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How can you contribute 'To Make the Best Better' through 4-H engagement?

Katie Pinke looks at the positive impact of 4-H on youth.

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"To Make the Best Better" is the 4-H motto and one that can be built upon in every county in America, says Katie Pinke. Pictured are Northwood Meadowlarks 4-H members learning woodworking skills and building a project together, alongside parent helpers.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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Last Sunday afternoon, we drove to a nearby Knights of Columbus Hall in rural North Dakota for an annual 4-H awards banquet, the 76th annual in Grand Forks County.

Every county in America has an Extension office that offers 4-H programming to all kids and families. That includes those urban counties where your cousins live on the coast or your grandkids live in a big town.

My husband, Nathan, my two daughters and I in 2020 joined with many families in our small town to start a new 4-H club. If you do not find a 4-H club that meets your needs, your local county Extension agent and office assist you in getting a new club started.

Last year, we had 48 different kids attend our club meetings and participate in projects. Twenty four club members participated in the county fair. It’s all new for most of them, and they’re engaging in new skills, learning how to be better community members and exploring opportunities that may not otherwise be available to them.

Each month, I actively see 4-H’s motto, "To Make the Best Better," at work with all types of kids in our corner of rural America. Next month, our club will have its monthly meeting, followed by a Christmas party. This year, club members chose to continue developing their lefse-making skills started last year. The project builds on learning a heritage Norwegian delicacy many ancestors of our area enjoyed, and now our 4-H members are learning to roll and fry to enjoy with butter and sugar at holiday time.

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While headlines and negative happenings in our world often have us questioning what is ahead for our kids and future, I try to think of how we can impact positive change in our own backyard, in our own communities and counties. 4-H is often a positive solution I turn to and purposefully volunteer as a leader to contribute to positive change.

New in 2022 45 4-Hers in our county were awarded Showcase Awards, totaling $9,485, according to McKayla Fleming, 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent for NDSU Extension in Grand Forks County. The funding came from 49 area businesses and organizations that donated $15,000. Additionally, fair premiums are separate funds from the fair board, and the county commission’s support of the 4-H program dates to at least 1964. Showing up and supporting 4-H and kids of all kinds isn’t new, and we can continue to find different ways to grow support for 4-H, no matter our location.

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Parliamentary procedure and record keeping are two skills that Elizabeth Pinke, age 14, said she learned the most from through her 4-H years. She's shown at the 2022 Greater Grand Forks County Fair, preparing to show her Hereford heifer.
Courtesy / Laura Schweigert Photography

On our way home from the 4-H awards, I asked our daughter Elizabeth, age 14, what the best learning experience she’s had from being a 4-H member was. I expected it to be a beef, sewing or baking skills-related answer, all passions and interests she’s developed, honed and grown through 4-H projects.

Instead, Elizabeth’s answer surprised me. She answered, “Parliamentary procedure, by far. It’s how all meetings should be run, and most do not know how to do it. And record keeping — when you do something, you keep records.” The practical life skills she’s learned will transcend far beyond her 4-H years I believe.

I followed up with McKayla following the county 4-H banquet and asked about a growth aspect of 4-H from the past year she’s seen and how has it positively impacted 4-H members.

“As we are starting the new 4-H year, our enrollment numbers have already increased by 15 youth since last year. We have also started a new 4-H club in Manvel, North Dakota, (population 378) which hasn’t had a club for a number of years. Starting a club there allows 4-H to reach a whole new group of youth. Increasing our enrollment numbers allows for more positive youth development opportunities, more friendships, new ideas to improve our 4-H program, and more competition in competitive events such as the Fair and Communication Arts which will “Make the Best Better.”

Want to contribute to making the best better? Support your local 4-H clubs, county fair showcases, offer project support, volunteer for club activities throughout the year. No matter our ages or skill levels, we can contribute to building our future in our communities through kids.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

Related Topics: PINKE POSTRURAL LIFE
Katie Pinke serves as Agweek and AgweekTV's publisher and general manager and since 2015 has written a weekly column. Pinke resides in rural North Dakota with her husband and children where she is a 4-H leader, active community volunteer, and a proud fifth-generation farmers' daughter.
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