Last updated: February 25. 2014 3:11PM - 956 Views
By Megan Kennedy mkennedy@civitasmedia.com

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Members of various 4-H clubs came together on Tuesday, Feb. 18, for an open house to entice new, young members to join and eventually participate in the weeklong 4-H fair, to be held this year July 26-Aug.2.

Each table at the open house represents a commitment each new member would make if they were to join. Groups included the “Busy Bees” which orchestrates miscellaneous projects, food and sewing projects, and projects that include animals except horses; “Jackson Young Farmers” who focus on animals such as sheep, cattle, hogs, goats, poultry, and various other projects, and the “Lewisburg Blue Ribbon Sheep Club” whose focus is to teach children lessons which encapsulate “hard work, discipline, nurturing, and how to deal with real world situations,” according to their flier.

Many other groups at the open house teach similar values, all to bring their focus on one essential goal: to teach responsibility and foster an understanding of commitment at an early age.

Beginning when the children are eight years old, or in the third-grade, children are able to enroll and tackle their own specific project with the help and guidance from those involved in their specific club. However, when children are five years old, they have the option to join the “Cloverbuds,” a specific set of goals and projects designed for their specific age.

“We have about 200 different projects,” said Extension Educator, Christy Millhouse. These projects include the traditional projects that include the care-taking of animals, but also projects ranging from quilting, making cheese from different types of dairies, aerodynamic research, cooking, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) research, and many others. Also offered are after-school programs for students.

“We have all the different subject matter areas, but what we’re hoping is they’re learning their life skills. So we’re hoping that by the time they’re through their 4-H program, they’re able to take those life skills and then apply them in the real world,” said Millhouse. “The ultimate goal is to develop them into productive adults and to help them develop those skills.”

The involvement in 4-H over the years has remained steady, explains Millhouse. She has, however, seen a change in the types of projects students are partaking in now. “Traditional clubs have always been the mainstay, but we’re starting to see more kids who are involved in those after-school programs,” she said. “I think we’re seeing 4-H evolve as society evolves.”

4-H is sure to unite children from all over Preble County with their involvement, giving them not only the chance to take on challenging projects, but to also create friendships. “In our club alone, we’ve probably got somebody from all the different school districts,” said Julie Hines, a mentor for the “Bouncing Bunnies” Club. “It gets the kids intermingling with each other and different things.”

Chelsea and Becky Allen, twins, have been involved with 4-H since their ripe ages of 8. The twins, who show rabbits and goats, chickens, and various other animals, are now mentors with the Jackson Young Farmers club. The two are involved with the entire life cycles of their animals including the butchering of their turkeys. Accompanied by their pygmy goat, Fawn, the two told the tale of the little goat’s birth and how they have helped raise her and her mother.

“They learn how to feed them and raise them, and the whole nine yards, all the way up to the sell day,” said Harold Wagers, an adviser with the Lewisburg Blue Ribbon Sheep Club for 20 years. Learning about “sale day” and what it means for their animals to be sold to a manufacturer, is imperative to the process. “Then it’s not such a humongous, big deal at the end,” said Wagers.

The 4-H clubs in Ohio stem from the Ohio State University Extension, and is seen as a branch of such. Each state in the United States has a land-grant university, from which an Extension creates a bridge of information regarding research from the university to the people. Founded by A. B. Graham in 1902 in Clarke County, the idea was to “take that knowledge and get the kids to buy into it, then you can kind of bring their parents along with it too,” said Millhouse.

2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of the extension program.

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