-H Livestock Exposition 2014 would be my last 4-H appearance in the show ring. I’ll admit that I still feel like a sixth grader heading to state fair for the first time – all of the anxiety, nerves and excitement of my early years are still dominant.
Ak-Sar-Ben National 4-H Livestock Exposition 2012 Reserve Champion Lamb Challenge
As I head home from Nebraska with an empty, heavy halter, I know I’ll offer a sincere thank you to all of the leaders, volunteers, parents, and family members who have helped shape me and other 4-H youth along the way. 4-H has taught me the significance of following in a role model’s footsteps, while still teaching me how to set my own path.
In the remaining month of my 4-H career and beyond, I hope to continue “to make the best better” in my life and in the lives of others through county, state and national 4-H involvement. My 4-H years may be over, but the show will go on.
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