HELENA - 4-H is often associated with the summer fair and livestock, but the majority of kids involved set their sights for something other than animal projects.
4-H offers an array of indoor projects like civics, robotics and photography with many club members not doing a livestock project at all.
“We don’t have much room at our house so we can’t really afford to have a cow in the backyard,” said 4-H club member Mason Manning.
There are around 400 youth members of 4-H in Lewis and Clark County alone; 202 youth are currently enrolled in livestock projects and 322 kids are enrolled in non-livestock projects. Around 120 of the kids do both.
Manning is enrolled in shooting sports projects, robotics and photography.
He said he didn’t really know what to expect when he first joined 4-H but is glad that he did.
“Definitely,” said Manning. “It’s something that’s changed me and all my friends as well.”
Shooting sports such as archery, air rifle and shotgun are the most popular 4-H project in Lewis and Clark County with more than 135 kids taking part. This year 50 of the kids are brand new to the program.
Shooting Sports Coordinator Vanessa Olson grew up doing traditional 4-H projects and is glad to see the organization expand.
“They didn’t have shooting sports when I was in 4-H,” said Olson. “I think it’s fantastic. You wouldn’t have thought about robotics, aerospace, wind energy or anything like that actually being a project. I think it’s just great the way 4-H is expanding and people are learning that 4-H isn’t just the livestock animals.”
In shooting sports the kids develop marksmanship skills, have the opportunity to compete, and learn self-discipline and personal responsibility.
Olson’s daughter Mariah has grown a lot since joining 4-H and even went to the National Air Pistol Competition for 4-H in 2018.
“She tends to be very shy, but with 4-H she communicates with people a lot more and has a good group of friends,” said Olson.
“It teaches you a lot of leadership skills,” said Mariah. “I like meeting a lot of newer kids and helping them start out. Teaching them how to do it so they can get as good as you, if not better.”
4-H and agriculture will always go hand in hand, but even the kids not involved in an animal project say the core values of Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are there, and they’re lucky to have 4-H in their lives.