2 4-H & Future Farmers of America

Audio

  • Jesús, Junior Livestock Show. Alturas, Modoc County.

  • In a park in Le Grand, on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley, I met a seventeen-year-old girl named Spencer Downey.

    She was carrying a chicken, a Belgian Bearded D’Anvers Bantam named Miss Muffett, one of more than one hundred show birds she has raised for 4-H. As she stroked the bird’s back feathers, she spoke eloquently about the value of rural life and the great opportunity that she believed lay before her in the Central Valley. And as she spoke she looked at me—a total stranger more than twice her age—directly in the eye with the composure of an adult.

    This is what the 4-H program is about. It’s not training for becoming a farmer. (Indeed, at the end of the season kids auction their animals to the community for often ten times the amount they would be worth on the open market, quite the opposite of agriculture’s essential lesson in thin margins.) It’s training for becoming a whole person—developing responsibility, building confidence, learning in real time about consequence and reward. These kids are still kids. They have water fights and flirt between the stalls, give their livestock names like Power Puff and Lightning. And yet they can tell you in academic detail the anatomy of a hog, or promenade a steer around the show ring as if it were a dance partner. Most people at the county fair go to the 4-H barn to watch the animals; I think the kids are much more interesting.

  • Junior Grand National Livestock Show. Daly City, San Mateo County.

  • County Fair. Boonville, Mendocino County.

  • Daniel, County Fair. Boonville, Mendocino County.

  • Wyatt, County Fair. Boonville, Mendocino County.

  • Trevor and Wade, Junior Livestock Show. Alturas, Modoc County.

  • Junior Livestock Show. Alturas, Modoc County.

  • Junior Livestock Show. Alturas, Modoc County.

  • Bella, Citrus Fair. Cloverdale, Sonoma County.

  • Kiana, Junior Grand National Livestock Show. Daly City, San Mateo County.