By Greg Ritchie
HOUSTON COUNTY – Houston County Commissioners Court approved a proclamation at their Tuesday, Sept. 26 meeting declaring Oct. 1-7 National 4-H week in Houston County. The commissioners heard from County Extension Agent Jo Smith who runs the local 4-H clubs, as well as members Landry Beaver and Tobi Curless who told about how 4-H had affected their lives and given them skills and experiences they would never have had, otherwise.
The proclamation recognized Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for making the program possible and for the 115 years 4-H has provided experience-based education to youth throughout the Lone Star State.
“This admirable program, which seeks to provide a learning experience for all youth through their head, heart, hands, and health, helps young Texans to acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes to enable them to become self-directed, productive and contributing members of our society,” the proclamation read. “The program’s more than 550,000 urban, suburban and rural youth participants, ranging in age from eight to eighteen come from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and truly represent a cross-section of the state.”
The kids in Houston County’s 4-H stay busy in one of the four community clubs around the county and the two project clubs, the Piney Woods Horse Club and the Houston County Shooting Sports Club. While agricultural activities will always remain at the heart of 4-H, there is universe of options for kids, according to Smith, who has been involved with 4-H since she was old enough to join.
“The unique thing about 4-H is, no matter your interest, 4-H is going to have something for you – whether it’s livestock, entomology, or even fashion,” Smith said. “It could be showing dogs or the canine program. If there’s a student really passionate about public speaking we have contests for that, too. If a kid has an interest, there’s going to be something 4-H can probably offer.”
The group is open to students between the ages of eight and 18, with a group for some of the younger kids to get involved, too. Our local groups have sent members in competitions to both the state and national levels and The Messenger recently reported on one participant chosen to travel to Australia to participate in a 4-H conference down under.
Smith pointed out many of the benefits of participating in 4-H, above and beyond the practical skills they learn in the activities they are involved in.
“4-H program does a tremendous job at growing kids. Whether it be socially or academically. We’ve seen kids who have found their passion and that parlays into academics because they want to do well. It grows kids emotionally. When they first come into the program, a child may not be able to speak to adults. They may not be able to shake hands or look you in the eye. But by the time they’ve been in the program a few years, you see that child transform into a very mature person,” Smith said. “Then that translates into adulthood, where those kids can go out and do well in job interviews and do well in society and perform skills and have the knowledge to be able to be a successful adults.”
Smith has seen many times a child attend their first meeting – usually forced to come by a parent or grandparent – sit in the corner and look glum. She always tells them the same thing and is usually proven right. Smith tells them soon they will want to come back on their own – and then pairs them with some of the other members who take them into the club and within no time, the new member is just another one of the gangs.
4-H members participate heavily in the Houston County Fair and Garden Show, along with rabbit shows, lambs, goats, steers and most other animals in between, both raising and judging.
The Crockett Tractor Supply gives customers the opportunity to donate $1 to local 4-H to help them send kids to leadership camp or for their ambassador programs. 4-H will be holding a bake sale at the local Tractor Supply Saturday, Oct. 7 with all the proceeds to benefit The Haven in Crockett.
For more information about joining one of the local 4-H clubs, you can contact the extension office at 936-544-7502.
Smith is passionate about 4-H because she herself is a life-long product of membership.
“I grew up in Houston County and involved in the agriculture industry. My dad was an ag teacher for 40 years. I started 4-H as soon as I could, when I was eight years old. Eight years old when I started and here I am all these years later,” Smith laughed. “This is now my job and my kids are now involved. 4-H really saved my life. I know several members who have become involved and it has opened many, many doors for them.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]