February 2008
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

By James Shropshire

It is New Year’s Day 2008 as I sit down to write this article. Welcome back! I hope your new year has started off extremely well. There are so many ways to make a difference with the youth of Alabama. Please take the time to find a way to influence the youth in your area in a positive way.

4-H has so many events ready to start this spring. Many contests in the counties will be going on to find the best projects and youth to go on to the state contest. Teams are preparing for Livestock, Meats, Agri-Knowledge and Horse Judging contests as well as Quiz Bowls, just to name a few. February and March will see the final days of most of the steer projects started last summer. Remember each and every kid is a winner for just finishing the project; it doesn’t just mean the champion is the only winner. Each of these boys and girls have made a strong commitment and worked hard on this project. And yes, along the way they have learned skills of selection, feeding, clipping, grooming and showmanship as well as hard work, time management and information on how America is fed by our farmers and ranchers. Congratulations to everyone of you for a job well done!

A question that’s often asked of me is "What does 4-H do?" Since many people know 4-H has historical roots in the corn and tomato clubs of rural America, they are unsure how 4-H has evolved to meet modern young people’s needs. As a drive through Alabama demonstrates, the number of people living on farms is a small fraction of what it once was. So what is the purpose of 4-H in a time when very few young people keep chickens or grow corn?

Modern 4-H focuses on developing young people to be leaders in a changing society. Research emphasizes the importance of meeting four basic human needs: belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. In Alabama 4-H, we use the mnemonic BIG M to remind us of those goals. We reach those goals through youth programming in science, engineering, technology, the arts and other subjects focusing on contemporary youth interests.

· Belonging – Youth need to know they are cared about by others and feel a sense of connection to others in group settings. 4-H gives youth the opportunity to feel physically and emotionally safe while actively participating in a group and working as part of a team.

· Independence – Youth need to know they are able to influence people and events through their decision-making and their actions. By exercising independence through 4-H leadership opportunities, youth mature in self-discipline and responsibility and learn to better understand themselves. They learn to make choices by making choices and, since they are human, it is expected they will make mistakes.

· Generosity – Youth need to feel their lives have meaning and purpose. By exploring 4-H community service and citizenship activities, youth can connect to communities and learn to give back to others. Through such amazing programs as The Alabama 4-H War on Hunger, they learn sharing and caring are rich and important aspects of the American experience.

· Mastery – Youth need to feel and believe they are capable, and they need to experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. That helps them become sure and confident. Through the exploration of ideas and activities related to their interests, youth learn skills and participate in experiences that help them make positive life choices for their future.

It’s an exciting time to be connected to 4-H in Alabama. Never before have so many young people needed the belonging, independence, generosity and mastery 4-H can help them develop.

Until next time, God Bless!

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region. E-mail him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?subject=From%20alafarmnews.com">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..