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Generations of 4-H


In local 4-H circles, Okeson is a last name that definitely resounds.

Mickey Okeson is the head of the local 4-H program, and her sons -- Cody, Brady and Mike -- are all in 4-H.

The Okeson's have been involved in 4-H for several generations now, and every year they bring several cows to display and later, sell for meat.

"They're in it by tradition," Mickey said.

Raising cows takes a lot of work, no doubt.

"They have to pick them out in February, they choose the ones that will be sound," Mickey said, describing the many months that go into planning and executing the animal showings every year.

"We're down here every day for three months, working with them and feeding them," Cody added.

But the kids enjoy it, and definitely appreciate the rewards they can reap for all their hard work.

"I like going to the state fair," said Cody, and added that "it's just fun working with my family."

The Okesons, who have been to the state fair four years in a row, are partially responsible for the burgeoning popularity of the cow showings at the state fair.

There are about 150 to 225 cows at the state fair every year.

"It's gotten to be a pretty competitive class," Mickey said.

Mickey, being a 4-H leader, is not afraid to tout the benefits of 4-H as an organization.

"It's a good organization that parents might consider for youth development organizations," she said. "It has a longstanding tradition of bringing about those positive results."

4-H is funded through the University of Minnesota, and that adds an interesting perspective to the program as well.

"You've got that educational basis backing it," Mickey noted.

Another advantage of 4-H is that it requires both parents and their kids to be involved. Mickey describes it as "multi-generational."

"It doesn't undermine the family in the sense that you're taking kids away from their parents," Mickey said. "It's one of those organizations that require parental and youth involvement." Furthermore, 4-H is designed to be tailor-made to the needs and interests of the specific area where they are opened, and the specific people who join.

"Clubs are formed on the basis of interest," Mickey said. "It (4-H) dabbles in a lot of areas."

The inherent flexibility of 4-H also means that anyone who joins is bound to find something that interests them.

"Because it has so many different project areas, there's something in it for everyone," Mickey said.

So overall, does 4-H make for better, more responsible kids?

"That's the goal," Mickey said with a laugh.