A sure sign of spring at the National Home is the arrival of the hogs and rabbits for our 4-H club, the VFW Dynamos. The National Home’s 4-H program was launched in 1952. At that time, children had 10 different fields of activity to choose from including: gardening, archery, food preparation, dairy, egg production, swine raising and beef raising. Today’s 4-H participants raise either hogs or rabbits to show at the Eaton County Fair in July, as well as participating in non-livestock projects such as t-shirt painting, making no sew blankets, and gardening.
The 4-H program is a big deal at the National Home, and lots of families and staff members head over to the fairgrounds each summer to cheer on the Home’s team. Everyone has a great week at the fair, showing their animals, camping at the fairgrounds, working in the food shack and selling their animals. This year,13 young people are showing hogs and 5 are showing rabbits. The animals arrived last week, and our 4-H members are already getting to know their new teammates.
What are the keys to success in animal showmanship? Patience, persistence and LOTS of practice – qualities that will serve these individuals throughout their lives. It’s a large time commitment as well. Participants are encouraged to go to the farm every day to work with their animal for the three and a half months they have to prepare for the fair. The amount of time each individual spends with his or her animal directly affects their success at the fair. In addition, raising a pig requires hard physical work cleaning pens and feeding and training the pigs. And children showing rabbits are expected to know a great deal about rabbits in general, and their breed in particular.
The 4-H program is designed to teach children responsibility, give them a sense of accomplishment, and to provide a chance to have fun. The animal program provides an ideal environment for “learning by doing”, which is one of the mottos of 4-H.