Living in the middle of New Jersey as a military family we do not have a lot of opportunities to experience farm life. Things that were common every day experiences for me as a child are unique and amazing experiences for my children. When looking for opportunities to add more farm based activities into our lives I found our local 4H program to be a wealth of activities and information.
I had no idea that the 4H programs covered such a variety of topics or that you did not have to own your own livestock to participate. I feel like a whole new world has opened up for our family!
We started off my joining our local "Chicken Club". We get together as a group once a month to learn about chicken facts, do activities, and play with chickens. We also were assigned one day a week to feed and care for the chickens on a local farm. My children love getting to experience life with chickens....and I love not having the responsibility of 24/7 care!
The 4H leader for our chicken club wanted any children who were interested in raising chickens to have the option to do so at home. With that in mind she purchased several chicks for the children to borrow and take home to raise. We came home with these adorable little balls of fluff! The children get to take care of the chicks, play with them, and watch them grow up! When they get too big to stay inside any longer and we are ready to send them back to the farm we simply take them back and introduce them to the flock on the farm. I love it!
Our oldest two daughters will also be borrowing two chickens from the farm to show at Farm Fair this spring!
We did not stop and just chicken club however. We also joined the gardening club located on the same farm. Our family was given a small plot of land in which to learn square foot gardening. In this area the children are able to plant anything they like. The go each week to weed and care for their garden. The amazement on their faces when they pick a tomato they grew is seriously magical!
After working on their own square foot garden the children then get together to work on the community garden surrounding their private gardens. The children work together with the club leader to plant all sorts of new and exciting plants. Seeing all the children working together to plant and maintain the community garden is such a blessing to me. They always come home exhausted and absolutely filthy.
One of the huge blessings we have received through our gardening club would have to be the fact that it has gotten our 10yr old dyslexic daughter excited about writing! I know this sounds kind of odd...a gardening club does not necessarily scream "Learn to love writing" to me either. Our daughter however was extremely excited to be elected as the club reporter. She could not wait to start taking notes and writing articles to publish each week. I almost tipped over dead when she enthusiastically added her name to the election process for reporter. This is the child that has always hated reading or writing in any form. I will forever love 4H if for no other reason than showing our little girl that writing can be fun.
We did not stop with just two clubs however....no that would be slacking. We signed up for two more that are a little more outside the preconceived notions about 4H.
All six of our children are taking part in a 4H based art class as well! I am head over heels in love!
Our second unusual 4H program is a 6th though 12th grade engineering club! I was a bit nervous about signing our oldest daughter up for this club. It was a bit outside her comfort level but I figured it was worth checking it out. She absolutely loves it! On their very first day they made toothbrush robots and art bots. She was so excited to show me her little robot and tell me all about how she built it. She has been dealing with autism related social anxiety since she was a very little girl so seeing her jump right into a club and flourish has been amazing. She did not stop there however! She was voted as the club secretary and could not be more thrilled with the position.
I know a lot of people think 4H is just for the farm children in the community but that could not be farther from the truth. It is an amazing program that will bless any child that is able to take part. I strongly urge you to contact your local 4H agent and see what they have to offer in your area. If they do not have a club you would like to see already set up it is a simple process to start a club yourself. If took me about 2 hours to get certified as a 4H volunteer and a friend and I have another club in the works!