Saturday, June 19, 2010

Head - Heart - Hands - Health

"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 4-H pledge says a lot about the members, how they live their lives and the projects they bring to the 4-H Fair each year.

I am privileged to again be a judge in the Horticulture and Floriculture divisions. It's an enriching experience. It brings hope for the future generation and pride in the many young people who want to learn and work.

The above picture was a Floriculture "D" entry. Her theme was the "4th of July" and she not only met the criteria for this category but did it superbly. You're looking at a blue ribbon winner.

I was expecting a poor turnout and poor quality of plants and vegetables this year because of the weather and how early our fair is held. It was the opposite - more kids and a surprisingly high quality of produce.

As might be expected, a good percentage of those participating in horticultural projects are from farm families but we have a good share of members who garden at grandma's house, in a small patch beside a city house, a greenhouse and even in disposable cups on the window ledge of the subsidized housing project. And, they all do it with enthusiasm.

Considering we had a huge storm last night (high winds, over two inches of rain in less than a half hour, hail) it was amazing how clean and neat the vegetables were in displays. They all talked of the "trails" of our wet spring and what they had learned. Bless youth: they all laughed and did their best.

The excess rain has even given some vegetables an earlier maturity: Many varieties of lettuce, radishes, huge broccoli, cauliflower, wonderful onions, rhubarb, peas, small potatoes, beets, horseradish, and others. Flowers were the same way. Green, yellow and wax beans were the only thing I saw that was less than perfect.

Judging at this level is not based on the perfect vegetable or flower. It's not really based on perfect anything. This judging rewards effort and there is verbal and written feedback from the judge that is meant to teach and encourage.

I have done this long enough I get a chuckle out of how garden philosophy is typical with different backgrounds.

Farm boys old enough to help in the field think about gardening in the big picture and not so much the presentation. They raise vegetables much like field crops, IE: they must be good enough to eat and/or sell.

Horticulture students (to be) will know a boat load about how it all works. They enjoy engaging someone who likes to hear "the story" as much as they like to display.

Some youngster's focus will be developing a beautiful display. The variety will be the same size, visually orderly and labeled. Perhaps even a basket lined with a country napkin.

Some kids are totally into taste and can describe in detail the little nuances of flavor in each variety they exhibit.

Can you tell I'm impressed? In total, there was not one entry or it's owner that was a disappointment. They each had their individual strengths and their enthusiasm was contagious.

Their ability to look at the positives of their efforts and laugh off what nature throws at them is a lesson for everyone.

It was a great day! Spend some time this week at the Henry County Fair and visit the 4-H exhibits. Rural American is alive and well! And, I'm thankful!

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