4-H year kicks off; It's about family
The 4-H year started Wednesday, September 1st. In Runnels County, there are four 4-H clubs; Ballinger; Rowena; Miles; Winters. Runnels County Agrilife Extension Agent and 4-H leader Marty Vahlenkamp says that 4-H is more than just an endeavor for youths from grades 3-12, "4-H is definitely a family affair. Everyone can be involved with it, not just the youth."
The 4-H year runs from September 1st to August 31. Vahlenkamp says that many of the youth have been raising and feeding their livestock over the summer, leading up to the new 4-H year.
In Runnels County, many of the youth show their animals in the Runnels County Junior Livestock Show in January. The show is a popular draw with the 170 or so 4-H kids in the county. It gives the youth a great idea of where they're at with their animals prior to hitting the "majors," such as Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, etc. "Everyone thinks about the junior livestock show when you talk about 4-H. But, 4-H is much more than just the stock show," Vahlenkamp points out.
The 4-H activities involve many more pursuits than one might typically think of. These include: wool judging; livestock judging; swine; sheep; goats; rabbits; steer; heifer; horse; skillathon; Duds to Dazzle; Consumer Decision Making; food show; food challenge; fashion show; share the fun; education presentation; photography; entomology. The kids are free to participate in as many subjects as they want. There is no limit.
Vahlenkamp says that most of the 4-H pursuits offer one thing in common; "Nearly all of them have a public speaking aspect."
To simply say that 4-H is only for kids interested in the various aspects of agriculture and livestock raising would be a disservice. The 4-H program offers many real life lessons, "If you look at livestock, we use livestock to teach decision making. When a kid makes a decision, they have to explain the reasoning behind their decision. They have to express it in a concise manner. That is something that can come in handy down the road when they're trying to explain to a boss why they made a particular decision," Vahlenkamp says.
Many people think that you can only join one of the local 4-H clubs, but Vahlenkamp says that isn't the case, "A kid can join all 4 local chapters if they want to. Each chapter meets on a different night of the week at various locations." In Winters, the 4-H Club meets the 1st Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church. In Rowena, the club meets the 1st Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph's Parish Hall. Ballinger 4-H'ers meet the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Ballinger Community Center. Miles 4-H meets the 3rd Monday at the Miles Young Farmers' Building at 6:30 p.m.
The club meetings are run by the club officers, who are elected by the club members. It's one of those aspects of 4-H that teaches public speaking and leadership.
Vahlenkamp points out that the clubs don't meet simply to talk about ag and livestock, "We have guest speakers come in. We had an ophthalmologist in here talking about their career helping people with their eyes. We had an entrepreneur in here who talked about owning and running your own business."
The number of youth in the Runnels County 4-H program is impressive, sitting somewhere around 170 kids right now, "4-H is about family. We have leaders who are volunteers, such as in livestock judging. You get to help your own kids, and other kids." Currently, Wool Judging is lead by Phoebe Branham. Horse Judging is led by Bridget Scott. Livestock judging and Livestock Skillathon is led by Vahlenkamp. As for Consumer Decision Making and the Food Challenge, they're led by Kandice Everitt, who is the county extension agent for Family and Consumer Sciences.
When it comes to life after high school, Vahlenkamp says that 4-H can help with college, "Two of our 4-H kids that graduated in May each received around $60,000 to $70,000 in scholarships."
Most college applications want to know about service within the applicants respective communities, another area Vahlenkamp says can helped by 4-H, "Some of our clubs tied blankets and donated them for the nursing homes. Our kids participate in all kinds of activities within their communities."
It's only $25 to enroll a kiddo in 4-H. You can enroll online at https://runnels.agrilife.org or by calling Vahlenkamp at 325-365-2219.