The Cornell Cooperative Extension office is buzzing with activity as the countdown to the 2011 Clinton County Fair is underway.
The County Fair gives local 4-H club members the opportunity to display and be recognized for the many projects they have worked on over the past year. What happens behind the scenes is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of coordination from both extension staff and a host of volunteers.
The 4-H Program and its focus on youth development and personal growth is a big part of Cooperative Extension. For about 100 years, youth from all walks of life have benefited from joining local 4-H clubs and participating in educational activities of all kinds.
The 4-H mission is to empower youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. 4-H is the largest out-of-school youth organization in the United States with about 6 million youth participating in 4-H activities around the country learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.
A common misconception is that 4-H is just for farm kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the agricultural activities are still very popular, the programs have become as diverse as today's youth. You are just as likely to find 4-H clubs that focus on renewable energy, computer science or civic affairs as you are to find agricultural science and animal husbandry clubs.
In rural areas with a large agricultural population, there are still many clubs that involve learning about the husbandry of cows, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, rabbits and other livestock. However, even in these clubs other activities are encouraged to give youth a well-rounded educational experience.
In more urban areas, 4-H clubs may be more focused on creative arts, public speaking, model rocketry or youth-in-governance programs. You can stop by the 4-H building at the Clinton County Fair to see some of the diversity of our local programming.