By Hannah Wall
Mille Lacs County 4-H coordinator
4-H has something for everyone! Youth can join 4-H in Kindergarten through one year past high school. During that time, they are invited to participate in community service projects, create their own projects to present at county fair, and develop leadership skills that help them well past their years in 4-H.
4-H has something to offer everyone through their wide variety of project areas to choose from. From science and technology, leadership, healthy living, and animal science, youth are able to spread their wings and excel in which ever area most interests them. A common misconception is that 4-H is agriculture focused, which is how it may have started out, but that is certainly not the case anymore. Livestock classes are still offered, but some of the other areas that receive a lot of interest are Photography, Food and Nutrition, and Crafts and Fine Arts.
In 2011, approximately 71,000 Minnesota youth participated in an Extension Youth Development program, representing all areas of the state. No matter which project they choose, through 4-H youth will learn public speaking skills, how to collaborate, understand government and community, and how to develop and reach life and career goals, by A study by Tufts University found that youth who participate in 4-H typically have better grades; are more emotionally engaged with school; are more than twice as likely to be civically active and contribute to their communities; are 47% less likely to have risky or problem behaviors.
There are currently 12 4-H clubs in Mille Lacs County. The clubs are located throughout the county, stretching all the way from Princeton to Onamia. There are about 400 active members in the Mille Lacs County 4-H Program and almost 100 volunteers that help make these 4-H programs a success.
This year, Mille Lacs County 4-H’ers represented our county well down at the State Fair as they showcased their projects that are just an example of their hard work and dedication. State Fair is an extra and exciting opportunity for youth if they were selected at the County level to win a trip exhibit their project at State Fair.
Although the County and State Fair may be the place where youth have the opportunity to showcase their work, there are many other activities throughout the year that provide leadership opportunities and the chance to learn new skills. Just a few examples of these activities are a food workshop, a workshop focusing on creating a dinner theme, nutritional value of the foods being prepared, and the chance for hands on learning while making a delicious meal for others. Shooting sports camp is a highlight each year for those who may be interested in the shooting sports and wildlife project. It is held at Father Hennepin State Park in Isle, MN each year and provides that opportunity for fun activities set in the great outdoors!
Right now is the perfect time to join 4-H if you are interested. This can be done in two ways, online at http://wwwl.extension.umn.edu/youth/mn4-h/ or you can come into the Mille Lacs County 4-H Extension Office which is located on the top floor of the Mille Lacs County Historical Courthouse. If you have any questions or would like more information about 4-H in Mille Lacs County, please call 320-983-8317.