4-H. FFA. Livestock judging and shows. Crop judging. County fairs. Why participate and encourage our kids to be active in an array of endeavors rooted in agriculture?

This past fall, I wrote about enrolling your kids in 4-H. A lifelong friend, with zero connections to agriculture other than asking me an occasional question, contacted me after reading that column to let me know she enrolled her kids in 4-H. She sent me pictures of their first meeting, and since then, they’ve added a few animals to their small acreage and the kids are learning to care for them.

4-H crops judging participants are studying weekly the crops, weeds and pests impacting agriculture across the region. 
Katie Pinke / Agweek
4-H crops judging participants are studying weekly the crops, weeds and pests impacting agriculture across the region. Katie Pinke / Agweek
At our January 4-H meeting, we kickstarted crop judging with a demonstration. As I watched kids look at seed and weed samples, I thought about how this could build a foundation for a 4-H member’s future career. The seeds they study could spark an interest that creates a far greater outcome than simply a baseline knowledge of the crops grown in our state and weeds in our fields (and lawns).

My town-raised husband, whose parents were raised on farms, participated in FFA crops judging and other FFA career development and leadership events as a high schooler, and we recently talked about what that taught him. Our girls, with one year of 4-H beef projects under their belts, added their perspectives to the conversation.

As active 4-H or FFA members, our family has learned:

Newsletter signup for email alerts
  1. How to prepare, study and mind the details for an event or project.
  2. How food is raised.
  3. How to be a good teammate.
  4. How the many sectors of agriculture contribute to the rural countryside and our communities.
  5. How to manage time, which means not waiting until the last minute.

And a final comment from our 14-year-old: “You learn to clean up poop, a lot of it.” 4-H and FFA are all about teaching life skills, folks, which includes managing manure.

The 4-H crops judging contest in North Dakota helps members become proficient in identifying North Dakota grown crops as well as crops from across the region. Members also learn the correct identification of weed mounts and weed seeds. Katie Pinke shares she believes engaging all types of kids in agriculture builds the future for possible careers and drives our future economy and communities.  Photo taken on Jan. 9, 2022 at Northwood, North Dakota. 
Katie Pinke / Agweek
The 4-H crops judging contest in North Dakota helps members become proficient in identifying North Dakota grown crops as well as crops from across the region. Members also learn the correct identification of weed mounts and weed seeds. Katie Pinke shares she believes engaging all types of kids in agriculture builds the future for possible careers and drives our future economy and communities. Photo taken on Jan. 9, 2022 at Northwood, North Dakota. Katie Pinke / Agweek
Find an ag activity, program or experience this year for your kids, grandkids or family.

Think it’s irrelevant to their future? You don’t work or live on a farm or in a rural community? Not sure where to start? Or maybe you’re too busy? Insert eye roll. Busy is a choice.

I know some in ag have even discouraged their own to get involved for various reasons. But even on the difficult days, it’s not right to discourage our kids from developing their skills and learning through agriculture — and exploring a future in the industry.

It’s also important to allow time and space for kids to pursue their own interests and projects through 4-H and FFA. For example, the 4-H Follies and Creative Arts show in our county is on our calendar and so is 4-H archery. Later this month, our 4-H club is having a welding project day for volunteers to teach and assist members on welding techniques, equipment and safety. Some will be working on their welding skills by creating their own project. Again, I can’t help but wonder if these various 4-H activities are planting the seed for the future for our kids.

Agriculture drives our future, economy, jobs, communities, food, fiber, fuel, flowers and so much more. What it looks and feels like in our towns and rural areas will be different in the future, but it’s our job to open doors and prepare our kids to be part of ag’s future.

Experience is not required. Rather than disengage from what you don’t know, energize yourself with new experiences and learning for you and your kids, close to agriculture.

To read more of Katie Pinke's The Pinke Post columns, click here.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.