4-H Youth practice their evaluation skills on pigs during the annual livestock judging contest held at the University of Findlays Animal Science Center. The event is designed to help 4-Hers prepare for the county fair and to put what theyve been learning in their project books into practice. (Photo by Randy Roberts)


Ohio is a winner when it comes to supporting 4-H.

For the second year in a row, Ohio 4-H alumni and friends brought home the $20,000 top prize to their local 4-H programs in the National 4-H Council’s Raise Your Hand competition. The state raised nearly 18,000 hands through online voting.

“It’s a national campaign, targeted to get alumni and supporters back involved with 4-H,” said Cassie Anderson, extension educator/county director, 4-H youth development with OSU Extension Hancock County.

With all 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., participating through online voting, Ohio 4-H finished in first place with 17,778 hands raised, according to the Ohio State University Extension’s website. Runners-up were Nebraska 4-H with 14,115 votes and Kansas 4-H with 10,020.

Ohio’s 2018 total “hands raised” eclipsed last year’s winning tally of 11,811 votes.

The monetary prize will be shared by the counties with the most hands raised, Anderson explained. The top five counties in Ohio include Franklin, Licking, Wayne, Wood and Butler, each of which will receive $2,000.

The next 10 top-voting counties will receive $600 each, while the third level of 20 counties — including Hancock, Hardin and Allen — will each receive $200. (Hancock County received $200 in last year’s contest as well.)

Anderson said Ohio 4-H has opted to distribute the funds back to the top 35 counties to reinvest in their own programs.

“I think that’s one thing that Ohio 4-H does a really good job of is that we have all these neat opportunities, but we keep it very cost-effective,” she said. “And that’s part of that partnership — the county commissioners supporting Extension, as well as the state and federal dollars and state and federal support. That’s how it works. That’s how we do these awesome youth development programs on very little cost.”

There are currently nearly 900 Hancock County youth participating in 4-H through 42 clubs.

Anderson said the prize money will likely be used to support new programs and to find more ways for Hancock County youth to get their start in 4-H.

One example of that focus is the SPIN Clubs offered at Northview Primary School and Van Buren High School’s special needs units this past school year. That included the “Let’s Start Cooking” project for about 32 kids between the two schools, said Anderson. A $2,000 grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation provided for the program last year, and the clubs are set to start up again in the fall.

Northview students met once a week, while members at Van Buren had monthly sessions. Both programs introduced the youth to cooking concepts such as reading a recipe, measuring, basic food safety, knife skills and learning to work together, said Anderson. The students also created a variety of recipes for breakfast, snacks and dessert.

“That’s been our big focus as a 4-H Council. We want to expand the program so more kids can have these experiences,” she said.

Moving ahead toward county fair season, 4-H is offering contests and clinics designed to help members practice what they’ve been learning in their project work and to introduce them to new experiences, said Anderson.

Recently, about 100 youth practiced their livestock evaluation skills on goats, pigs, cattle and sheep in the annual livestock judging contest held at the University of Findlay’s Animal Science Center.

“They’re going around doing the exact same thing that the judge would be doing,” said Anderson. “It’s just a fun way — an extra way — to encourage kids to learn and think.”

Everyone has different skills sets, and 4-H is “a really awesome way to be able to explore those,” Anderson said.

“So it’s not necessarily project work. This (livestock contest) is something they can put in their project work as an activity that they’ve done, but it’s really that personal self-discovery and putting yourself in a situation you probably don’t know a ton about,” she said.

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