The 4-H program was started over 100 years ago and while it has branched to urban areas, and rightfully so, I’m proud of a program that fits my rural roots.

Many kids enroll in a program for the same reasons I did—it is an opportunity to make new friends, share many laughs and work on fun projects that will be judged at fair time. Along the way the program teaches the importance of responsibility and values.

Today’s 4-H program is as relevant today as it was more than 40 years ago when I first signed up with my parents’ blessing. In that era most of the kids in the program grew up on a farm or were one generation removed. Those city kids helped their grandparents with harvest, planting or working cattle.

Today, 4-H has grown and diversified with a significant increase in suburban and urban participation but the rural values and feel are still there. I can still go to a county fair—a treat I enjoy—and see cattle, swine and sheep projects. Today’s 4-H’ers have also embraced backyard poultry raising and meat goats. They are competing with the same zest as the kids of my era did in cattle, swine and sheep.

Cooking and clothes competitions will hone skills as the 4-H’ers go out on their own to find a new job or locate a city.

October is National 4-H Month. In many community newspapers across the country there will be photos with kids, Extension agents, 4-H leaders and county commissioners who note the importance of the month by issuing a proclamation. During this month, 4-H’ers will have fund-raisers at middle and high school events, car washes and other activities to helping the program or raising awareness about a 4-H family or member in need.

After all, its motto says it all,  “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 life world.”

My 4-H experience is now more than two generations ago and the hands-on expertise of those parent volunteers in Hoxie, Kansas, are long gone and yet their willingness to step up and serve reminds me how important the program was to them and it is still relevant today and in the future. I hope I can continue to make them proud. 

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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