Head, heart, health, hands

The H’s of 4-H rattled out in our reporter meeting, much like a recitation of the four times table.

It is something members don’t forget once learned.

This year the organization will celebrate 100 years of service and this week’s Inside Wellington features some history and comments from today’s leaders.

The impact of 4-H is all around Wellington County.

While the number of members has shrunk due to fewer family farms, there are still active rural contingents that still focus on livestock.

Most organizations have had to re-invent themselves and 4-H is no different, having established clubs to appeal to urban membership. Drama clubs or sewing clubs are examples of groups not remembered in our youth, but they obviously fill a need and attract membership.

One of the less-celebrated aspects of 4-H is the early training in the fundamentals of democracy.

Most groups have a president, secretary, treasurer and press reporter, amongst other positions. The keeping of minutes for meetings, the proper methods of chairing a meeting and the notion of letting the public know of their activities are all early introductions to the proper way of holding meetings and running an organization with purpose.

While the formalities may seem a bit over the top, these opportunities develop time-honoured leadership skills that will become second nature whether the member ends up in the corporate world or serving on local committees.

It also prepares them for stepping up and accepting leadership roles out of a sense of duty and ability, rather than just for purposes of climbing the ladder. They are prepared.

Often the small size of these groups affords the opportunity of public speaking and participation. People are naturally nervous when it comes to speeches or articulating a position on a subject when in a meeting. We have been witness on numerous occasions to the benefits of the 4-H experience and can see it in the confidence of young people trained under this program.

The big day for members and the public alike is that special day at a local fair where produce or livestock are shown. It becomes readily apparent who spent the most time with their calf, preparing its coat and teaching it to lead on a halter.

For all members, there is the satisfaction and pride in another awesome 4-H expression: “learn to do by doing”.

Granted, some kids benefit from generations of experience grooming and showing, making the task a little easier. If our personal experience were any guide, the strong members always help those new to the game, showing tricks of the trade so everyone learns and has a good experience.

We hope the future continues to be bright for 4-H. Its role in developing leaders is needed today as much as any time in its 100 years of community service.