4-H youth, families ready for county fair

4-H youth show their goats at the Franklin County Fair in Malone. (Photo provided — Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County 4-H)

4-H is one of the leading youth organizations in North America and almost certainly the most recognized of all the programs delivered by Cooperative Extension.

Encompassing a community of 100 land-grant universities across the United States, the 4-H national network of 500,000 volunteers and 3,500 4’H professionals provides caring and supportive mentoring to more than 6 million boys and girls, ages 5 to 19 — nearly 170,000 in New York alone. 4’H reaches kids in every corner of America, from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities, providing opportunities for members to meet new friends, learn and grow new life skills, experience leadership, contribute to community and much, much more.

In fact, the 4-H organization is a highly regarded institution around the world, with independent 4-H-style youth programs reaching an additional 7 million young people in more than 80 other countries. Each program operates independently, adapted to meet the needs of the country it has been developed in, but all share the goal of improving the lives of young people.

Ask a 4-H youth-member what 4-H is about, and you’ll get answers like fun, learning and doing really cool things. But 4-H is much more than that.

When a child joins 4-H, he or she takes membership in an informal and truly unique education setting, one that enhances the life skills of its member children through training, education and play, and that stimulates their interests and challenges their abilities. 4-H programs cultivate social, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies in a positive environment. Children receive guidance from adult mentors who work to better prepare them to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood, and to take on proactive leadership roles in their community and around the world.

Young people are the future farmers who will feed the world in and beyond the second half of this century. They’re the drivers of change as well. And with a more than 100-year history grounded in agriculture and a focus on developing high-quality, positive skills in leadership and innovation, 4-H is uniquely positioned to equip young people in every corner of the planet with the awareness, the know-how and the experience they’ll need to develop solutions to the vital local, regional, national and global challenges that they’ll be facing in the future.

In New York state, the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H organization promotes youth development through 4-H clubs, in-school and after-school programs, and by offering opportunities for 4-H club-members to participate in National 4-H Conferences, statewide events at Cornell University and elsewhere, and county and New York state fairs.

Our 4-H educators and volunteers are committed to providing experiences for young people to learn by doing. And to recognize young people for their accomplishments. They believe that every child has the potential to succeed, that every child is a winner and that the best way for children to believe they are winners is for them to see themselves winning.

4-H youth projects help young people develop skills, gain knowledge and build confidence. In fact, their club projects represent the culmination of a year of learning, effort and using their talent. Franklin County 4-H-ers will be exhibiting their club projects in the 4-H Youth Building at the 169th Franklin County Fair, taking place this year from Aug. 2 to 11.

Participation in fair activities is an opportunity and a privilege for 4-H members. If a child chooses to participate, he or she is asking for a competent adult evaluator to discuss and appraise his or her project and provide an informed opinion about the quality of his or her participation. Judges award placement ribbons (blue, red, white) not just on the overall quality of the finished project with regard to the member’s age but on the learning he or she demonstrates during the interview as well.

The Franklin County Fair has a long and rich tradition of supporting 4-H programs and 4-H youth. For more than a century, the fair has been a place for 4-H members to come together to showcase their skills, craftsmanship, showmanship and animals. Although the fair is not actually a part of the 4-H program and Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Fair Board are not directly related, both organizations have been cooperating for generations to assure continued success.

It’s easy to join 4-H. You can find a club that fits your child’s interests by contacting your local CCE office. And if you’d like to get involved as well, why not become one of the many parents, volunteers and community leaders sharing their time and talent with 4-H youth?

And while you’re at it, check out 4-H at the Franklin County Fair.