4-H, which stands for head, heart, hands and health, is a national organization with local community extensions throughout the country, including in Otter Tail County. Across the county, about 650 young people participate in 4-H.
The philosophy of 4-H is to “learn by doing,” and local clubs are places where young people learn practical knowledge they can utilize in their communities, at home and at work. It’s an organization that works to empower children through hands-on learning.
Oct. 3-9 is National 4-H Week, and this year’s theme is “Find Your Spark!” Sarah Downhour, the extension education and 4-H development leader, stated in a recent press release, “In Otter Tail County, we believe all young people have a spark. Through 4-H clubs, after-school programs, camps, fairs and leadership training, 4-H can be the place where young people explore and discover their spark.”
The Hagemeister family participates in the Amor 4-H club, and has been for many years. Starting from a young age, Jonas, Mae, Quinn and Jude Hagemeister have all been a part of the 4-H.
“It’s really fun,” said Quinn, age 10, “you get to do so many different projects.”
At the Amor 4-H club, kids get to participate in many community-based projects such as sewing blankets and quilts for babies, sewing pillowcases for Someplace Safe, helping with Operation Christmas Child and cleaning ditches along community roads. They also work on individual projects, based on their interests, and showcase their projects at the county and state fair.
“It’s a lot of thinking,” said Mae, age 13, “I did a geology board about rocks of Lake Superior … I made it to the state fair with that one.”
Quinn has done a demonstration on how to make an origami jumping frog, Jude, 8, learned how to make wooden spoons, and Jonas, 15, made an impressive entomology display that he has been working on for the past three years.
Speaking about his many years of experience in 4-H, Jonas said, “You discover new things that you like.”
He described how 4-H got him interested in entomology and many other subjects, “It can be anything you want it to be."
The Hagameister kids participate in many other project subjects such as food review, fashion review, and wood shop work. Jonas carved a wooden duck, Mae made homemade sourdough buckwheat pancakes, and Quinn discovered her love for fashion. Through their many projects, they have learned their likes and dislikes, interview skills, confidence and public speaking skills, just a few among the many other valuable life skills they’ve developed through 4-H.
“They do learn to be confident leaders out there in the community,” said Kelly, their mother, and the Amor 4-H club co-leader.
Along with valuable life skills, the Hagemeister kids love making friends at 4-H. They all agree that 4-H is “really fun,” and seem to especially appreciate that they get to help their community through some of their projects.
“We want more people to help other kids, everywhere,” said Quinn.
Kelly enjoys seeing her kids blossom and discover things they enjoy.
“Certainly having the community involvement is an important part that I’d like to emphasize," she explained, "because it’s important that families get out there and the kids get out there and help people.”
Everyone is welcome to join other 4-H members and potential members on Oct. 7 at 6 p.m., at the Fergus Falls YMCA for West Otter Tail volunteer training or at the East Otter Tail Extension office Saturday, Oct. 30 from 10 a.m.-noon. It’s free to attend and open to anyone interested in joining 4-H. Contact Sarah at email@example.com to register.