4-H, Where You Work Your Ass Off for “Nothing”

That title got your attention, didn’t it?  Now before you come at me with pitchforks and torches, hear me out.

If you have read  my bio you will know that I work in Extension and even if I didn’t, I would still have a deep passion for 4-H in my heart. I love all of the opportunities that present themselves through 4-H. I love spending time with kids teaching them life skills and sharing passions that have been and still are very, very much a part of my life. I love seeing youth grow into productive, responsible, hardworking, caring, and community minded adults.

The title of this blog post is an actually paraphrased from a quote from a 4-H mother made to me as we were walking out of our trophy auction and donor’s lunch where several companies and individuals had literally just spent thousands of dollars supporting our organization. “That’s what 4-H is all about, working your ass off and getting nothing in return, huh, Amber.” The anger came instantly. How dare someone make comments like that as we are walking out of especially that event. How dare someone say something like that to people who spend countless hours both paid and unpaid making sure programs are organized, newsletters set, putting on project meetings, buying supplies for those meetings-often out of pocket, spending countless unpaid hours away from family. How. Dare. You.  But as the evening went on I began to feel sadness for the individual who said that and her kids participating in our organization. Somewhere along the way for them 4-H became about the money being made rather than the experiences, lessons, and memories.

All I can say is that- If in 4-H you are “working your ass off” and getting nothing in return… you’re doing it wrong.

You will never “get rich” in 4-H

Sure that extra premium money you get from the livestock sale or the little extra ribbon money you get for a job well done is nice. Who wouldn’t agree. But that’s not the point of anything that you’re doing. The money you get for livestock is intended to help with cost associated with showing them, to help you to be able to continue your project- not give you a free ride. That’s part of the lessons you learn in 4-H. Life costs money.

You have options

4-H is a youth organization focused on providing participants with skills to last for a lifetime. Opportunities for classes in food and nutrition, woodworking, sewing, photography, entomology, rocketry, electricity, arts and crafts, livestock, and so, so much more which volunteers spend their time and money to put on for the youth is just the tip of the iceberg. Through each project offered a certain set of skills is obtained, you may choose to participate in everything offered or just a few that interest you.

Life skills are obtained

be it the actual skills you are learning in the different project, the tips, tricks and ideas you take home from leadership camps and events, or the subconscious things like being on time, speaking to adults, networking with others, respect, “practice makes perfect” etc. You learn things like dressing appropriately for certain occasions, volunteerism, speaking to people you don’t know, community development, interview skills, the impact of a good, strong handshake… I could go on and on.

Lifetime friends are made

Honestly, if you had told me when I was younger that I would have gone to college and knew a ton of people once I got there I would have told you that you were lying. My freshman year when I got to school I was honestly so surprised at how many people I knew because of 4-H and FFA events that I had been to. For a rather shy person who generally wouldn’t take initiative to go meet people, it was such a help to have people I was already at least a little familiar with. Even as we have all grown and gone on to our careers, families, and new places, we still keep up via social media. They are people with whom I share memories- not just in college, but youthful memories from 4-H and FFA with and people who I will always enjoy keeping up with and being friends with.

Memories

The memories made with family, schoolmates, and friends from across my county and state are memories that I will cherish for as long as I live. From late nights spent in the barn the night before the show washing, clipping, feeding, and honestly just horsing around. To show day shenanigans and sale night primping. From trips 5 miles out of town, across the state, or across the country for camps, conventions, retreats, or trainings. The laughs, the tears, the jokes, the heart to hearts and the obnoxious roadtrip karaoke sessions.  In the moment I never would have guessed how all of those little snapshots of time were forming me into the person that I am today. Be it with my family or with the various groups I would have traveled with- they helped me grow into the woman I am today.

I credit 4-H (and FFA) to my successes to date. I can walk into an interview with confidence, I can look a potential employer in the eye and give a firm handshake. I am comfortable with speaking to groups. I learned how to manage money, how to pay bills, how and when to jump in and help where it is needed, I learned how to volunteer and the importance of volunteerism. I am more community minded. I have networking resources. I can participate in an organized meeting.

Sure, 4-H is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun too (If you’re taking full advantage of it)… and if “nothing” is what you are getting in return… you’re doing it all wrong.

 

love and peace,
Amber

Ice Storms, Fires, Blizzards, and Hail- Heartbreak in the Heartland

This first 5 months of 2017 has taken its toll on the 5-State area surrounding the Oklahoma Panhandle. With a devastating ice storm hitting right in the thick of calving season. “Dark Monday” and it’s 1 million (+ or -) acres burned across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, Southwestern Kansas, and Eastern New Mexico and Colorado- which destroyed thousands of acres of grazing lands, scorched hundreds of miles of fence, multiple homes, stole 6 human’s lives and burned thousands of head of cattle and wildlife alive. A crippling April 30th blizzard which left hundreds more cattle dead in Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The most recent a hail storm which carried with it baseball-softball sized hail that tore through the Oklahoma Panhandle and Northwestern Oklahoma killing calves, destroying crops which were only a few weeks shy of being harvested, as well as countless homes, vehicles, and other buildings.

But you won’t hear much about this on the news. 

The recovery process is still taking place- and will continue to take place for months. Our hearts are so full for the help and love we have received from so many agriculturist across the nation. But I would be lying if I said that each day isn’t still a challenge to keep our heads up. It’s hard to watch your life’s work go up in smoke-literally. Or watch the wheat that you have tended to and prayed would come out of damages caused by ice and and snow coupled with 60 mph winds survive just to be pounded into the ground by hail just before harvest. It’s so hard not knowing how you are going to make the equipment payment. It’s hard to have to walk through your pastures and see and even have to put down suffering animals who couldn’t escape the flames, or to pull up to your pasture ground to find your cows and calves had looked for shelter in a draw which is now covered in snow- and those mamas and babies have all suffocated- or the babies who couldn’t weather the baseball sized hail who had been literally beat to death in the night. It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking- loss of profits aside.

So today, while you go about your life- while you go to your 8-5 job with a guaranteed paycheck and little risk to your livelihood, when you go to the grocery store and notice the price of food slightly higher, remember, the places where your food comes from has been ravaged this past year. There will be a shortage- not in the “oh my gosh we can’t feed everyone and we have to ration” sense, but as compared to years past. The ranchers and farmers will struggle harder than usual to make their payments this year.

We are strong, we will rebuild, we will continue to raise our cattle, we will continue to plant our crops. We will wake up every day and continue to go to work- just like you. But our hearts and our land will take some time to heal. Remember us in your day to day activities too. 



“A farmer has to be an optimist- or he wouldn’t still be a farmer” 

Will Rogers