4-H: where learning, friendship go hand in hand
“If they’ve got an interest, we’ve got something for them,” said Brandon Alberson, Lincoln County Extension agent with 4-H responsibilities. “It’s about more than just agriculture.”
Currently Lincoln County has about 250 youths participating in 4-H and 200 volunteers. Alberson said 4-H is starting to get integrated back into the schools, so he expects numbers will be growing.
Some of the categories help the youth become better future citizens by prepping youths on how to become childcare providers and smart shoppers.
People are starting to figure out the range of topics is not only targeted for people comfortable in the country.
“Some of our urban kids have never set foot on a farm,” Alberson said.
But that’s not to say the more traditional 4-H activities are not still alive and well. The livestock bowl and dairy bowl both test the knowledge of students. Shooting sports programs have been added. In fact, the state .22-caliber rifle category winner came from Lincoln County’s 4-H program.
Alberson knows first hand what being a 4-H’er is all about. He said he learned to become a more outspoken and involved person through the program.
“Once I figured out my project area, I was able to be around people of like interest that brought me out of my shell,” he said.
Now, he hopes to foster the same in the 4-H’ers he works with.
“To do it right, you have to put in those hours, but it’s well worth it when you see those kids accomplish those projects.
After meeting with a group of students who comprise Alberson’s advisory committee, one thing is very clear: being a part of 4-H is about having fun.
The six young girls were full of laughter and filled the room with playful banter, but they were very vocal about the benefit their participation will lead to in the future.
“I joined it to learn a lot,” Savon Smith said. “I learned a lot about things I’d never think about. I never thought I’d be learning about cows and chickens.”
“I think it will help me in the future to talk in front of crowds and get along with people,” said Erica Nelson.
Nelson has been chosen as the southwest district vice president, but she was not quite enthusiastic about 4-H at first.
“I didn’t want to do it, but it has been a good experience with my Lincoln County people,” she said.
Smith’s team at the livestock bowl competition came in first this year. The competition is set up as a type of quiz competition. In the first round, one person from each team goes head to head, and then the second round is open for anyone to answer. When they announced Smith’s team as the winner, she was shocked.
“‘We won? Y’all, we won,'” she recalled saying. “That’s what we came here for.
Now the team has an opportunity to go on a co-op bus tour with 4-H.
Rachel and Rosemary McDaniel traveled to Denver for the National Western Roundup. Rosemary said the weather was freezing cold and the competition was harder. The girls were given animals to show from the lot instead of being able to choose their own. They were able to see a lot of animals and exhibits and even got to go snowmobiling.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said.
“It was a long bus ride though, and there was no sweet tea.”
At the recollection of the lack of sweet tea, the other girls on the advisory committee were quick to express their disbelief.
“We’ve made a lot of good friends over the past couple years,” Ashley Thompson said.
“There’s time when we can cut up and have fun, but other times we have to pull together and be serious,” Britt said.
For students interested in joining 4-H, these young ladies had one message.
“C’mon,” Ashley said.
“The doors always open,” said Haley Britt.
“If you’re a silly person, you’ll enjoy it,” Thompson continued.
Enrollment sheets are available at the Lincoln County Extension Office located on the second floor of the Lincoln County- Brookhaven Government Complex.
Volunteers are also welcome.
Alberson said right now they have reached the maximum number of categories due to a limited amount of volunteers. To become a volunteer, anyone can fill out an application. The extension office will then run a background check on the applicant.