This week, October 3 through 9, marks National 4-H Week - a week to celebrate what 4-H contributes to our family, our community, our country, and our world. At first thought, 4-H may have seemed like a social activity as a youngster and a reason to be at the fair every day. But 4-H really did yield more than summer softball games or project meetings. According to the National 4-H Council, 4-H'ers are nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school; nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college; 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors; and 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.

Organizations like 4-H introduce youth to responsibility, hard work, and dedication at a young age. I can still remember realizing at the age of 10 that the day before the fair was not the day to finish my sewing, arts and crafts, and veterinary science project - let alone getting my heifers clean and to the fair.

Taking a straw poll around the Hoard's Dairyman office, you'll find countless 4-H alumni. Many of us will say that 4-H memories attribute to some of our favorite times as youth. Those memories come from fairs, camps, or simply a club meeting or new friend. The comradery found in 4-H is another reason for the organization's success. I always knew that a lively conversation about state fair trips was welcomed at club meetings, rather than at the lunch table at school when kids thought I was crazy for obsessing over a new heifer calf.

But we at Hoard's Dairyman are not alone in our 4-H roots. The national organization reports that the alumni roster now totals around 60 million people. That's roughly three times the size of New York City. Yet, the organization today is fueled by only 540,000 volunteers, and 3,500 staff members.

Our magazine enjoys dedicating a page in each issue to "Young Dairymen" and some of our favorite annual activities include the days when we welcome roughly 500 youth to our farm and offices during World Dairy Expo week. Take time this week to think about what you can do to help and encourage rural youth education and programing. Our industry's future depends on it.