June 2008
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

By James Shropshire

Welcome to summer 4-H. I don’t know about your family but if you have 4-H involvement, get ready to get busy. June brings an end to most Regional Congress Competitions and the winners get the chance to go to State Competitions. Summer Camp at the 4-H center runs for six three-day camps and gives hundreds of 4-H youth the opportunity to have fun and learn many new skills and meet friends from all over Alabama. Then June 12 we have our Annual Golf Tournament at FarmLinks that raises money through the 4-H Foundation to help every county in Alabama reach more 4-H Volunteers. Thank you to the Purcells (owners of FarmLinks) and the 4-H Foundation for all of their 4-H support.

Please take a few minutes and read about 4-H leadership, winners of State Achievement Awards and how to get our youth ready for the financial future of farm life!

One of the most important abilities we develop in 4-H is leadership. As we look around us, we recognize leaders who can inspire our communities, our state and our country will continue to be as important as they have ever been. We will only be as great as the people we choose to lead us.

Leaders and leadership are important topics. A quick web search finds more than 285 million citations of the term "Leader." So, what exactly is a leader?

You might say a leader is someone who helps others to reach their potential. A volunteer 4-H club leader helps young people build their sense of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. A corporate leader helps his or her employees develop the capacity to reach toward a shared vision of success. Leadership is not about telling people what to do, but inspiring them to see what they are capable of doing and giving them the tools they need to reach that level of success.

Effective leadership is essential to achievement, whether it’s the volunteer leader who works with youth or an executive of a large, international corporation. But what makes a good leader? Research suggests there are several key qualities: self-awareness, openness to change, personal commitment, willingness to look to others for support and a yearning to go the extra mile.

Self-awareness is crucial in facing challenges or moral choices. The effective leader has a strong sense of his or her values and priorities. For those of us in 4-H, this means the key values of "Head, Hands, Heart and Health" which we pledge to honor. The individual’s level of self-awareness is extremely obvious in the ethics and actions of government, religious and organizational leaders.

Openness to change defines leadership. Change is one of life’s most obvious factors, yet remains one of the most strongly resisted. Every organization and every society is constantly in motion, continually changing, forever adapting. Effective leaders recognize the value of change and can aid in directing or channeling that change.

A good leader is committed. He or she can be relied upon as a mentor, a person who prompts others to be their best, someone who cares and listens, someone confident in their own beliefs who is willing to be there for the people who serve them and the organization.

Good leaders know they don’t know everything. While the ultimate decision and responsibility may lie with one person, it is incumbent upon her or him to gather information and trust others’ points of view before developing a plan-of-action.

Good leaders go the extra mile. Many great leaders demonstrate a lifetime of small acts of leadership. This leadership may show in something as simple as a word of encouragement or something so great as a powerful vision and a finely-tuned plan for reaching that vision.


The Alabama 4-H Achievement Awards identifies outstanding Alabama 4-H members who have excelled in their 4-H career. Applications are judged by a screening committee of Extension professionals, 4-H Volunteers and appropriate industry representatives. Interviews for the awards were held at the Alabama 4-H Center on April 26, 2008.

Amelia Spradley, an 8-year 4-H member in Pike County, won the Beef Production Achievement sponsored by the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Amelia has learned to fit her steers and heifers for showing and teaches younger exhibitors the tips she has developed.

Ellen Rankins, a 6-year 4-H member in Lee County, won the Equine Science. Ellen volunteers at Storybook Farm, a therapeutic riding center for children with autism. Her club helped to expand the library for these children.

Anna Leigh Peek, a 6-year 4-H member in Limestone County, won the Poultry Science sponsored by the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association. Her Chef 4-H demonstrations included the three different grades of eggs and how to safely prepare egg dishes. She has competed in the National 4-H Poultry and Egg Conference in Louisville, KY.

Sawyer Spratlin, an 8-year member in Randolph County, won in Natural Resources. He is challenged to use his imagination and creativity to view the world through a different point-of-view. He has photographed, drawn, studied and observed wildlife and nature. This project has taught Sawyer to respect the environment and to work to share his skills with others.

Azeem Ahmed, a 6-year member in Lee County, won for Community Service at Senior Level II, ages 16-19. Azeem volunteers within the Auburn Community. He has coordinated service projects with the Red Cross, East Alabama Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and the March of Dimes.

Aleem Ahmed, a 6-year member in Lee County, won for Community Service at Senior Level I, ages 14-15. Aleem has learned decision-making and independent-thinking in 4-H. Skills learned through 4-H helped him make phone calls, coordinate events, write emails and even writes a monthly column in the local newspaper.

Erin O’Mary, a 4-year member in Marion County, won the Leadership/Citizenship at Senior Level I. Erin leads by example and has taught others to lead in their projects and events. She serves as the Marion County 4-H Ambassador Club treasurer and has coordinated travel for educational events.

