To make the best better
By Trent Loos
I think in regard to 4-H involvement, our experiences as a family would be very typical of most rural farm families. My grandparents and Kelli's grandfather were all 4-H volunteers. My parents were 4-H leaders and my in-laws are still leaders of a club. The week of Oct. 7 to 13 has been designated National 4-H Week, and I thought it might be interesting to examine some facts about this great opportunity that is available thanks to about 540,000 volunteers.
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
That 4-H pledge seems to sum up exactly how simple it is to live right. It also speaks to an old-fashioned principle that I think needs to return to a bigger segment of the population: self-responsibility. All of us are responsible for making the world a better place with our head, heart, hands and health.
Kelli and her parents are the leaders of the 4-H club our girls belong to. To kick off 4-H week, their group had a potluck and post-fair celebration of their accomplishments in 4-H. Kelli asked everyone to stand in front of the group and share the highlight of the past 4-H year. Yes, it was much like pulling teeth for some of them, but one by one each 4-H member got up in front of the crowd of peers and parents and told one story. That, to me, will be the start of bigger things to come because every time you get up in front of a group, it gets easier. For most of these kids, some as young as 7, this was the hardest one, that first time.
That brings out the most important negative change that we have seen in our society lately, which is the fact that people are reluctant to speak or even question anything and instead just take everything at face value. Our great nation was built by a group of pioneers who did not just follow the lead of others like a bunch of sheep without questioning the "why."
There are 60 million 4-H alumni in the nation right now. Tufts University recently released statistics about the impact of 4-H on young people and the results were impressive:
4-H members are nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school. They are nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college. 4-H members are 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors and 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.
The National 4-H organization reports that there are more than 6 million 4-H youth in urban neighborhoods, suburban schoolyards and rural farming communities that stand out among their peers. They are building revolutionary opportunities and implementing community-wide change at an early age.
While I do believe in the importance of each of the four Hs, for me it is the emphasis on hands that really creates opportunities. In today's society, far too many citizens have not actually "been there and done that." People talk about tending to the land without even spending time doing it. The value of this organization is that it teaches you that regardless of the career path you choose, at some point you will deal with life and death with your hands. It might be tending to a lettuce plant in a greenhouse or feeding and caring for your project lamb. Those are called "life skills" for a reason, and I want to see all of us put more emphasis back on their importance.
4-H, like so many other youth organizations, does absolutely nothing for you if you don't apply yourself. Yes, making time for this great opportunity in our house is just like so many others, working it in around busy lives, sports, school and making a living. But at the end of the day we have no one but ourselves to blame if we don't seize the opportunity that 4-H provides. Truly it does make the best better and we need more rural youth to be the nation's trend setters. They have the morals and the strong work ethic. They are responsible and have great leadership potential. Through our time, our talents and our finances, we need to continue to support our 4-H clubs and leaders so they may continue to expand and develop this amazing organization and the great kids that are members.
Editor's note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.