As I unload the last of my produce at the Well, I realize that summer is coming to a close. This spring, I applied for and received a 4-H mini grant that transformed our family garden into a community service garden. I designed the layout, and with the $150 grant, bought tomato cages, tomatoes, peppers, onions, zucchini, beets, yellow squash, eggplant, cucumbers, watermelon, green beans and herbs.
I prepared the soil and with the help of a young 4-H gardener who I mentored, we planted the garden. This community service project worked well with my citizenship project-Pantry Panic. While researching global and local food insecurity issues, I discovered my produce would benefit those in need in my community. I was able to provide fresh, nutritious produce for the Well Community Center, the local food bank, and even the local Senior Citizens Center. I really enjoyed the opportunity of taking the produce to the Well. I helped prepare food and serve at the children’s lunch program, which fed around 80 daily, and volunteered at the local food pantry. My love of cooking and gardening combined with my interest in nutrition helped make this challenging project successful and fulfilling!
Throughout the past years, I spent hours gardening and hours in the kitchen. Last year, at the request of Fayette Memorial Hospital, I transformed an unused courtyard into a culinary garden. I planted 24 tomato plants and several different types of herbs. After preparing the ground, planting, weeding, and watering all summer, I enjoyed the produce from the garden with Jim Vasser, the hospital chef. We exchanged recipes that utilized all aspects of the garden. I also picked up some organic gardening tips from Chef Vasser, such as learning how to use a ground cover to reduce weeds and create a greenhouse effect, and researching a natural way to control a Japanese beetle problem. I also planted alyssum flowers throughout the tomato bed to encourage bees.
4-H has influenced my health every day. After taking numerous nutrition and health projects, I am now more conscious of the importance of proper nutrition and daily exercise. Most of my friends have never heard of MyPlate, but I have looked at it every year since I was in third grade! Thanks to 4-H, I am comfortable with buying the goods I need for a recipe, planning a healthy daily menu and preparing whole meals. My projects have led me to check out career opportunities as well. While taking Dash Board Dining, I interviewed the county food inspector about what he looks for in a restaurant along with the different aspects of his job. I also interviewed the sports fitness director at our local YMCA for my Keeping Fit project.
My years in 4-H have prepared me with many life skills. As a younger 4-Her, I demonstrated how to properly set the table for a seven course meal. I participated in the Health and Safety public speaking contest with a skit titled “Pyramid Power,” an individual speech titled “Fit and Active Kids,” and finally I prepared a speech on lawn mower safety which received a clock trophy at the state fair! My work as a camp counselor and serving on the Ohio Teen Advisory Council, Junior Fair Board, and FCS Board, has improved my leadership skills. Because of 4-H, I have become a better public speaker and leader.
Just as 4-H has given me many things, I have given my community, and those in it, many hours of work and service. Every year, our club donates cookies for the Red Cross blood drive. We also collect supplies for the Well for struggling families. Every April, we work at the Health Fair all day and give all the proceeds to Adopt-a-Family. Our club picks up trash to help clean up the community. We have also honored our military by decorating graves on Memorial Day. Service is a very important part of my 4-H experience.
As I watched my garden grow this summer, I’m reminded of how I have grown through 4-H. In the future, I plan to further my education by going to college. I have explored many career options and thanks to the experiences this summer with the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, I have decided to choose food science as my major. 4-H has prepared me for any future endeavor. Thanks to 4-H, I’ve learned the importance of time management and I have become a more responsible and caring person. I’ve made great friends and had a lot of fun along the way too!