For most of the organization’s more than 100 years, the four Hs of the 4-H Youth Development Program have stood for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health.”
For many, 4-H has been about the two Cs, “cows and cooking,” according to Laryssa Hook, an educator at Ohio State University Extension, Delaware County Office.
“It’s a long-standing myth,” Hook said, noting that the misconception is likely an oversimplification or sarcasm, though public perception of 4-H still tends to be limited.
“It’s not just about bringing cattle to the fair,” she said.
In Ohio, where 4-H is administered by The Ohio State University Extension, learning and participation opportunities within 4-H include dog obedience and agility, fishing, shooting, archery, rocketry, solar energy, woodworking, photography, health and fitness and many other areas. of interest.
Additionally, the 4-H experience includes opportunities for leadership and community service, said Cynthia Johnson, who works in the Delaware County 4-H office with Hook.
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The leadership, community service and camaraderie developed with fellow club members have kept Zach Hatten, a 2014 Delaware Hayes High School graduate, in 4-H for 12 years. Recognizing that 4-H involvement in the city is not what it is in more rural parts of the county, Hatten nonetheless shared a passion with other 4-H’ers.
“Growing up, we built a group of kids who loved being around animals and doing community service,” said Hatten, who raised turkeys and rabbits and, as he got older, became a camp counselor. 4-H.
Hatten, now a biology teacher in a rural Michigan school district, said the leadership, public speaking and responsibility he learned in 4-H continued to benefit him, in addition to the love for science that he was able to foster through his projects.
Much of this carries over into adult life, Hatten said.
“Even things like, while I was living in the city, learning about agriculture and where our food comes from and where some of our clothes come from,” he said.
Melinda Hornsby has been a volunteer with Delaware County 4-H for 22 years. The club’s longtime leader was recently inducted into the Delaware County 4-H Hall of Fame.
“I got involved because I had been in 4-H and wanted my kids to have that experience,” Hornsby said. “I knew the program was growing and changing, evolving with each generation to meet its needs, and I wanted to be — and I wanted my kids to be — a part of that.”
Her Genoa Township area club had as many as 40 members at different times, she said.
“Most of the reward (of volunteering) is watching the children grow. I remember one member who was so shy that she didn’t even say her name when called. Doing projects and presenting – that completely changed over time,” she said.
Hornsby said 4-H offers something for everyone, and while showcasing projects at the fair is only part of being a 4-H member, judging and competing provide additional opportunities to growth.
“(Delaware County Fair) is a showcase of what these kids are learning,” Hook said. “What the fair adds is that competition and the chance to show others what you’ve learned.”
As many of Delaware County’s more than 40 4-H clubs are starting or have started their seasons – youth must be members of a local club by April 15 for their project to be eligible to be judged at the fair of the county in early September – the County office is working to connect or reconnect young people with clubs after two years of remote, virtual or no meetings.
“Our overall numbers have gone down over the last two years with COVID,” Hook said. “Now that we’re meeting in person again, we’re trying to spread the word.”
Children from kindergarten to grade 12 can participate in 4-H. Young children in kindergarten through 2nd grade are called Cloverbuds, Hook said, and don’t submit projects at competitions such as the county fair.
Beginning in the third grade, kids can do projects, but taking them to competition isn’t required, Hook said.
Johnson said clubs are organized both geographically and around certain interests. While information is available on the OSU Delaware County Extension Office website at delaware.osu.edu/program-areas/4-h-youth-development, Johnson said, call the office at 740 -833-2030 may, for some, be the best way to connect to the perfect club for their particular needs and interests.
“I’m just learning to live in the world,” Hornsby said, “4-H checks a lot of those boxes.”