Although the 4-H organization that is annually front and center at the Butler County Fair this week has a strong number of members whose main purpose is learning about the processes and skills it takes to raise and show farm animals, there is another side members want to highlight doesn’t involve animals.
The organization was started in Clark County in 1902 by country schoolmaster A. B. Graham. Now, thanks to Graham and pioneers and volunteers throughout 4-H’s history, millions are taking strides to better themselves and their community through projects and competitions.
More than 800 members ranging from 5 to 19 years old and 125 volunteers make up the Butler County 4-H organization. Members are able to participate and widen their skill sets in subjects such as animals, cooking, art, sewing, engineering, gardening, and a number of others.
But, even with the organization’s diverse set of subjects, 4-H tends to be put into a box and categorized as a club for showing and taking care of farm animals, members said.
Wendy Phair, a 4-H club advisor for the mystical maker sport club, has been an advisor for about 15 years and leads 30 members in the mainly non-animal aspect of 4-H. The club works on projects revolving around arts and crafts, sewing, and cooking.
“4-H is very individual-based for each child,” she said. “So if a kid wants to take more of a science path or they want to take more of a path with their animal, that’s their choice.”
Phair said that the emphasis on leadership and community building is what makes 4-H such a unique organization and notes the misconceptions that some hold about 4-H.
“I think there’s still this assumption that 4-H is strictly rooted in the rural agricultural community,” she said. “But it really has branched out from just that and has a heavy involvement in other areas that I don’t think people realize.”
Kaylynn Sackenheim, a 4-H alumnus, was involved with 4-H in Butler County for 14 years and credits the organization for shaping her work ethic, something that she says she has received many compliments on during her working career.
“If you’re involved with 4-H, you’re going to go away with an experience that you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise,” she said. “An experience worth putting the effort into.”
She continues on to speak on the common misconceptions that she has personally heard regarding 4-H and why it’s important to know that the organizations branches reach much farther than just livestock.
“There are some kids that have never shown animals and have been involved [with 4-H] for 10 to 15 years,” she said. “4-H is just so inclusive, I think anybody could find a project here to do that would interest them.”
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