Good season of preparation in progress for a large family involved in 4-H | State and Region
PRINCETON, Ill. — Mary and Robert Hermann loved the 4-H experience so much that they are sharing the opportunity with their seven children. Needless to say, the pre-fair season is busy here.
Today, only the oldest four are old enough to be officially 4-Hers, but so far they’ve already created enough science and art projects to cover the kitchen table.
Outside, the children tend to the calves and have a giant allotment garden that also produces fodder for 4-H projects on their land in Princeton, Illinois.
“I wanted to join because I thought it was cool,” said Asher, who is in her first year of 4-H. He has projects with calves, forestry and art, and has already had success in public speaking at the state level.
It’s also a busy time for 11-year-old Shiloh, whose projects include calf training, gardening and clay work for Peoria County Fair 4-H events in August.
Michael, 15, and Gabriel, 14, have set a good example for the younger siblings by following their interests with impressive projects on electricity, local mushrooms and butterflies, to name a few. .
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Malachi, Imri and baby Ada, in her mother’s arms, join the family in the large, organized garden, helping where they can. The family also raises and breeds dogs. Malachi, 5, says he wants to do a dog project one day.
The younger ones are eager to join the Edelstein Eager Beavers 4-H Club.
In her youth, Mary showed animals as a Eureka 4-Her in Woodford County and Robert did electrical projects, showed cows and a horse on the family farm just down the road.
“It’s quite complicated to show cows,” Shiloh said, explaining how important it is to have the cow perfectly positioned and at the same time remember to look at the judge.
He pulls out a Hereford calf to demonstrate it.
“Positioning matters,” agrees her mother.
Asher jokes that he doesn’t want to show off a big Angus calf, which is “just stubborn.”
Like everything else, the 4-H broadcast was different during the pandemic, and Shiloh is happy to be able to get feedback from the judges in person again.
By participating in 4-H, children learn new skills, Mary said.
“The judges are knowledgeable and give them feedback,” she said. “Gab took photos and got advice from a professional photographer, and a biologist served as a judge for Michael’s mushroom project.”
The children, who are home-schooled, also volunteer for a neighbor who is growing a large garden to donate to the food bank.
Similar enthusiasm for the 4-H show season is growing across the state. The 4-Hers also work with their calves and projects in Mason County, where Joli Pierson serves as the 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator. During the pandemic, she worked with students on Project Joy, promoting youth mental health.
Currently, students attend 4-H meetings and perform presentations or demonstrations to help them prepare for the general spectacle of the 4-H project. On July 25, most non-breeding exhibit projects will take place at the Mason County Fair, she said.
As the students deal with their fears of speaking to a judge, which could be intimidating, they are receiving helpful feedback from project experts, Pierson said.
Junior Master Gardener 4-Hers and others are also sprucing up the Havana Fairgrounds in the days leading up to the July 25-28 event, she said. There is a Club Garden contest at the Mason County Fair where clubs compete for the traveling trowel in their fairground beautification projects.
This time of year, 4-Hers feed, groom and care for their animals and practice skills that will help them expertly handle their animals on show day, Pierson said.
“I’m proud of the kids in 4-H and their leaders,” she said.
As the 4-H Project show season approaches, activities are gearing up as youth, leaders and family members prepare.
“A lot of people are looking forward to this moment together,” Pierson said.
The Hermann family is on the right track. Shiloh checks on his bees, the calves become more social, Asher proudly shows off the leather work he has done, Michael and Gabriel continue to follow their interest in a variety of art and science projects, and the whole family maintains a lush garden, celebrating with the gift of fresh strawberries this week.