Washington County 4-H’ers excel at Iowa State Fair and at home
As Washington County 4-H looks toward a new year and National 4-H Week, Oct. 6-12, the youth organization has new successes to propel them forward.
According to 4-H youth coordinator Amy Green, Washington County has the third highest enrollment in Iowa, with 400 plus members. The county’s goal for the 2013-14 year is to enroll 450 members.
As leaders and members recruit new members they can point to the successes this year’s members had at the Iowa State Fair. The county had 22 champions in livestock and non-livestock contests and 14 reserve champions. County 4-H’ers brought home 72 purple ribbons, 199 blue, 32 red, and two white. In communications, seven 4-H’ers received the excellence rating, seven earned the merit rating and three participation. The numbers include non-livestock and communications exhibitors.
“Washington County had more 4-H'ers involved in the swine show than any other county in Iowa,” Green said. “This year a total of 14 champions and reserves were earned in the swine department with youth from Washington County. The top three market pigs of the entire Iowa State Fair were from Washington County 4-H.”
There were a total 1,669 swine showed by 4-H’ers at the state fair. Sheep entries topped swine with 1,755. Beef entries totaled 1,669. Rabbits totaled 534; meat goats, 432; poultry, 412; dairy, 372; and horses, 281.
4-H’ers who show livestock at the state fair do not need to compete at the county level, as non-livestock and communications exhibitors do.
“Livestock is open enrollment, so if [4-H’ers] have the time and want to do that, they can,” Green said.
She said it can take a couple of years for younger 4-H’ers to learn how to show livestock.
“We have a lot of kids who show not just in the county fair, but out and about at different shows,” Green said. “They talk to people and they learn different ways of doing it.”
She said that non-livestock exhibitors and communications have to qualify at the county fair in order to go to the state fair. Thanks to the strong enrollment, 59 4-H’ers went on to the state fair.
“How they decide how many projects you can take is based on your year’s before enrollment,” she said. “So we were, last year, sixth or seventh in the state for enrollment and that earned us so many spots.”
As the Washington County 4-H organization moves forward, Green said that 4-H is changing.
“There’s not as many country kids, so [we’re] trying to tap into the town kids or city kids,” she said. “There’s so much now going on — a new curriculum is being made and programs are being offered.”
As the county 4-H program grows, Green said the county needs to recruit more adult volunteers.
“We have some clubs in our Washington area that are getting bigger, bigger and bigger and Washington’s our largest town in the county,” she said. “Last year, we got to the point where I said we need more grownups.”
Green said that 4-H likes the ration of one adult for every 10 4-H’ers. Adult volunteers are needed to help the 4-H clubs, but adults could also volunteer to help with one event or share their expertise in a way that doesn’t ask them to volunteer on a monthly basis.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” she said. “4-H can grow in a lot of angles.”
One area of growth that began a few years ago was Clover Kids for children in kindergarten through third grade. There are eight Clover Kids’ clubs.
“This year, we had over 160 kids, which is huge,” Green said. “The most promising number — I think last year we had 25 third-graders and 23 of them enrolled in 4-H. It’s good to see that when they graduate out, they’re moving up. That’s definitely important to us.”
Another area of growth are two programs that seek to develop leadership skills in older 4-H’ers. Members who want to participate in County Council or on the ELITE project team first go through a training program called Leadership Development, which is for anyone who has reached ninth grade or above. The program is a yearlong commitment. Once 4-H’ers complete the training, they can apply to be on County Council or the ELITE team. The County Council is a well-developed program in the county, while the ELITE team is a recent addition.
Green said that so many older 4-H’ers wanted to be on County Council that the organization came up with another group.
“ELITE stands for Enthusiastic Leaders Inspiring Teamwork and Experiences,” she said. “They plan two major new events. That group this [past] year decided we needed to invest in our intermediates, who are seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.”
ELITE did an event for the intermediates in January that included some education and some fun. They also did the project “Little Hands on the Farm” at the county fair.
This past year, there was one 4-H member who joined as an independent member.
“We want to remain flexible for kids who don’t fit a traditional club,” she said. “They have a mentor and they are still required to do a presentation and community service.”
Washington County has 17 clubs. There are two specialty clubs that meet— the Horse & Pony Club and Bows & Bullets.
For more information about 4-H, please call the Washington County Extension office at 319-653-4811.