According to their website, 4-H exists in rural communities, cities and suburbs across America.Image

Maybe that’s true now, but when I was a kid in suburbia, 4-H was nowhere to be found. We had the 4Ts: Tennis, Trumpet, Tetris and Test prep for college admissions.

How I longed to raise a pig! Milk a cow! I had to content myself with the hamsters on display in the mall pet store.

The 4 Hs are Head, Heart, Hand, and Health. As a kid, I would have guessed Horses, Hares, Hay Rides, and Happy Kids. I didn’t quite understand the full breadth of the organization, but I had the gist of it.

Every year at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, I get a little peak into the magic that is the 4-H club.  The farm show does, in fact, have plenty of horses, hares, hay and happy kids. Not only that. They’ve got fainting goats, adorable chicks and even ducklings that they send down slides into a giant bathtub.

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A girl and her cow. Photo from 2013, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Those 4-H kids are bee-keeping , mushroom gathering, and making dioramas about pesticide health impacts.  They knit. They bake pies like nobody’s business. Well, okay, maybe that’s their parents, but you just know they eat home-cooked pies on a regular basis. Basically, they are living the dream of the Brooklyn rooftop farmer and urban anti-chicken ordinance fighter. I wouldn’t be surprised if those kids  butcher esoteric meats and home brew in their free time.

Plus, now the 4-H kids are making robots. Really! They’ll probably build and operate a spaceship next.  Of course, they’ll get to bring a horse and rabbit with them on their mission to mars. Me, I still don’t even have a goldfish at home.

Alas, I am not in Pennsylvania at the moment and so I won’t be visiting the farm show this year.  No vicarious 4-H fun for me.  But, if you’re in a two hour vicinity of Harrisburg, it’s well worth the trip. Check out all those smiling 4-H kids.  Plus, you can experience the butter sculpture, the sheep to shawl contest and the maple cotton candy.

Feed a horse and stroke the softest rabbit you can imagine.  Live the 4-H experience.  I’ll be jealous.

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