From the age of 8, summer break is spent training and feeding animals, perfecting their craft and honing their skills.
Ask any of the 37 members marking 10 years in 4-H what they learned at an early age that is still important to them to this day, and they’ll tell you discipline, responsibility and dedication.
Whether they’re raising and training animals or perfecting their crafts in sewing or cooking, being a member of 4-H is about much more than contests at the county fair.
“4-H teaches you a lot of life lessons, about hard work and skills you will need throughout your life,” said 10-year 4-H’er Tommy Copeland, who grew up on a farm near Greenwood. “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it. That’s what 4-H teaches you.”
Copeland is finishing his 10th and final year in 4-H. He joined because his cousins and other family members have always done 4-H, Copeland said.
Many 4-H’ers stick with the program beyond their first or second year because of those values the organization teaches but also because 4-H is very much a family tradition or part of their family’s identity like Copeland’s.
Kyle Burris’ family in Bargersville has never lived on a farm or owned any animals, but his sister was a 10-year member who sewed, and he followed in her footsteps, Burris said.
Burris’ passion for cooking developed through 4-H as he learned about baking and making homemade jam, among other culinary skills, ultimately driving him to enroll at Central Nine Career Center for culinary arts.
Many 10-year members include their accomplishments and time spent in 4-H on their résumé because it shows dedication and commitment but also experience in the line of work they want to have a career in, they said.
For Sable Tearman, her time in 4-H prepared her for college. When she arrived at IUPUI last fall, she felt comfortable giving presentations in class because 4-H helped boost her public speaking skills, Tearman said. Tearman was a 4-H ambassador, going from to schools and talking to younger children about the reasons they should join 4-H and stick with it for 10 years, Tearman said.
“Not being in 4-H anymore, it’s a new perspective,” Tearman said. “It’s hard to believe more than half my life I was in 4-H, and now I’m not. It’s something I’m really proud of. I have a ton of 4-H stuff on my résumé, and when people ask, I have a ton of stories to tell.”
Tearman returned to the Johnson County fair this week to help her younger brothers get ready to show their horses and help other young 4-H’ers, Tearman said.
Helping younger members who may not be sold yet on the idea of 10 years in 4-H is one of Shaylee Daming’s favorite duties. Daming wants younger members to stick with it and not give up, even when it’s overwhelming and demanding, Daming said.
Daming raised pigs and cattle during her time in 4-H, and she learned about hard work and responsibility during the summer while other people her age were enjoying a break from school. Daming walks each of her four pigs at least two times a day, bathes and feeds them, Daming said. Daming learned a lot about what it took to care for and raise animals by looking up to older members when she was younger, Daming said.