The recognition surrounding National 4-H Week may be coming to an end but the program’s impact and importance to youth in communities across the U.S. remains.
4-H has around 6 million participants nationwide, with 2.6 million of those rural youth. It is the largest youth development organization in the country.
In 2020, Wilkin County 4-H was in the state’s top five programs for the number of youth served based on the youth population, Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development Monique Stelzer said previously.
“Minnesota 4-H is a welcoming place for all youth,” Stelzer said. “Our theme for this year’s 4-H Week is ‘Find Your Spark!’ and that’s a great way to describe how 4-H can make a positive impact on a young person’s life.”
This year, the program continues to help youth grow personally and professionally. National 4-H Week is a time to reflect on some of those successes and look forward to the future.
One youth who has benefitted from the program and overcome personal adversity is Breckenridge High School ninth grader Logan Church. He joined Wilkin County 4-H two years ago, and through the help of his best friend, Breckin Anderson, Church began a 4-H beef project.
He soon discovered his prospect market steer calf, Oliver, was an Olivia. Church adjusted to the situation, and decided to grow and show an Angus Holstein cross breeding heifer instead. Due to COVID-19, he was unable to show Olivia in 2020, but in 2021, she made up for it. Church took home a total of five ribbons from the 2021 Wilkin County Fair, including three first place ribbons and two reserved champion ribbons. He also earned a state fair trip.
But it isn’t his accolades Church is most proud of, it’s his cow. Olivia is now pregnant, and Church plans to show both her and her calf at the 2022 Wilkin County Fair.
“I’m most proud of how far Olivia has come from where she started as a little calf to (being) a fat, pregnant cow now — there’s nothing like it. I loved it,” Church said.
Taking care of Olivia and showing her at the fair was no small task. Church spent four to five hours every weekend at Anderson’s farm in Campbell, Minnesota, where Olivia stays, preparing her for competition and doing chores. The day of the show, he had to wash her down, then present her to a panel of judges, answering their questions.
Church said he’s not looking forward to the day he will have to say goodbye to Olivia. As a breeding heifer, she will continue to birth calves until she is too old or cannot breed any longer. The Andersons, who have dozens of cows, are used to the parting process, but Church has not experienced it yet.
“It’s like having your first dog or cat go,” Church said. “It will be very sad.”
In the year and a half he has worked with Olivia, Church has made a fair share of memories, but his favorite is when he took her into the showing arena, and while he was scratching her neck, she began licking his face. It has become his most cherished moment since joining the program.
In addition to specific projects, 4-H youth participate in group projects, like building a rabbit tent, a feat that took them several days to complete.
Some youth take on more animals or projects, but Church can only do so much considering his other commitments. The high schooler is involved in football, baseball, basketball and band.
Church said he will stay in 4-H throughout his high school career. After he graduates, he plans to attend North Dakota State College of Science to undergo the culinary arts program. Someday, he wants to open his own restaurant in the Twin Towns.
The skills he has learned and will continue to cultivate in 4-H will undoubtedly assist him in achieving his dream.
“(People do not) understand the time and effort people put into an animal or their project. We put a lot of effort into it,” Church said. “4-H shows you how hard it is, farming wise and agriculture wise. You gotta take risks and you gotta put time into things. It’s nothing to joke around about — you gotta take it seriously, but have fun with it.”