***Disclaimer: This is going to be more 4H based because I was a 4H member for 10 years and only in FFA for 3 years, but I feel that most of the principles I discuss relate to both organizations.***

1. Responsibility

Raising animals and having various projects teaches children responsibility from a young age. If your animal is not fed and properly cared for there could be serious consequences. If you join a team, you are held accountable for showing up to practices, being on time for trips and being prepared for competition. If you do not complete your project by competition date, you can’t compete. If you don’t practice and prepare properly, your performance might not go as planned.

2. Leadership

Whether you’re an officer or not, you are a leader. When you first join an organization, especially as a young kid, you automatically look towards the older kids for guidance. By the time you’re a senior, you find yourself helping younger kids and showing them how to do things. You gradually learn to be a leader even if you aren’t given a title.

3. Basic skills

Many people do not realize that there is more to an agriculture-based organization than just raising animals. In FFA I was able to learn valuable skills that I can use the rest of my life such as public speaking and basic accounting. 4H offers projects that range from cooking and sewing, all the way to robotics and shooting sports. While all of these projects are not required, I recommend trying as many projects as you’d like. There’s always something you can learn!

4. Connections

Whether you want to be a teacher or an engineer, making connections is so important to your job search. Throughout your 4H and FFA career, you will meet people from across the state and maybe even the nation. Making new friends and being exposed to new cultures is always great. Having those connections later is really great when you need a job!

5. Appreciation for agriculture

I was not raised by farmers or ranchers, but I was able to gain first-hand experience and respect for them by being in 4H and FFA. Raise one animal for a few months and you will realize the dedication it must take to raise hundreds of those animals as a career. The day to day experiences and interactions you may have will give you an extra level of respect for your local farmers and ranchers.

6. Character

4H and FFA will allow you to learn integrity, humility, persistence, and dedication. Those early morning bus rides are worth it for the memories and lessons learned. Your projects aren’t about getting the blue ribbon, or shiny buckle. It’s about what you learn through the process. You won’t win every time. Learn how to lose. It’s about the experience. It’s about the connections you make with people or your animals. It’s about all of the growth you made that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

My time in 4H and FFA were some of the best experiences of my childhood. There are so many priceless lessons learned and knowledge gained that I wouldn't have gotten elsewhere. I am who I am today because of those organizations. If you've never experienced either, I highly recommend giving them a try!! (Or if you're a parent reading this, enroll your kids). It's a lot of fun!