4-H: It's about more than just farming

CHENANGO COUNTY – When people think of 4-H, they often think of kids showing farm animals at the Chenango County fair. While 4-H Educator Katrina Ellis and Agriculture Educator Janet Pfromm admit that that animal science is a large part of the program, they say the most common misconception about 4-H is that it’s all about farming.

“It’s so much more than that,” explained Ellis. She and Pfromm rattled off a list of other activities that members of Chenango County’s 22 4-H clubs and organizations are involved with: leadership, science and technology, public speaking, sewing, cooking, horticulture, plant science, woodworking ... . The list goes on.

Basically, the program’s flexibility allows 4-H’ers to pursue almost any area of interest as long as they can find a volunteer or leader who shares the interest and has the necessary knowledge. Skills are learned through undertaking projects in those different area.

“The coolest things come from the kids,” said Pfromm. “We have to keep challenging them.”

Pfromm said this educational diversity is what sets 4-H apart from other youth organizations. “We broaden their horizons,” she explained. She enjoys exposing participants to new things, like taking them to Cornell’s animal science labs. For many, it is their first time out of the county.

“Their eyes get opened,” said the ag educator. Kids know that when they are with her they are going to get dirty, Pfromm said. And apparently, “the grosser, the better.” At Cornell, they actually get a chance to put on shoulder length gloves and put their hand into the largest chamber of a living cow’s stomach. Pfromm said this doesn’t bother the cow at all. “She just stands there chewing her cud.”

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