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Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014

4-H is a Southeast Missouri family tradition

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Celebrating 100 years

NEW MADRID -- Years ago, growing up in New Madrid, Pat Weeks remembers attending the annual 4-H Fat Barrow Show. It was an all-day event, where 4-H members would display their pigs and everyone would watch as some lucky member and pig would become the grand prize champion.

Today, Week's son and grandsons are just as involved in 4-H as she was as a child. The Fat Barrow Show no longer exists, Weeks said, but the organization does. And according to Weeks, it's better than ever.

"It's (4-H) very educational and fun," Weeks said. "Children learn things that they wouldn't learn in other places, and they'll have the knowledge to use for the rest of their life."

This October marks the 100th anniversary of the national 4-H organization. The Missouri 4-H has planned a gala celebration for Oct. 10 at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis to honor the counties that make up the Missouri club.

The 4-H program began in rural areas across the United States in the 1890s in an effort to work with boys and girls. In Southeast Missouri, these clubs were often organized around the rural schools, which were recognized as the hub of community involvement with emphasis being on the planting of corn, canning of foods, raising of farm animals and sewing.

The purpose of the clubs was to teach the latest scientific discoveries about agriculture and homemaking, said Charles Reaves, New Madrid County Outreach and Extension Office.

Weeks, who was a 4-H member for eight years as a child, and now serves on the New Madrid County 4-H Council, assures that this is the same basis on which the 4-H club stands today. She remembers learning how to sew, garden and can foods in her 4-H meetings. These classes, along with many other new ones, like computer and babysitting classes, still exist.

Weeks's 19-year-old son, Ryan, is a 4-H leader and will leave in August to attend the University of Findlay in Ohio to study to be a veterinary. In fact, Weeks insists its her son's background from 4-H that has provided him with extra experience and knowledge of animals.

"Ryan's worked at two veterinarian offices over the past three years, and he just loves it (working with animals)," Weeks said.

The Weeks are currently raising pygmy baby goats, which when they were newborn, wore diapers and had to be fed by a bottle, Weeks said. They also have chickens, dogs and will soon get miniature horses.

Weeks has to grandsons who are 4-H members. One grandson, Cody, 13, likes the agricultural part of the club. She said he's just always loved farming and currently works as a farmhand, driving a tractor on occasion.

To get ready for the state event in October, many 4-H clubs in Missouri are planning events within their county to celebrate the Centennial. The New Madrid County club held an all-day event Saturday with displays spanning over 36 years in honor of last week's Extension Office Week at the University of Missouri Outreach and Extension in New Madrid. Aside from New Madrid, Parma and Risco are also included in New Madrid County's 4-H club.

Celebration is all ready taking place at the national level, too. Past 4-H member and Garfield creator, Jim Davis, has made a special comic strip featuring Garfield and 4-H that will be e-auctioned at ebay.com. Davis donated 55 copies of the strip to each state to be donated for the auction during the week of June 2-8.

Today Missouri 4-H is a part of life for over 207,000 young people through 4-H community clubs, school enrichment programs and special interest projects. With the support of 18,000 adult and youth volunteers, 4-H is touching the lives and supporting strong, educational programs, Reaves said.

Weeks agreed with Reaves. "There's pretty much something for everybody," Weeks said. "We try to reach out to all of the kids."

Those who would like to become a 4-H leader or establish a club in New Madrid County, should contact Delia Gurnow or Charles Reaves at the New Madrid County Extension office at (573) 748-5531.