Tri-City Ledger -

By Joe Thomas
Ledger Editor 

4-H is teaching students life lessons


April 18, 2019

Friday afternoon, W.S. Neal Elementary School student Cameron Coleman sold his pig he received on Dec. 4 for $553.50 at the sale in Brewton to culminate the Escambia County Extension Agency's annual 4-H Swine Show and Sale. Cameron was one of 23 students across the county who competed the project of raising a pig to be sold and to be turned into what we all love best – sausage, pork chops, bacon, ribs, hams and possibly a Slim Jim.

I've followed the 4-H projects over the years from pigs, cows and chickens and it's a program I've fallen in love with.

I doubt many of the students who participated in this program will become pig farmers or farmers at all. That's not the ultimate goal.

What 4-H does is teach students responsibility. It teaches them life lessons that you can't learn from a textbook.

About two weeks ago I interviewed several students who were going to participate in last week's swine show and sale. Ashley Bradley, 15, a sophomore at Flomaton High School, and her mother Angela, came to my office for the interview. Ashley said this would be the fifth time she's participated in the 4-H swine show and has ribbons to show her success.

But it is what her mother Angela said to me that really stood out. She said the past years have been a wonderful experience for her daughter. She said it has taught her daughter a lot about responsibility.

“When you do something that you are responsible for, other than yourself, it helps you in life,” Angela said.

As I talked to the other students, along with Ashley, it takes a commitment to enter and complete the program. You don't just simply buy the pig and hope it does well. There's feeding, watering and grooming before the students go to school and there's feeding, watering and grooming to do when they get back from school. That takes commitment and that takes responsibility.

Over the years 4-H officials have said that they tell the students participating that this is not a pet project, it's a food project. They are raising an animal that will end up at a slaughter house and then end up on somebody's dinner table.

Of all the students I talked to they understood and had no problem with their pig being turned into bacon. Angela said Ashley had no problem with the end result as long as her pig didn't end up on her dinner table.

Too often I feel we get too caught up in the reading, writing and arithmecic of education and lose sight of the other life lessons that can be learned.

As I said, I seriously doubt any of these students will become will become pig farmers as I doubt most of the students who play baseball, softball or football in high school will end up making that their life's profession.

But like the 4-H program, sports teaches responsibility. Both teach that there are certain things you need to do everyday to reach you goal. You don't show up on Aug. 1 ready to play football anymore than you show up to sell a pig with no preparation.

When I talked to Flomaton High School Principal Scott Hammond and Flomaton Elementary School Principal George Brown a few weeks ago about students being absent from school or late to school, there was a common theme in their comments. They are teaching life skills in addition to reading, writing and arithmetic. They are teaching students to be responsible adults and that teaching beings at the Pre-K level. It's simple things about being on time and finishing the task in hand that are so important.

I applaud the extension office and its 4-H staff for the work they do for our students. Instead of texting and talking on Facebook, these students were feeding and tending to pigs.

Just saying, if student out there who has a couple of 2-inch pork chops or a nice slice of ribs, I'm available to take them off your hands.


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