Ian Hawes and William Phillips take aim at a 4-H archery project, open to all 4-H clubs in Yolo County. Courtesy photo

Ian Hawes and William Phillips take aim at a 4-H archery project, open to all 4-H clubs in Yolo County. Courtesy photo

Agriculture + Environment

4-H about more than just livestock

By April 28, 2011

When Claire Phillips was a child growing up in Arbuckle, 4-H opened the door to crafts and activities she might never have done otherwise, from learning how to work with leather — making a belt and a wallet — to raising livestock, and plenty of other arts and crafts along the way.

Now that her 9-year-old son is in 4-H here in Davis, she’s getting to experience the joys of the program all over again.

“It’s a lot of the same things,” she noted.

And then some.

Archery and rocketeering are just two of the popular 4-H activities her son and others have enjoyed in recent years. They’ve also learned cooking, how to tie a fly for fly fishing, how to grow tomatoes and much more.

“It’s not just farm animals,” said Davis parent Jill Bonner, whose son Ian Hawes is a member of the Golden Valley 4-H. “We have arts and crafts, geocaching, entomology, cooking … Of course you can raise a pig and do all of that, but we do a lot more too.”

The 4-H program has been around for more than 100 years, bringing hands-on science and youth development to children around the country. 4-H stands for the four-fold development of youth: head, heart, hands and health. In Yolo County, the program is administered through the UC Cooperative Extension, serving more than 450 children ages 5 to 19.

Davis is home to nearly 100 4-H members who belong to three different 4-H clubs: Golden Valley, Norwood and West Plainfield. The activities that members of each club engage in depend largely on what their parents bring to the table. As when Phillips was a child in Arbuckle and her mother started a 4-H sewing group, parents of today’s 4-Hers bring their own interests and expertise to members, whether it’s leading a hiking group, a canning group or any other group.

“The groups change year to year based on what parents want to do and what groups they want to start,” said Phillips, who serves as club leader of the Golden Valley 4-H.

And like when Phillips was young, many of the groups are made up of kids of all ages, something she loved as a child.

“I have lots of good memories of being able to hang out with kids older than me who would never have given me the time of day otherwise — really positive, fun kids,” Phillips said.

Bonner, whose 9-year-old son is in his second year with 4-H, has seen that herself.

“Some of the older kids are so mentoring,” she said. “I’ve been so impressed with how patient they are helping out the younger kids.”

Bonner said many kids choose a 4-H club because a friend or other children they know are in it. Others choose based on convenience and schedules. Golden Valley and Norwood both hold monthly meetings at Holmes Junior High School — each on different days of the week — and West Plainfield meets at Lillard Hall out on County Road 95.

But members of one club can join a project or group in another club, and all work together much like different Scout troops would.

As for parent responsibilities, “there are so many ways for families to be involved,” Phillips said, whether it’s leading a group or community service project, or bringing snacks to meetings.

“There’s a variety of roles for families to take,” she said.

To get a sense of just what 4-H has to offer, the public is invited to the annual Yolo County 4-H Spring Show this weekend at the Yolo County Fairgrounds. There, many 4-H members from around the county will be showing off the projects they’ve been working on all year, whether it’s an animal they’ve raised, clothing they’ve made or a rocket they’ll be launching. Exhibits will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Organizers compare it to the Yolo County Fair, without all the rides. They’ll even have food vendors selling typical fair fare like cotton candy.

The fun actually kicks off on Friday with Farm Connection Day, when 4-H and Future Farmers of America students host more than 1,000 elementary school students for exhibits and demonstrations at the fairgrounds.

Families are also invited to learn more about 4-H at an information night being held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at Holmes Junior High School, 1220 Drexel Drive.

“We’ll have a powerpoint, information about what the projects are, leadership, achievement awards and more,” Bonner said.

Families can also learn more by visiting http://ceyolo.ucdavis.edu/4-H_Program.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or (530) 747-8051.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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