Guest Column: Why everyone should get behind local 4-H programs

By Natalie Nicole Harris
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | Before you read this please know it is coming from my point of view as a past 10-year 4-H member, current 4-H

Natalie Nicole Harris
-Hvolunteer and parent of a current 4-H’er. My thoughts are based off my experience and love for this organization. As a successful businesswoman I have supported and purchased many animals on behalf of my employers in the past. I have seen the return of my investment personally and would like to spread the word of this great organization, 4-H.
Your local county fair auction is the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication by these young entrepreneurs. Yes, I think of each 4-H’er as a young businessperson because they invest their love, time and energy into their livestock project. It is up to us as professionals to invest in the youth of 4-H by purchasing their animals. In many cases this is their first real transaction in the business world, selling a product for a profit. I would guess that more than 80 percent of these kids will then invest their hard-earned money into a savings account to go toward college tuition. It’s also about so much more than money. They are thinking long term, not focused on an Xbox. I feel that says a lot in today’s world of gaming and digital use. These children will learn professionalism and pride while displaying their livestock or other projects at the fair.
The dedication you have to your livestock is of the utmost responsibility. My 4-H’er (Lane, 9) has been a part of his project since the animals were bred. He witnessed the birth and has been in contact daily with his animals, feeding, grooming, training etc. Yes. I am bragging on my son, but really all 4-H’ers because it is not just him. These kids are learning real life lessons that will prepare them for the future.
Through these projects, 4-H’ers learn numerous valuable life skills and lessons, including: the value of time management skills to meet their goals and responsibilities; the importance of managing their own financial resources and making business decisions; proper animal care and livestock production practices; the value of leadership, teamwork, good sportsmanship and competition (New Mexico University).
Think of it this way, by going to the local 4-H auction you will not only support your local community but also be investing in some of the future top professionals and leaders. Children who were a part of 4-H are statistically more likely to go to college, have better work ethic and overall be more successful. You could potentially be investing in the future leaders of your company. Many top entertainers, CEOs, and politicians got their start in 4-H. Just to name a few successful people who started in 4-H: Norman Brown, president and CEO of W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Zoe Coulson, vice president of Campbell Soup Company; James Glass, executive vice president of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company; Karol Nickell, vice president and editor in chief of Better Homes & Gardens magazine; and Harold Poling, CEO Ford Motor Company.
I think we are on to something here. 4-H teaches youth so many valuable life lessons that will prepare them for their chosen careers and not just in agriculture. Many might even seek employment with those organizations that supported them in 4-H. I did, and I am proud of it.
Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What am I going to do with all that meat?” Well, my first suggestion would be to eat it. This will be some of the highest quality meat you can buy. If that is not an option for you then I have the solution, donate the meat to the local food pantry. Problem solved. Now for the animal rights activists who are against the slaughter of animals, I can’t change your mindset and I value your opinions but I will argue that the majority of these animals have been treated with tender loving care, fed the best grains and hay, provided clean water and kept under fans, washed and brushed daily in many cases. I would even linger to say and it hurts my heart to even mention it, but I know that most of these animals are treated better then some children in our country. So by supporting 4-H you are also supporting the growth of future caring, community-minded individuals who will give back to the world and help be a better steward of the environment.
I promise that you will be amazed by our 4-H youth. I challenge you to get to know them, stop and chat for awhile, ask them questions and I know you will see the value in this organization. Think of it as an investment in the future, with a high return.
I geared this toward the livestock auction portion of 4-H, but 4-H offers so many project choices for our youth: clothing, crafts, gardening, woodworking, welding, research projects, bicycle, shooting sports, livestock judging, public speaking, cooking, etc. I could go on and on. Even if livestock isn’t your thing, 4-H has something for all walks of life. Check out the project buildings at your local fair! If you’re interested in more information on 4-H go visit 4-h.org.

Natalie Nicole Harris is marketing coordinator at Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and co-owner at Raising the 4th Livestock Co. in Corydon, Ind.