CALDWELL — Debbie Lowber says her family is different than others. They bleed green, the color of 4-H, not red.
Lowber, of Nampa, and her family have been involved with 4-H for decades in a variety of capacities from the Canyon County level to the national level. Her family and a number of other area families are being honored by the Canyon County Fair as “century families,” in conjunction with 4-H’s 100th year in Idaho. Century families are recognized as families that have had ties to 4-H for 100 years.
“Over the years, we’ve just had the opportunity to do work with literally hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of youth,” Lowber said of her 31 years of involvement in 4-H.
Nancy Shelstad, the University of Idaho 4-H extension educator in Canyon County, said the philosophy behind 4-H is to help children and teens build life skills. Projects range from science, agriculture, leadership, family and consumer sciences and are not only what most think of — sewing and livestock.
4-H started in the early 1900s as a way to educate farmers, ranchers and homemakers. It started as a boys corn club and a girls canning club, but the root values remain the same, Shelstad said. Each H stands for a different value: head, heart, hands and health.
Lowber’s daughter, Katie, 24, started in 4-H showing horses and swine, but from there branched into the family and consumer sciences realm. She said as her involvement grew, she became interested in leadership roles.
“I went to Atlanta and Washington, D.C., for national conferences,” Katie Lowber said. “... Not only has it helped me with interviews after high school … I’ve been able to, because of 4-H, talk in front of hundreds of people. It’s really just taught me life-long skills.”
She said she plans to be involved with 4-H for many years to come. Her son is 5 years old and will start with the Clover Buds next year. Clover Buds is a program of 4-H for kindergarten through third grade children.
“I have another 12 years at least, and beyond that,” she said. “It (her involvement) will never end and I’m glad that it won’t.”
Joan Reynolds of Kuna married into a family that “has been involved with 4-H forever.” She and her husband have been beef leaders for their club for 21 years. She said her husband’s parents were leaders for 35 years. 4-H teaches children more than how to just “walk a cow.” The Reynolds family is also being honored by the fair as a “century family.”
“4-H has tons of different projects you can take,” Reynolds said. “But, with the kids being exposed to (agriculture), it’s just more experience and knowledge they get to share with the
Her son, Zack, 17, is in his ninth year with 4-H. He said the biggest benefit he’s experienced is the people he’s met.
“I’ve met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Zack Reynolds said. “They’re involved in agriculture and other aspects that I wouldn’t have known about if I didn’t meet (new people) through 4-H.”
Shelstad estimated nearly 900 area children and teens are involved with Canyon County 4-H. She said projects range in complexity and hours spent, but said any project can take 50-60 hours.
Kristin Nesbitt, 14, is with the Crafty Critters club in Meridian. She said her seven years of experience in 4-H have helped her learn life lessons.
“It’s really fun and it helps me a lot with my organizational skills and my leadership skills,” Nesbitt said.
Katie Lowber said 4-H is about the community, not the member.
“I just think that it’s a great thing to go out into your community and not make it about yourself, and do things for other people,” she said.