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Extension agent dispels myths about 4-H

Published 5/2/2012


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Laurie Sisk/Telegram Barbara Addison, Kansas State University Extension agent, poses at the Finney County Extension Office. Addison helps manage local 4-H clubs and says the organization is about more than just agriculture and livestock.

Laurie Sisk/Telegram Barbara Addison, Kansas State University Extension agent, poses at the Finney County Extension Office. Addison helps manage local 4-H clubs and says the organization is about more than just agriculture and livestock.

One of the misconceptions about 4-H is that it's only about agriculture and raising animals.

"But we're not all agriculture," Barbara Addison, Finney County's K-State extension agent for 4-H and youth development, said. "People think you have to have livestock to be in 4-H. You don't. That is just one of our projects. ... There are a lot of different project areas: food, crafts, clothing. All of our projects involve science, and leadership, and citizenship. We're trying to build life skills in these kids through these projects and these responsibilities."

4-H — standing for head, heart, hands and health — is a national organization developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reach millions of youth nationwide.

In Finney County, and all across Kansas, the programs and opportunities of 4-H are facilitated through Kansas State University's Research and Extension. Locally, several hundreds youth are reached through club-related activities and extension-sponsored programs, according to Addison.

The 4-H agent, who grew up in a farming family in Oklahoma and has served a dozen years in her role as the 4-H administrator for Kansas State University Research and Extension in Finney County, said the various local programs that provide youth enrichment and opportunities for adults to mentor are open to everybody.

"We have kids of all different avenues. Most of our kids are city kids, and very few are out on farms because most of our farm families have moved to town," Addison said. "We're getting a lot of people now who have heard about 4-H through friends."

Some programs and events geared toward youth development are administered through K-State's extension office while Finney County also has a few 4-H clubs directed by volunteer leaders, she said.

"Our main priority is youth development, creating an environment where kids can come together, feel comfortable and are mentored and have role models who are adult volunteers. They say a child or teen needs at least three to five adults in their life to make a positive impact on them. And that is where we have the impact of community leaders at the club level, and people helped with projects such as grandparents or parents," she said.

In the classroom, Addison said much of her own programming is geared toward elementary-age students, who she visits on occasion to teach about plant life, cooking or baking, literacy and nutrition.

"You talk to (them) about vegetables and fruits, proteins and grains. And you put a little agricultural (education) into that, about where it all comes from," she said. "You ask a lot of kids today (that question), and they say the grocery store. They don't know where it's grown."

With so many competing activities today — church, school and sports activities, video games and movies, and much, much more — Addison said 4-H and other youth development programs become all the more important to mentor and guide kids to keep them learning.

"We call it experiential learning. It's hands-on," she said. "Kids will remember more if they learn hands-on rather than talking to them or merely showing them how. They're more apt to be engaged if they're doing it themselves with someone guiding them. It's about that engagement in learning."

Get Involved

To learn more about the 4-H in Finney County, visit the K-State Extension and Research office at 501 S. Ninth St., in Garden City or call (620) 272-3670. Or visit

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