Ingham County 4-H, a springtime tradition

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By Whitney Bunn
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping, and the cows are … moo-ing?

4-H clubs around the county are gearing up for the 160th Annual Ingham County Fair this August.

Ranging from livestock sales to dog agility to sewing, 4-H participants around the country make final decisions in early spring about the projects they will pursue at the fair.

The 4-H organization emphasizes hands-on learning, promoting teamwork, responsibility and cooperation, said Carol Fanson, leader of the Aurelius 4-H Club in Ingham County.

Fanson, an active member of Ingham County’s 4-H community for more than 50 years, manages a club of more than 75 members.

“At this point in the spring, it’s time for the kids to decide what they’re doing,” said Fanson.

The Aurelius Club offers animal projects in swine, rabbits, sheep, dairy, beef and poultry. The livestock animals are sold at an auction, and the money is given fully to the 4-H member who raised the animal, said Fanson.

Within the MSU Extension office, Ingham County 4-H Coordinator Laura Fuller said the most popular projects in the county are swine, crafts and cooking.

“Kids have a variety of interests and can do them all in 4-H,” Fuller said.

Nearly 1,000 youth participate in the traditional 4-H clubs in the county.

As Ingham County transitions from a rural to an urban county, the MSU Extension office has developed nontraditional programming to appeal to the changing demographic.

Day camps in urban areas, special interest programs and trips to art museums are some of the new programs that attract about 3,000 county youth.

“I do foresee changes in our 4-H program,” Fuller said. “But it continues to stay stable because of the strong traditions and family-based organization.”

Tim Jackson, president of the 4-H and FFA Livestock Committee, met his wife at the Ingham County Fair many years ago.

Jackson spent his life as a resident of Ingham County and a member of the 4-H community. He watched his daughter participate in 4-H programs and looks forward to helping his grandsons continue the tradition.

According to Jackson, the most valuable lessons 4-H participants learn are responsibility and work ethic.

“Youngsters are responsible for the well being of their animal. If they decide to roll over on a Saturday morning instead of going out to the barn to do their chores, the animal suffers,” said Jackson.

His favorite part about 4-H? The gratification he gets when he sees a kid achieve his or her goals goals with a project, Jackson said.

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