Our Views: Linn 4-H Club and all 4-H clubs deserve support

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

For decades, Wisconsin has been honoring Century Farms—those in the same family for 100 years.

The Century Farm and Home Program started in 1948 in conjunction with the state's centennial celebration. Since then, thousands of such families have been honored annually at the state fair.

Perhaps it's time to likewise recognize Century 4-H Clubs. First up would be the Linn 4-H Club from the Walworth County town of Linn. That might surprise residents in Janesville, where the Rock County 4-H Fair is recognized as the oldest 4-H fair in the U.S. and marks its 85th year July 22-27. While not labeled as a 4-H youth fair, the Walworth County Fair, this year running Aug. 27 to Sept. 1, likewise attracts projects from many 4-H members.

As Andrea Anderson chronicled in Monday's Gazette, agronomist Thomas L. Bewick became the state's first 4-H program leader and visited the town of Linn on Oct. 30, 1914. The Linn 4-H Club started that night with Mae Hatch as its first leader.

Today, Wisconsin has about 350,000 4-H members and nearly 18,000 adult volunteers statewide. Linn has 59 club members from more than 30 families.

While statewide membership fluctuates, there's good reason why 4-H has stayed strong. The four H's stand for improving head, heart, hands and health. In striving toward that goal, children who often lack direction and positive role models find them among adult volunteers who serve 4-H clubs.

In 4-H, children learn initiative and commitment, respect and responsibility. They develop skills such as animal care, crafts, woodworking, photography and rocketry. They learn to become independent and civic-minded and about leadership. Many kids serve as officers in their clubs and build foundations for future careers.

The Linn 4-H Club and others across the state have adapted to cultural changes such as the urban shift of families. In decades past, most 4-H club members only needed to step outside to tend to the cows, chickens, sheep or hogs on their family farms. Today, many club members live in cities and lean on farmers to house the animals they'll exhibit at fairs.

None of this would be possible without dedicated adults. Like the families who work Century Farms, these volunteers often span generations. They help our children reap lessons in better agriculture production methods and work ethic.

Employers know that if a job applicant's resume shows 4-H leadership positions, that business has found a teen or young adult worth hiring.

For all these reasons and more, the Linn 4-H Club and all 4-H clubs in south-central Wisconsin deserve our support.

Gazette editorials express the views of the newspaper's editorial board. Readers are encouraged to comment on editorials through letters to the editor.

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