EFFINGHAM – Learning by doing is the essence of 4-H. That's why young people between the ages of 8-18 are preparing for the Food and Clothing Show for the 4-H portion of the Effingham County Fair.
Club members across Effingham County are scheduled to bring their cooking and sewing projects to the judges' table at the Centenary United Methodist Church on July 11.
“Learning by doing is the essence of 4-H,” said Janeen Emory-Kolb, a leader of the Happy Hoppers 4-H Club. “Whether it is giving a demonstration at a 4-H meeting, completing a computer project, or providing community service at a senior living home, the 4-H'ers experience life and leadership.”
Her daughter, Kinzie Kolb, 11, practiced baking Peanut Butter Cookies one recent evening in their kitchen, gearing up for the real judging event.
“Most kids my age don't like to cook or know how to cook,” said Kinzie Kolb, shyly.
Kinzie, a second year 4-H member from Effingham, measured ingredients such as flour, sugar, baking soda, plus peanut butter, of course, before carefully shaping and then pressing the trademark fork hashmark across the top of each one.
But, 4-H is more than just baking cookies to this member. She also enjoys showing rabbits, visual art projects, and cooking from scratch. Some of her favorite things to cook include Egg in a Hole, grilled cheese sandwich, pies – and pudding, but not from a box, only from scratch.
Emory-Kolb has a long family history of 4-H that dates to 1932, when her paternal grandfather formed a 4-H Club in McDonough County. Her maternal grandmother was a leader in the 1930s in LaSalle County. She is the leader of the Happy Hoppers 4-H Club in Effingham. Her daughter is a fourth-generation 4-H'er. Kinzie was a Cloverbud, geared for ages 5-7 years old, in Henry County.
Kinzie said she enjoys her variety of projects, plus she's made friends along the way. She's looking forward to going to camp in Monticello.
The leader explained that events such as the Food and Clothing Show is just as important as all the other shows 4-H offers.
“Not all kids have the ability to raise animals in 4-H,” said Emory-Kolb. “Ultimately all projects, including foods and clothing, teach youth to follow directions, show completed projects and learn from their experience.”
Judging in all of these projects includes an interview with a judge and their ribbon is based on both the project and their knowledge of that project.
“Winning a trophy for a plate of cookies is just as special as winning a trophy for showing a goat,” said Emory-Kolb, whose family re-located to Effingham County two years ago.
Grace Camp, 16, Altamont, said 4-H Food and Clothing has taught her everything from food safety to preparing items and nutrition. She will be exhibiting yeast rolls this year.
“The first year starts out simple like cereal bars, then the next year might be scones and this year I am learning about yeast breads,” said Camp. “When we exhibit we must also include a meal plan, which has the prepared item in it.”
Camp said there's plenty to be gained from being in 4-H: Pride in volunteering, leadership skills, vast knowledge from projects studied, and friendships that last a lifetime.
“My favorite thing about 4-H is that I have enjoyed every project I have pursued. But, I have a passion for veterinary science and showing cattle,” Camp said.
In the kitchen, she enjoys baking cakes, because of the decorating aspects.
“4-H is a great opportunity to gain many experiences, being part of a club and learning life skills,” she said.
A member of Western Rooters, she said new members are always welcome there or at other clubs across the county.
Angel Harrington, 13, Effingham is involved in three different 4-H Clubs, Little Bit Country, Sassy Stitchers, and ECYA, which is Effingham County Youth Ambassadors.
She plans to show German rye bread, pie shells and bar cookies at the judging.
Harrington said her favorite thing in the kitchen is baking.
“I've been baking these three things,” said Harrington. The day before, I'll make the ones that I want to turn in. Last year I took pie crust and sponge cake and I qualified for state with the sponge cake. I earned an Award of Excellence at state.”
She said since last year, she's gone to more cooking shows to learn more. She's been in 4-H for five years.
“I like to cook things around the house, but mostly making things from scratch like cakes and brownies,” Harrington said.
Emory-Kolb's leadership background stems back 36 years including that in 4-H and working with the University of Illinois Extension as a Youth and Agriculture Adviser in Fulton, Henry and Stark counties.
“4-H uses experiential learning to give youth hands-on experience. 4-H is also a family experience with generations and over 100 years of leadership development,” Emory-Kolb said.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 138.