Our Illinois 4-H Story
- PublishedA group of 4-H alumni enjoy 4-H so much, they’re still meeting, 90 years after the oldest began her 4-H journey.
I wish I could promise you that the fair is going to work out the way you want. I wish I could tell you that you'll have the success you worked for. I wish I could tell you that you'll be recognized for your hard work, your kindness, your dedication, your grit. I wish I could tell you that others who didn't work as hard won't stand ahead of you in the ring, won't get the bigger trophy or the prettier ribbon.
Now, go back and read that again, except this time, instead of "the fair," substitute "your life."
The July 21, 1969 issue of The Columbia Missourian said this about Michael Collins, third astronaut joining Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the first landing on the moon:
"While the world breathlessly watched and listened for the moon walk by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Mike Collins cruised in orbit overhead. His job was to undertake emergency action if something went wrong, or to pick them up from the lunar module for the return to Earth if everything went right.
I've smiled every morning for the past six days.
I smile because every morning, I check the Farmfluencer website and see that Montgomery County 4-H member Kendall Knodle's amazing video is still in the running to win.
I smile because it's a good video, based on science, featuring University of Illinois' top crop researchers who are searching for answers to feeding the world's growing population.
I smile because Kendall is 16, and in addition to doing all the things 16-year-olds do, he's out climbing on his tractor and dreaming of saving the world.
It has been a difficult month in rural America. The rain is relentless. Levies are breaking. What crops were planted are washing away. We're all tired and hoping for a break in the weather.
Farming is filled with opportunities for life lessons, but that's nothing new to farm families. We have lessons for breakfast! Let's review some important lessons for this show season.
Be your best self
They do it because someone did it for them.
They do it because their parents modeled the behavior and created a mindset in them that helping others is important.
Mainly, they do it for Deb. Debra Hagstrom has led the Illinois 4-H equine program for years as Extension equine specialist. In addition to hosting the annual contest, she mentors the young people advancing to national competition in horse judging, speaking, horse bowl, and Hippology. That one-on-one time creates lasting bonds with the young people going through her programs.
For 1,347 4-H members, the next few days will bring the end of high school and the beginning of what comes next.
What comes next may mean new homes, new friends, new jobs, new pursuits, new lives. Wherever and whatever next means for you, let 4-H carry you through the challenging days. Never doubt you are well prepared for what comes next.
Sometimes learning comes in thundering waves; other times as tiny nuggets of wisdom.
More than 500 4-H members studied through the winter and early spring to learn as much as they could about the horse industry. They competed in four regional contests until the best of the best remained to compete in the Illinois State 4-H Horse Bowl, Hippology, and Horse Speaking contests held on campus April 13-14.
Never doubt how hard Katelyn Hamilton is willing to work. The Randolph County 4-H member has faced serious challenges, yet she has emerged stronger and more determined in spite of them.
Katelyn spent the first 28 days of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit. Doctors said she would likely be wheelchair bound and unable to care for herself. She proved them wrong. At age 5, Katelyn's family home was destroyed, and her family was forced to move frequently.
Aaron Dufelmeier is living the dream, just down the road from where his Extension journey began.
Dufelmeier manages the Extension program in Calhoun, Cass, Greene, Morgan, and Scott counties. In April, he hosted Dr. Kim Kidwell, dean of the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Shelly Nickols-Richardson, interim director of U of I Extension.
The benefits of overnight camping extend far beyond the simple joys that come from eating roasted marshmallows and jumping into a cool lake on a hot day. Overnight camping is a valued part of the 4-H experience for thousands of children each year and teaches valuable lessons, whether campers realize it at the time or not.
It's that time of year when the minds of 4-H storytellers turn to impact reports.
My understanding of impact has changed in the years since I first studied ag communications in the basement of Mumford Hall. It took real life to show me what my professors tried so hard to teach me.
Impact isn't what I did; impact is WHAT CHANGED IN OTHERS because I did something.
In my early days "doing" 4-H work, I thought it was enough that I held events. I counted heads in the room and thought I was doing my job. Thirty-five years later, I finally get it.
On Purpose. With Purpose.
There is a difference.
Many of us do great things with purpose. We are amazing employees. We conquer difficult tasks. We study with purpose, work with purpose, live with purpose, but how much of what we do with purpose is on purpose? There is a difference.
On purpose means there was a conscious choice, a deliberate decision with mindful clarity to do something, to be something. On purpose actions are driven by choice. How many of the great things you do are by your choice?
Peter and Isaac didn't know each other before arriving at 4-H Memorial Camp, but two days in, each has found his new best friend. There's something about fresh air, campfires, starry nights, and lake water that brings out the best in humanity.
For kids in need in Boone and Winnebago counties, kindness is wrapped in a warm sleeping bag.
For four years, 15-year-old 4-H member Serenity Brockman has used her allowance and birthday money to buy child-themed sleeping bags for children in need. This year, Serenity enlisted the help of her fellow Boone County 4-H Federation members.
"It just made me so sad how many children were affected," Serenity said. She has learned of children living in poverty, children abused or neglected, and children affected by accidents or house fires.
Sometimes we take for granted the simple, everyday, every-year things which make our lives complete. Take birthdays. We all have them, but 4-H members learned that many of their peers don't get to enjoy birthdays in the same way the 4-H youth do.
Carl Schmidgall knows how to take a bad situation and make it better.
His sister, Korri, wrecked her Jeep when she hit a patch of black ice coming home from basketball practice. She was fine, but the Jeep was totaled. It sat in the machine shed at home for two years before Carl decided to rebuild it, bigger and better.
We have a holiday tradition in our home. No, it has nothing to do with putting up decorations or cooking our favorite holiday recipe. Ever since the children were old enough to understand, we always try to do one thing.
Every time we go in a store to shop, we drop something in the kettle. The thought is simple, if we have enough money for ourselves; we have enough for others. You may have a similar tradition, such as sponsoring a child or senior citizen during the holidays, or supporting other local giving opportunities.
When your survival depends on feeding a growing world population, who better to call than a 4-H alum who has spent his professional career working to maximize crop outputs on every acre. Sam Eathington's connection to agriculture started young growing up on a grain and livestock farm in west-central Illinois.
"4-H gave me an opportunity to learn more about the science behind the farm," Sam said. "Although I grew up on farm, exposure to new people and elements of agriculture fostered a passion that I still apply in my work today."
October 1 starts the biggest week in 4-H, National 4-H Week. 4-H membership is 6 million strong across the country, with more than 25 million alumni.
Last year, more than 25,000 youth were 4-H club members in Illinois; another 170,000 youth were involved in 4-H through camps, after school programs, and school enrichment programs.