By Craig W. Anderson 

The 4-H clubs in San Joaquin County began a renaissance and are now enjoying a full throttle resurgence with membership and interest on the rise.

“Each year we’ve seen improvement as enrollment continues going up,” said Jennifer Dondero, president of the San Joaquin County 4-H Council. “The program is running well due to people becoming enthusiastic again about 4-H and what their role can be in it.

14 Clubs, 1,000 members

San Joaquin County boasts 14 clubs ranging from Galt to Vernalis, and Lodi to Linden with more than 1,000 members, “up by at least 200 members over last year and still growing,” said Emma Fete, Ph.D. the county’s 4-H Youth Development Advisor. “4-H is moving back into a growing and developing mode; enrollment numbers are up for kids and adults. The county’s 4-H is poised on a lot of opportunities and people – adults and kids – have been hungry for opportunities for some time.”

Return to 4-H 

She pointed out that the number of 4-H members signing up for the Silver Lake Summer Camp continues to rise, so much so that two sessions will most likely happen in the summer of 2020, a good sign of interest not only from the kids but from their parents and advisors, too.

“Back in the day there were five Silver Lake summer camps and it appears interest is growing in that direction,” said Molly Watkins. “The positive effect of a lot of kids participating in 4-H is being felt and is drawing more kids back to 4-H, curious and wondering about it as if it were new.”

4-H crowd at AgFest

The interest in 4-H sweeps beyond summer and day camps as AgFest demonstrated. 460 4-H youths participated in AgFest showing their animals and other projects.

4-H Youth Development hits a comfortable stride in the summer with the AgTech Day Camp program. This program is a partnership with San Joaquin Farm Bureau. It is a week for youths to see technology in action and design, build and control their own version of agricultural technology, with field trips to local farms to see high-tech solutions to modern agricultural challenges. Better yet, it’s a hands-on experience. 

Great participation

Participation by both adult leaders and youngsters has been near 100 percent, said Dondero. “I think it’s a result of an understanding of our 4-H traditions and how it works. But it has to work within the parameters of 4-H, by the rules, by the book. Everyone works together, and learns together about the technology used in modern day farming.

“This program is primarily ag oriented,” Watkins said. “So people shouldn’t be surprised if the emphasis is on farming and how technology helps farmers do their work.” 

New to 4-H

“Interestingly, more than 50 percent of the youth signing up for 4-H activities such as the Ag Tech Day Camp are new to  4-H,” Fete said. Held in conjunction with San Joaquin Farm Bureau, 4-H is an outreach program to introduce youths to a great deal of interesting stuff that they can actually use to their benefit both inside and out of 4-H.

“The more kids come in to 4-H, the more opportunity for their families to become interested too,” Fete said. “This encourages adults and youths to work together toward a common goal while having fun at the same time.”

Summer and 4-H

The summer camp’s been growing every year and both the 4-H overnight and day camp programs engage youth in a variety of ways through social events, recreational activities, a willingness to try new things, all leading to developing the qualities of healthy, happy, thriving people.

As summer arrives, 4-H activities include summer camps, day camps, county, central area, state and national events.

Something for everyone

The assorted camps, gatherings and events deal with a wide variety of topics, such as bees, jobs, CPR & First Aid certification, AgFest, rocketry, leadership, AgTech, companion dogs and shooting sports.