Head, heart, hands and health are the 4 H's that make up the youth organization that has been helping young people prepare to be future leaders since 1902. Children ages 5-18 can particpate in the 4-H Club through projects, meetings, camps, and community service.
"The kids learn life skills like getting along with others, meeting new people," said Diana Duncan, 4-H youth development educator. Duncan said some of the specific activities the 4-H'ers do are adopt-a-highway, working at food pantries, clothing drives, bell-ringers, shooting sports, art, cooking, and livestock. And she said one of the greatest achievements the 4-H'ers are displaying this year at the fair is their cake-decorating in the Youth Arts Building. "It's amazing what these kids can do. And these activities could lead to a career for them." Duncan said.
For some of the over 700 Boone County 4-H'ers, the hours of care for their livestock is shown-off at the Boone County fair this week. Duncan said they learn how to take care of their livestock at club meetings. "There is a community effort within each club," Duncan said. "If a kid can't keep the animal at their house, another club member will let it stay with them; but that kid will still be responsible for caring for the animal." Duncan said although 4-H is about so much more than agriculture, agriculture is a bigger part of everyday life than people realize. "Agriculture is the largest industry in the U.S.," Duncan said. "It's grocery stores and restaurants. Even McDonald's. It's not just cows and plows."
Although children between 5-18 can be a part of 4-H, there is a special group called Clover Kids for 5-7 year olds. Duncan said a child can join FFA during the summer before 9th grade.
"We don't like it to be an either, or situation," she said. "We encourage participation in both."
Locally, 4-H and FFA are sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension in partnership with the University of Missouri, Lincoln University and local government.
Although there is a small fee to join 4-H and the cost of materials, scholarships and grants are available to members.
Duncan said 4-H is for everyone. "It doesn't matter what your interests are or if you live on a farm or in the city," she said. There is literally something for everyone.