For several years my friend Tina and I searched for a local 4-H club, but had not found the right match for our families. We tossed around the idea of starting our own club, but when we began the process of chartering a club, we quickly realized that all of the red tape involved was not something that we really wanted to take on.
Our county fair is set up in such a way that you do not have to be an “official” 4-H member to enter exhibits or to show animals – any youth can enter. So we decided to start our own 4H-style club instead and we called it Old Paths Farm Club, since most of the its members at the time lived on Old Paths Farm. We may choose to become official someday, but for now this working well for us.
Our little farm club has many of the same goals as a “real” 4-H club. Here are a few:
To provide a network of support for our children as they prepare fair projects
At the monthly meetings, each child gives an update on their projects to the group. This helps them to learn time management as their prepare their projects over the course of the year. It also gives them a chance to encourage one another in their efforts.
To provide opportunities for leadership development in the children
Just like in 4-H, with the support of the group leaders, the children elect officers who run the meetings. All of the children help to make decisions about meeting topics, come up with ideas for service projects and more.
To provide rich and varied hands-on learning experiences
We want each meeting to count! We gather input from the children on what topics they are interested in learning about and use that input to map out a schedule of monthly topics for the year. All of the topics are things that could blossom into a project for the fair, if a child decides to pursue that interest. At each meeting, we spend about an hour focusing on one topic. We invite a guest to come and share their expertise/passion with the group or we teach the topic ourselves. Some of last year’s topics and projects included: gardening, photography, drawing, making fermented foods and preparing and performing a music program for a local nursing home.
To provide an opportunity for our children to develop new friendships without sacrificing family time in evenings
All of the 4-H groups that we checked out had their meetings in the evenings. We are able to have our meetings earlier in the day and still allow time to get home for dinner!
Between our two families, we had five children who wanted to participate in the fair last year. It was a fun inaugural year and we all learned a great deal. (If you’d like, you can read about last year’s gardening meeting HERE and check out our 2015 Fair projects HERE and HERE.)
This year, we decided to open up the club to more families. We now have more than 15 fair-aged children signed up for our club this year, and when all of us get together (moms and babies/toddlers included) we have more than 30 people in the house!
The topic of our first meeting this year was photography.
Tina taught the children about different techniques for photographic composition and then they went outside to try to implement them!
The children had a fun time taking pictures and we parents really enjoyed seeing what things our children were able to capture!
Here are a few of the pictures that my older three children took during their practice session:
Next month, we will tackle the art of making mozzarella cheese! Yum!
Stay tuned for more updates about our farm club, as well as ideas and tips for starting your own club!