4-H offers youth life lessons, connections

OU News Bureau

With more than 200,000 members, Michigan 4-H is the largest development organization for youth in the state.

4-H provides an outlet for children and young people ages 5-19 to explore interests and grow as individuals. It is often known for its agricultural programs, which entails raising, showing and auctioning livestock. However, other opportunities in arts and sciences are offered, as well.

Young people who raise and show animals through 4-H show them at their local agricultural fair. Claire Vestrand, a resident of Oakland County’s Oakland Township, showed at the Armada Fair during her nine years as a member.

“I started with dogs when I was 8. Then I moved to horses and chickens,” she said.

Claire Vestrand showed chickens, as well as dogs and horses, while in 4-H. She was a member for nine years. PHOTO/MICHAELA SCARSELLA

In addition to the animals Vestrand showed, other species such as cows, pigs and rabbits can be raised for exhibition.

While each animal show has different expectations, they all require months of preparations. Animals’ health and diet must be monitored closely. Animals such as pigs are required to fall within a certain weight range. Judges also expect members to have an extensive knowledge of their animal.

Emily Tengman, a resident of Jackson County’s Grass Lake, was a member for 11 years. Now, she is an administrative leader of Patriot’s 4-H Club, which she helped found.  She is responsible for overseeing enrollment paperwork and that group members are following club bylaws.

“I initially joined because my dad did 4-H and he wanted his children to do it,” Tengman said. “I liked being around animals, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy being a part of 4-H and how much my life has revolved around it.”

Both Vestrand and Tengman credit 4-H for introducing them to new people and lasting friendships. 

“I think the real reason I loved it is because of the community of people. Because it brought together so many people from different backgrounds,” Vestrand said.

One opportunity for Michigan members to connect is through the annual 4-H Exploration Days. The program lasts three days and has an attendance of 2,500 people ages 11-19. Participants attend classes in a variety of subjects while staying on Michigan State University’s campus.

Along with networking opportunities, the responsibilities that come with 4-H projects teach life lessons.

“You learn a lot of life experiences that not a lot of people have the chance to learn,” Tengman said.  “Growing up on a farm, I don’t think twice about where my food comes from and what it takes to make and raise it, but some kids have no idea about any of that.”

Vestrand said she is thankful for what 4-H has done for her and attributes it to her enrollment in the Peace Corps.  

“I am happy with who it made me become today,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be in the Peace Corps if I didn’t have that background.”



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Posted by on Dec 6 2017. Filed under Featured article, Michigan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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