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4-H Program Strives to Develop US Youth

Every year, all across the United States, county and state fairs offer thousands of Americans practical entertainment, such as farm and garden exhibits and 4-H shows.

And what, you might wonder, is a 4-H show? VOA's George Dwyer recently visited a state fair in the eastern U.S. state of Maryland to find out.

It is show time at the Maryland State Fair, and these youngsters are proudly displaying their cows in a 4-H show.

An announcer calls out over loudspeakers, "Now entering the ring are Jersey aged cows. Jersey aged cows into the ringside."

4-H is a national youth activities program. The 4 H's, "head, heart, hands and health,” represent resources that these young people are encouraged to develop through farming activities, such as raising animals.

Jo-Ann Chason has been a part of 4-H for decades.

"When I was eight-years-old I purchased my first Guernsey calf and showed her through 4-H. A lot of the animals I have today are descended from that first cow, and I have continued to stay active with 4-H members, being a 4-H leader myself."

Jo-Ann has even loaned several of the cows she owns to local youngsters, just so they can experience the hard work and dedication needed to tend to them.

"It was my mother's idea to make me join this because she thought it would be a good experience for me, because I have never really had contact with cows before," said one girl.

"It's just the satisfaction of knowing that your hard work has paid off -- that the animals are good and clean and it's your fault," joked another.

Today Jo-Ann is teaching children of all ages how to milk a cow.

"Have you ever milked a cow before? You have. Well, you will -- after today you can say, ‘Yeah’."

Jo-Ann told us, "It's a fund-raiser, where we charge a dollar and anyone -- children, senior citizens, anyone who has never milked a cow or just would like to milk a cow -- can milk a cow by hand. So it's educational and fun; it's a great interactive event with the public."

Educating people, keeping farmland traditions alive, striving for excellence, and having fun -- that is what this show is all about.