Celebrating 4-H During Extension & Outreach Week

Photo courtesy of AgriNews.com

Musings of a Pig Farmer
by Larry Sailer

Today Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will officially sign a proclamation, declaring March 25-31 as Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Week.  Last year about 1.8 million people, including almost 94,000 youth, benefited from ISU Extension and Outreach educational programs.

One of the strongest and largest Extension programs benefitting youth is 4-H.  4-H youth programs provide opportunities for youth to develop skills they can use now and throughout their life.

As someone who has farmed for 50 years, I can attest to the value of learning life skills as a youngster.  Life skills are abilities individuals can learn that will help them to be successful in living a productive and satisfying life.  Goal setting, problem management, resiliency are just a few examples of the skills that have come into play as I’ve raised row crops, hogs and a family in rural Franklin County, Iowa.

My great grandfather bought our home farm in 1904.  When his oldest daughter got married, he moved to the farm where I grew up.  He kept meticulous notes and passed down his love of the land.  You might say that farming is in my blood; it seemed only natural when I bought my first pigs in 1966 when I was a freshman in high school.  Those pigs were my FFA project for four years and helped open the door to farming.

I bought my farm in 1972, which was a boom time for agriculture.  I was up to 1,000 acres when the 1980s Farm Crisis hit.  I lost 700 acres of land that I was renting when my lender refused to let me pay more than $80 per acre for rent, and even in those days, that was far below the going rate.

To make ends meet, I turned my attention from raising crops to raising buildings.  I started my own construction company and became a subcontractor.  I traveled 10 states, putting up hog buildings.  That meant my wife, Janice, and our five children had to run the farm and pigs to feed while I was on the road.

Our kids developed a strong work ethic and learned to take responsibility from a young age.  Through their involvement in 4-H, they also developed life skills.  As much as they hated doing the paperwork, their 4-H projects helped them understand the importance of keeping good records.  I know their 4-H experiences helped them become successful in their jobs today.

And that’s why, during Extension & Outreach Week, I’d like to give a shout-out to the thousands of people who volunteer their time to help guide the next generation of state leaders and life-long learners.  Almost 10,000 volunteers guide 4-H members in becoming productive citizens, outstanding communicators, effective leaders, and successful learners. In a recent survey, one Iowa volunteer shared:

“I feel a great sense of excitement and pride when youth accomplish something they never thought they could do. It is wonderful to see kids work through a project and feel proud of what they can do. This keeps me volunteering in school and church, as well as the 4-H program. I believe youth can be encouraged to do great things.”

You can help encourage youth to get things by getting involved in your local communities.  In celebration of 100 years of the 4-H program and of Extension and Outreach Week, Franklin County Extension is trying to get 100 “likes” on its Facebook page.  I “like” Franklin County Extension and hope you will, too!