TORRINGTON – 4-H families have a long list of ‘Why’s’ they are involved in 4-H programs. 4-H has fun camps. 4-H teams travel a lot. Or, because 4-H teaches life skills.
Dudley and Jennifer Booth of rural Torrington grew up in 4-H families, and are passing the tradition on to their sons, Conner and Kaleb. Jennifer grew up at Lingle, where she sat with the ‘big girls’ while her mother, Kathy Miller, taught knitting. Her grandmother, Barb Ellis, taught sewing. Jennifer also took leathercraft, rabbits, pigs and foods.
Dudley grew up within an Angus tradition. He was in 4-H as long as possible, and after that, was in FFA.
Now, their sons, Conner, 12, and Kaleb, 9, are following their parents’ footsteps. They have breeding beef, pigs, sheep, and do livestock judging. According to their mother, the boys have been showing livestock since before they were old enough for 4-H.
Dudley and Jennifer both worked in University of Wyoming Extension offices during their college years. He spent 5-6 years working with 4-H Extension Educator Ron Kaufman at the Torrington office, while Jennifer filled in for an Extension Educator at the UW Extension office in Laramie while she was attending UW.
“I just love working with kids,” she explained, sitting at her desk at Pinnacle Bank. “I’ve always been a leader.”
With a quiet laugh, Jennifer admitted, “I guess I’ve never really been out of 4-H. I even helped my three younger sisters.”
Continuing examples set by their parents and grandparents, Dudley and Jennifer are community leaders for the Gleaners Union cub, which has about 50 members.
The young couple are concerned about outside influences on today’s youth. Citing the enormous number of influences “pulling kids in every direction today,” they believe it is truly important to get youth involved in 4-H. It gives children something to build on, create life-long friends, and a strong work ethic.
Even non-farm youngsters can be involved in livestock, Jennifer said. Or, other projects are available, too. Even FFA offers a wider range of activities.
“FFA and 4-H encourage other interests,” Dudley said, giving shooting sports as an example. There also are robotics and fishing, among other interests.
It is the other interests that have attracted 4-H members in recent years. According to Dudley, this is due, in part, to the reduced number of children living in rural settings, and parents working two jobs.
“There are fewer families, and fewer kids,” he explained. “And because of the cost of having livestock, they are not in a position to have animals, but want to belong to 4-H.”
Jennifer and Dudley agree that even with the changes in 4-H and FFA, they are still good programs, and have not really changed.
This is because they still teach responsibility and a strong work ethic.
After thinking about it a moment, almost in one voice, Dudley and Jennifer said, “We do it for the future of agriculture, basically.
“We’re leaders because we want to see our youth thrive, and see our kids’ kids show livestock some day.”