Blue Ribbons and Good Times

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Shiny blue ribbons, mooing cows, and sweaty summer days seem to epitomize 4-H for many. 4-Hers haul their animals off the family farm and drag them to the county fair where the animals are spiffed up and shown for bragging rights… right? Well, 4-H entails much more; it requires hard work and dedication and provides a time for kids and their parents to work together towards a common goal, whether that is first place for a pig or grand champion on a poster. For a busy dad, 4-H may seem daunting. Surprisingly, it’s not only manageable but truly rewarding.

For me, 4-H has meant spending summer evenings trying to coax, coerce, and compel cute, but stubborn, little lambs into walking a lap around my backyard. Who has almost literally bent over backwards to push them along? My dad- every year of my 4-H career he has helped me prepare for the fair, offering advice and encouragement. Besides breaking my lambs, I have researched and put together projects over topics such as consumer lamb and creative writing. One year I decided to make a diagram of cuts of lamb meat and sweet-talked my dad into making a wooden outline of a sheep. Many times he has tried to give me ideas, which I politely shoot down. Over my nine years in 4-H, I have really enjoyed the special one-on-one time that 4-H has afforded for my dad and me and have had my pride “stick out a mile” when he has congratulated me on a job well-done.  

Yes, 4-H is a commitment, but it is not impossible for a working dad to accomplish with his children. Why should a stressed-out, schedule-packed dad even sign his kids up for 4-H? A dad should jump at the opportunity to spend quality time with his children while giving them the chance to achieve something and feel proud of their hard work. 4-H has also shed much of its rural community-only image with many “city folk-friendly” project options that cover a wide range of interests. Besides, dads won’t have to search for something to do with their kids either; they’ll already have the evening’s entertainment lined up.

Here’s how a dad can get involved in 4-H.  The 4-H website has the address of where a dad can find local 4-H programs, important dates, clubs, and project options. He should also ask the kids to visit the website to see that 4-H is not just more work and can be quite a bit of fun with special clubs and 4-H activities at the local fair. Of course, not every kid will jump at the chance to be involved in 4-H, so a dad can point out the beneficial aspects of 4-H while listening to his children’s opinions on the matter as well. Once a local 4-H program is located and the kids agree to become 4-Hers, it’s as easy as filling out a form, signing up for projects, and entering the finished masterpieces at the fair. The local 4-H program will be a great help with learning the entire process, and the website is always available.

Busy dads may balk at the idea of becoming involved in 4-H with notions of fly-drawing animals and manure-filled barns, but this program obviously entails much more. The time and effort needed are manageable, and the outcomes are definitely worth it. I have won my share of ribbons, but more importantly, I have been able to maintain a special bond with my own dad because 4-H is “our thing.” Dads, give it a try, and you just might see your son or daughter with a blue ribbon and a big smile.   


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