Stephanie Stanford, a 9-year member in Clay County, won the Leadership/Citizenship at Senior Level II. Currently she is serving as Student Advisor to the State 4-H Council. Stephanie distributed no-sew blankets to nursing homes and collected can pull-tabs for the Ronald McDonald House.

Andrea Williamson, a 3-year member in Morgan County, won the Performing and Creative Arts sponsored by Rebecca and Ed Persons. Andrea’s interest in the arts, drama and especially music and dance has provided opportunity to serve others. She has worked with church groups and senior citizens, and performed in a benefit talent show.

Others who participated were Amber Henderson, Coffee County; Dalta Garrett, Shelby County; Amanda Ellenburg, Marshall County and Shellby Sands, Jackson County.

Achievement Applications show the Essential Elements of 4-H. Those are belonging, independence, generosity and mastery. For more information about becoming a 4-H member or a 4-H leader, please contact your local Alabama Cooperative Extension Office. The motto of 4-H is "To Make the Best Better."

Many rural children will be operating a family enterprise someday. Farms and ranches are big businesses operating in a high-risk economic environment. An essential management tool for farmers is financial management - capital investment, marketing, debt management, savvy purchasing, managing cash flow, accurate record keeping, income taxes, etc. Farmers have to also reduce the inherent risks that go with every farming season.

Children and young adults won’t automatically know how to do this without handling money and making decisions long before they reach management levels. Often they are taught farming skills and practices but left in the dark about business finances.

As young adults returning to the family farm, they may not understand the cost of new ideas or the risks involved. If adult children understand money management, they make better partners. Management philosophy is shared instead of being a point-of-conflict.

Learning to be comfortable with risk-taking develops when children take part in decisions, share in the risks, and experience the rewards and adverse consequences of their actions. When parents take it all on themselves, the next generation can feel paralyzed with fear when they eventually takeover. Many farming operations fall apart in succeeding generations because parents have been too controlling and haven’t shared decision-making of dollars and cents financial management.

What are some common mistakes? Don’t give children too much. Some parents buy new vehicles and fancy clothes for their children so they experience the rewards of life without earning them. The farm becomes a big piggy bank they get to raid once in a while. A tax write-off for a new pickup isn’t worth the inflated sense of value and expectations it creates.

Growing up feeling entitled to the best of everything is a setup for future disappointment. The children want to maintain their parent’s standard of living right from the start and go into debt to do so. Parents with considerable means have to be especially wise about what to give to their children. They must make a connection between risk, work and reward.

Another big mistake happens when parents bail their children out from paying for their own traffic tickets, car accident repairs, breakage, lost items or other expenses incurred by their own negligence. Children don’t learn to take responsibility – both personal and financial – for their actions.

When do you start teaching money management? Early - the younger the better. Let them handle and spend their own money. Let them deal with limited budgets where they have to make choices. When it’s gone, it’s gone. They learn the first rule of finances – don’t outspend your income.

Let them earn money for extra work beside their regular family duties. Their pay should be in-line with community standards for certain jobs so they get a connection between the world of labor and the cost of things. Allowances can help children get a start on money management until they reach an age when they can be rewarded for meaningful chores.

Some families cover only necessities and expect their children to pay for perks with their own money. Parents often strike deals with their children so when children earn a percentage of something expensive, the parents will make up the difference. Help them see how to shop sales and make their money go further. They also need to be savvy about the dangers of credit card interest.

Encourage regular savings. Let them have their own checking and savings account; encourage them to save toward future goals. Part of money management is learning to be generous, give gifts and use money to do good things for others.

Be a role model by living within your means. Plan for purchases, save and make the purchases with cash-on-hand. Talk about what is smart and what is dumb - the hard times and the good times. Talk about examples in the community.

Give them a stake. Teenagers should be allowed to participate in family business discussions, hear the decisions being kicked around, learn about financial hazards and understand the big picture. Even if they don’t have much to say, they will absorb information and learn about real risks and how decisions are made. They will learn to reason with you about business and money matters.

If feasible, let them work for someone else. They will learn about fair wages, how to deal with other employers, meet schedules and take responsibility. Working for someone else will help them develop work ethics and see their own farm a bit differently. Mom and Dad’s expectations about work and money will then be seen in perspective.

Caring and managing for their own livestock and other farm enterprises teaches entrepreneurial attitudes and skills. They see how farming works and how income is generated through buying and selling, breeding, good health practices and about absorbing mini-enterprise risks. The proceeds will help them pay for their college education.

Projects in 4-H are great tools for teaching money and enterprise management. The cost of input and labor are calculated and learned. They will see the payoff and learn the downside too - good training for a future partner someday! Make sure you do your part in this YOUTH EDUCATION!

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..