October 11, 2019 10:57:47 AM
As the finishing touches are put on Lowndes County's $2.6 million horse park complex, MSU Extension Service agent Reid Nevins is getting daily calls from all sorts of groups interested in using the 45,000 square foot open air arena - everything from rodeos to expos, and just about anything that needs a large covered space.
Of all those groups, the county's 4H program may benefit most.
By the end of the year, 4H will hopefully have a new full-time director and when that person takes the helm, he or she will have a facility that has the potential to dramatically expand a program that now has 300 active members and growing. That membership does not include the estimated 2,500 children who have participated in 4H events on school campuses and other venues.
When many people hear "4H," they immediately think of programs geared toward agriculture and livestock, which was the program's primary focus when it began more than 100 years ago.
Certainly, the new facility will greatly enhance the county's agriculture and livestock programs. The kids will now have a perfect venue for livestock and farm shows, where members can compete for ribbons while learning and enhancing their skills.
But today's 4H goes far beyond agriculture and livestock. If you haven't been exposed to 4H, you might be surprised to learn that, across the nation's 1.5 million local 4H Clubs, students from elementary school to high school are participating in such "non-farm" pursuits as rocketry, robotics, DNA Analysis and GPS mapping while still providing training in conventional programs such as nutrition, healthy living, conservation and agriculture.
With the decline of the family farm -- the number of farms in the U.S. have declined by 4 million since 1935 to 2 million today -- it is important that 4H reflects the changing nature of the kinds of work our kids will grow up to do.
The 4H has evolved to meet those needs.
What can be said, no matter the program offered, is that participation in 4H has proven to be valuable. Studies show 4H kids do better in school and have fewer discipline problems.
We will note that almost anything that gets a kid off the phone and out of doors is a benefit.
With the addition of the Horse Park facility, we look forward to seeing our county's 4H program grow, expand and reach more and more kids with a greater variety of programs. The only missing component is the director. We urge qualified and motivated individuals to consider applying.
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