Gail Slinde wants you.
Slinde, 4-H youth development agent with the Ward County Extension Office, has been involved with 4-H and other youth activities in the county for the past ten years, and for the first time is holding an open house to help recruit more children into 4-H.
The open house is Tuesday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. in the Ex-Servicemen's Room at the Ward County Courthouse in Minot, 315-3rd St. SE.
"We're hoping to get some current 4-Hers and leaders to come, and then we've invited those that have shown an interest in 4-H over the last few months, and we're putting posters up in schools to try and get kids involved in the 4-H projects," Slinde said, mentioning they will also have popcorn to further entice people to come. "Open house, come and learn what it's all about."
More information can also be found by calling the Ward County Extension office at 857-6444 or visiting the state 4-H Web site at (www.ndsu.edu/4h).
This is the first time Slinde has tried recruiting 4-H members with an open house. She said with how spread out Ward County is and how many schools there are, this just seemed like the most effective way to get the message out.
"What you do to promote depends on your county, and we're such a big county," she said. "Small counties, they just go right into the schools. Well there are a lot of schools here. You just don't have time to hit them all."
Ideally Slinde said she would like to sign up 25 to 30 new children to 4-H, but said if even one signs up it was worth it. Club membership in Ward County stands at around 350 to 400, although she would love to see that go up to 450.
Slinde noted you don't have to live in Ward County to be a 4-H member here. Some children choose to become members in different counties because of family and friends there, or because they live right on the county border. Some are even members in two different counties, although Slinde noted they can only participate in competitive projects in one county.
Anybody who is interested in learning life skills and leadership should come to the open house and see what 4-H has to offer, Slinde said. There are two programs for children in 4-H one to introduce youngsters to the 4-H experience and then the regular one for older children.
"We have a Cloverbud program for 6- to 7-year-olds, which is kind of a non-competitive, get to know 4-H kind of thing," Slinde said. "And then regular members are 8 to 19, and you don't have to have animals to be in 4-H."
Showing and judging animals is a part of 4-H that goes back to its very beginnings. Slinde said 4-H started out as a rural youth organization, and 100 years ago in North Dakota everything was rural. Although the times have most definitely changed, the perceptions of some people have not.
"There's still sometimes that stigma that you have to have animals, and you don't," she said. "We have a lot of kids that don't have animals."
There's still a lot of agricultural-based projects for children to do that don't involve owning animals. A few things Slinde mentioned include crop production, making crop sheaves and crop judging. There's also animal judging in cattle, hogs and sheep, which allows 4-Hers to be involved in animals without having to take care of them throughout the year.
Although there are plenty of agricultural activities to get involved in, that's certainly not all there is to 4-H.
"There's a big push now on science, engineering and technology," Slinde said. "Yesterday (Tuesday) we had a science day at Sawyer where they're learning about the effect of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere."
These types of projects include aerospace, bicycle, computers, geospatial, robotics, small engines, welding and woodworking.
Slinde also mentioned photography, ceramics, consumer choices, where children learn how to be good consumers by picking out the best product, small pets such as dogs and cats, and a lot of crafts. She also said projects like cooking and baking are popular, and not just with the girls.
"We have some boys that make awesome pies," she said. "And that ends up to be of course a little bit about food and nutrition, and food preservation. We have more and more kids doing home canning now. There's a real push for the healthy foods."
Sarah Yanish is a former 4-H member and current volunteer. She said she joined the organization as soon as she was old enough. Slinde remembers the first time she met Yanish.
"This is my 10th year and I remember the first year you were sewing, and it's amazing what she was sewing," Slinde said. "Clothing review over 10 years ago, that's when I first met her."
Yanish said learning new things was one of the biggest motivating factors that made her decide to join, along with the fact that her other siblings had joined as well.
"I joined because my brothers and sisters were in it, but it also interested me because they were learning all kinds of new stuff our family tradition as well as 4-H stuff," Yanish said. "So I just kind of wanted to learn myself and I actually have learned a lot through the years."
She even got into showing sheep, something none of her other siblings did.
"That was something different, and I loved it," Yanish said, laughing.
Learning new things and having fun while doing it is what 4-H is all about, and Yanish said her time as an active member was very rewarding, which is why she still loves to volunteer today.
"It's a lot of fun," Yanish said. "You meet a lot of people and it's just been a really good learning experience."
"I don't think I would be as knowledgeable today if I wasn't in 4-H," she added.