4-H preparing our future leaders of tomorrow

Goal setting leads to success

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Volunteer 4-H Judge Colene Ferrin and fellow judge examine a contestant’s plant in the horticulture division at the Central Iowa Fair Tuesday.

While all of the other buildings on the Central Iowa Fairgrounds were quiet early Tuesday morning, the Exhibit Building was a dramatic exception.

A parking lot almost full, and parents and youngsters coming and going with 4-H projects large and small.

From woodworking to horticulture to baking, eager youth had thrown their hat in the ring of competition.

Their mission: Convince judges their exhibit should be shown at the world-renowned Iowa State Fair next month in Des Moines.

But more, much more could be gained in the all-important life skills set by competing and being in 4-H, according to staff, volunteers and former contestants.

Chelsea Martens was busy assisting the Marshalltown Iowa State University Extension office which manages 4-H with their efforts.

Her speciality is horticulture.

ISU Extension-Marshalltown Director Amy Pieper said Martens had done a good job getting 4-H participants and others extremely interested in gardening and more at several of Marshalltown’s elementary schools.

“4-H taught me leadership skills,” said an ebullient Martens. “I was president, vice-president and secretary during 4-H. Those experiences have been invaluable. I got a late start in 4-H, I was in from 8th through 12th grade.”

Learning how to set goals and develop a plan to achieve them is another 4-H by-product.

“One of the requirements for our kids is write down the goal: What were you trying to do? Tell me how you did it – your steps – and tell me what you learned,” Pat Von Ahnen of Marshalltown, a 4-H volunteer and former contestant said. “Sometimes kids don’t take the time to put in that effort. However, those that do are going to get more rewards.”

Overall, local 4-H staff and volunteers were pleased with the number of exhibits of non-livestock and livestock this year.

One was also uber-ebullient ISU-Extension Marshalltown County Youth Coordinator Meagan Henry, a Indianola native who grew up on a farm.

“This is my second Central Iowa Fair,” she said. “Our entries are up a little bit from last year, so that is a good thing. We have about 450 ‘static’ exhibits which is being judged here today, and about 600 livestock exhibits throughout the fair. All very good this year.”

4-H has been an integral part of her life.

“My mom was a 4-H leader for 19 years,” she said. “I was involved in 4-H. This (job) has been a perfect fit. 4-H is a great opportunity to learn about anything from rabbits to rockets – a great opportunity to learn about leadership and service.

“It is amazing to see the kids, and the passion they have for the things they do.”

For more information about 4-H, contact 641-752-1551.

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Contact Mike Donahey at

641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com