More heart than head: Discovering connections
I admit it. I never was part of 4-H when I was a kid. I wasn't involved in FFA, either.
Being the musical type, I just didn't connect with that in my junior high and high school days. My afternoons were spent hanging out with other musical types in the choir room. Talking about music, listening to music, rehearsing music. This course of action was broken up throughout the year with preparations for state solo contests or honor choir tryouts, as well as choreographing the stage blocking, learning the lines and building the sets for spring musicals.
So much music, so little time.
I had friends in both 4-H and FFA, but that was the closest connection I ever had.
Several years ago, I began covering 4-H and FFA as part of my beat at The Observer. Through all the interviews and stories I've done, I found a real connection while observing and reporting on these two wonderful youth programs.
At the pinnacle of what I have observed is an awareness that the kids immersed in these programs seem to be rather less immersed in themselves. A good thing in these days of the "I, me and my" generation.
Now, before I get letters from all you parents of kids not involved in these programs, let me add that getting your child into 4-H and FFA isn't the only way to grow a great kid. I know because we have two great kids and neither of them have ever shown much interest in either program. (Both musical, artistic types — go figure.)
In fact, the only member of our family to have been involved in either program is my husband Andy. His stories of the 4-H cooking club his mother led for him and his friends in grade school are legendary. As are the stories of his blue-ribbon prize winning "Snappy Snacks." But that's another column.
Anyway, not having experienced either an FFA chapter or 4-H club hasn't stopped me personally from becoming a not-so-secret admirer of both programs. Now that I know what I know about them.
In fact, the more I learn, the more I realize the foundational importance the time-tested traditions of 4-H and FFA bring to rural communities.
Not every kid is good at music or sports. But every kid can be involved in a 4-H club. It seems that many 4-H and FFA kids take the self-discipline and team spirit taught in their clubs and chapters and apply those ethics to sports, academics, in their communities and on into life.
The rural 4-H tradition in Oregon is rooted in the solid foundation of Oregon State University's county Extension services. Which brings me — in my typically roundabout way — to introducing a new feature to the Ag Life page: A monthly column called "OSU Extension Connection — connecting Extension to the Community."
In order to make our readers more familiar with all Extension has to offer, once a month our local Extension staff will highlight something happening in Union County.
Besides 4-H, there are Extension programs too numerous and varied to mention here that wouldn't exist without the work of dedicated local staff and volunteers.
So, the next Ag Life page will feature an Extension Connection column on the Master Gardener's program written by Bob Thomas. Read it. Read them all in the months ahead. You'll discover lots to connect with.