In every county, there’s more to 4-H than what you see at the fair
CANFIELD, Ohio — Nothing breaks Grace Maltonic’s focus.
Not the din of dozens of conversations clattering off the walls of the Hay and Grain building at the Canfield Fairgrounds. Not the intrusion of a reporter with a camera, busily snapping shots. Not the concerned hovering of a food judge.
No, the 8-year-old from New Springfield, Ohio, wearing a shiny, long blue dress with puffed sleeves and plastic latex gloves, is not deterred. Her “Perfectly Princess Picnic” — pasta salad, apple slices and creamy peanut butter dip, butterscotch brownies and lemonade drink with fresh raspberry garnish — needs to be arranged just so.
There. All done. Grace steps back. Her 4-H nutrition project is ready.
She turns her attention to the judge, Evelyn Hall of Stow, Ohio, and begins calmly fielding questions. What are four safety rules to follow in the kitchen? What is the difference between liquid and dry measuring cups?
Hall samples Grace’s pasta salad — the item chosen to be judged. Then, Grace methodically packs up her picnic and moves to the last station: a skillathon on the national nutritional guide, MyPlate.
Not just for girls
Carol Sankovic, of Canfield, Ohio, has judged cooking projects for around 20 years. In that time, she’s seen a lot of changes. Biggest one? “More guys cooking,” she said. “We didn’t have as many guys maybe 10 years ago.”
It’s all ages too.
“I think it’s great,” she added. “It’s not just a girl thing.”
Her observation seems to follow the 4-H’ers trickling in throughout the morning. Most are male participants. Levi Smith, 18, of Berlin Center, sets up at Sankovic’s table. He unwraps a crusty loaf of yeast bread.
“I usually do desserts, because I like eating desserts,” Smith laughed.
Sankovic samples the bread. The flavor is good, it slices well, but it’s a little dry. She gives Smith some tips to improve.
Following him is Luke Kemmer, 10, of Canfield, Ohio. His red plaid shirt is tucked tightly into his pleated black dress pants, which are tucked into his cowboy boots. He has banana bread, dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with a strawberry. Sankovic takes a bite and nods. It’s good.
Times are changing
The nutrition tables placed along the wall to the side of other stations — like writing, quilting, woodworking, sport shooting — are new. Just a few years ago, cooking projects got a separate day. Not this year. The number of participants decreased enough that it made more sense to include the category with the other non-livestock projects, according to Janice Hanna, Mahoning County Extension educator.
Overall, 194 nonlivestock projects were judged July 15. Of those, only 18 were nutrition. Sewing has also seen a drop in participation over the years, with 48 projects this year. (The sewing projects are judged on a separate day.) Hanna isn’t worried though.
“Fewer people are cooking and sewing these days at home,” she said.
Over the years, participation in various projects fluctuates. Most popular right now? Scrapbooking. That flexibility and variety in projects is what makes 4-H successful and remain popular, Hanna said. “It does kind of reflect changes in society.”
(Reporter Rebecca Miller can be reached at 800-837-3419, ext. 231 or at email@example.com.)