RBC I A county fair brings about visions of animals, pies, flowers, food and fun. But for some it signifies the end of a lot of hard work, early mornings and late nights. Many 4-H, FFA and community members of Rio Blanco County have been preparing their projects to exhibit at the fair for months, while others have been preparing for over a year.
While most kids get to sleep in a little later every morning, 4-H and FFA livestock members are up early feeding, grooming, cleaning stalls and caring for their animals. Even during school-scheduled breaks, these kids work throughout the year, no matter the season or the weather.
Other 4-H members sacrifice their evenings, some after athletic practices, to hone their skills shooting, fishing, cake decorating, rocket building, crafting leather, cooking, sewing, creating crafts, needlework, gardening and photographing, to mention a few.
Some people may wonder why these matter. Why sacrifice so much time and effort that could be spent hanging out, relaxing, playing video games or watching television?
Anyone who has spent any amount of time around 4-H or FFA members can answer that question. Work ethic, compassion, perseverance, patience and communication skills are just a few results of enrollment in these the organizations. 4-H and FFA also tend to instill character, integrity, leadership skills and a healthy sense of competition in youth.
The act of caring for another life, from chickens to horses or cattle and everything in between, is a priceless opportunity. An animal’s existence depends on a kid crawling out of bed, regardless of weather or how much homework they had the night before, to provide for the basic needs of those animals. They are taught that their animal’s needs come before their own. This instills an understanding and sense of responsibility in a child that no book or parental lecture can accomplish.
Following directions of a leader on a tedious project, full of detail that may take months to finish, creates a sense of patience and pride that an instant gratification video game fails to recreate.
Practicing continuously to present oral reasons or to interview like a professional, creates communication skills that can’t be learned through every day conversations at the park with friends.
Competing with peers in a healthy environment where, ideally, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, teaches the importance of work ethic through actual rewards and consequences.
Many contests at the fair allow kids to not only have their project evaluated but also their own abilities to present that project. Showmanship classes allow members who may not own the best animal to have a shot at winning based on their own hard work and presentation abilities.
The fair provides an opportunity to teach kids how to win or lose with grace. It also provides an opportunity for members to do their best while genuinely cheering for their peers.
4-H and FFA provide priceless opportunities for kids to learn, grow, serve and become better people. There are opportunities for everyone from studying bugs to large and small animal clubs and everything in between! The diversity of activities and various levels of financial investment allows almost every child the opportunity to participate. Some activities provide equipment and do not require any additional investment other than the time to show up and participate.
FFA is available to high school students with the only requirement being to enroll in an agriculture class. 4-H is available to any child from ages five to 18 years.
Basic 4-H enrollment is $35 per year for ages eight to 18 and $25 for five- to seven-year-old members. It is simply a matter of walking into the Extension Office, signing up and paying enrollment fees to get started. That’s not a bad price for organizations that instill priceless character qualities in the youth of the past, present and future.