Growing up with 4-H | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | Aug 24, 2018

My granddaughter Annika is a great mix of sweet kid, fine student and girly-girl with a fondness for make-up, a mercurial 15-year-old delight – and active 4-H club member.

And when her Grandma Jo travels to Idaho to visit, well, any grandparent knows how I feel when I wrap my arms around her, my face against her fragrant blonde hair.


Annika spent her first three years in the clamor of the Seattle area, and I never imagined that at age 15 she would be living on five pastoral acres in Idaho, seven years into 4-H.

I never thought of a succession of projects of lambs and pigs and beef cattle, or that at 15 my granddaughter would be a veteran of various shows and fairs, with multicolored ribbons pinned to the bulletin board in the corner of her bedroom.

She and her “Prairie Wranglers” 4-H club friends learn more with each season and each animal, sharing their enthusiasm – and their wins and losses – with one another.

The 4-H pledge reads, “I Pledge My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service, My Health to better living for my Club, my Community, my Country and my World.”

The organization has been around for over 100 years. Members range in age from 5 to 18. Parents often are involved in their numerous projects, many not animal-centered. I’m delighted that my grandchild is in 4-H.

This year Annika enrolled in horse, breeding beef and market beef projects. Her dad texted three recent photos of Annika on her latest horse, Waylon, in rodeo events, satisfying her 4-H horse requirements for the season.

Barrel racing? I had no idea!

This week, Annika and her mom are attending the North Idaho Fair and Rodeo with Annika’s carefully groomed black steer Alfie and heifer Charley.

She will show both animals in a variety of classes. Charley will show as breeding beef and go back to the farm to bring a calf into Annika’s 4-H experience.

The 1,200-pound Alfie will show as a market steer. I noticed immediately that his care and feeding have been complex and time consuming. How could I have known the extent of Annika’s routine with Alfie?

The routine included rinsing, blow-drying and conditioning his hair morning and evening, practicing showmanship every evening and keeping him inside the barn to keep him cool on hot days.

Then there was the brushing and shaving.

I must mention Alfie’s gentle nature and calm disposition – I’ve seen Annika leaning against him, cuddled against his thick neck. The difficult part of all this is that Alfie will go to the 4-H Market Stock Sale at the fair. He will not go home again.

I recall admiring Annika’s first 4-H project, a little lamb.

“What kind of sheep?” I asked, and my young granddaughter matter-of-factly responded, “Meat.”

Yes, 4-H teaches kids to love and care for animals – and to let go of market animals after their final showing at the fair. There will be an auction and there will be tears.


And then Annika will focus on researching the pedigrees of available stock, ready to spend her new earnings to get started on her next 4-H market project.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Idaho visit, my son and his family, the horses, cattle, dogs, cats, Guinea hen, chickens and furry black pet rabbit, Steve. And I enjoyed learning more about 4-H.


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