I received an interesting e-mail with the subject: “Is 4-H desensitizing our youth?” And of course, this triggered my desire to open that e-mail.

Or should I say my “What are you people talking about?” response kicked in.

This is what a select group of people are saying after CNN ran a segment called 5@5. According to eatocracy.cnn.com, it is a daily, food-related list from chef’s writers, political pundits, musicians, actors and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

This particular story is five reasons why Kelly Liken, owner and chef at Restaurant Kelly Liken in Vail, Colorado, believes you should buy from your local 4-H.

This segment obviously drew some online comments, good and bad, about 4-H programs.

And for the crowd that has jumped in to praise the 4-H Clubs, I want to say thank you!

Chef Liken gives her reasons for buying 4-H market projects, including that she feels the 4-H animals are some of the best quality in the nation and the organization supports the education of local children. She also says it’s important to know where your food comes from, and buying 4-H helps efforts to use the whole animal — which means coming up with new dishes. Plus, she has fun bidding on the animals at the auctions.

It appears Liken has supporting reasons for everything she said in the online post, and she explains why she feels the way she does.

What I don’t understand is how some in our society got so disconnected from agriculture. I mean, I know why on some levels, but it baffles me to hear some people say that 4-H is a bad thing because it desensitizes children.

As someone who sits in on an average of six or seven — maybe more — 4-H market auctions in a given year, I don’t feel the youth are desensitized.

Of course, maybe once a year, you will find one child upset over selling the animal they have worked to raise for months. However, it doesn’t happen too often.

But it’s not because the children are desensitized. My niece sold her first 4-H hog last year. I expected her to be more emotional about it. Instead, she made us all proud. She knew it was the cycle of life.

She knew going into it the hog would be sold at the fair and it would not return to the farm. Of course she was attached to it — she walked it everyday. How could you not become attached?

However, the line in the sand had been drawn before she even picked up the hog. She understood it was a market animal and it would be sold.

I think that is what happens in most 4-H families. Youth know before the animal arrives that when it leaves for the fair it will be a one-way ride.

4-H stands for head, heart, hands and health. And all four of these make up the whole person, who eventually turns into a responsible adult.

Let’s let it do just that! Let’s remember the 4-H program makes youth have a good Head on their shoulders. They come out with an understanding of the life cycle, how much things cost and what they can accomplish with their own Hands. Their Heart grows from the lessons learned and the friends they make while in the 4-H Club. And their health is also benefited because they learn what makes good nutrition, not just from the market projects they raise but other lessons gleaned as well.

I think we need to stop thinking about what programs like 4-H could be doing and instead think about what it is and has been doing for years — creating responsible adults!

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses with her husband, Kurt. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism.
Kristy Foster Seachrist
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