Sept. 11 2017 08:00 AM

From 4-H motto to life philosophy, these words have become more than just words for me.

4-H taught me many things during my 11 years as a participant. Those lessons have continued in the six or so years that I have served as a volunteer. For example, I claim 4-H taught me how to procrastinate well. In my 4-Her world, that meant putting a project off until the last minute and still walking away with a quality finished product. More seriously, I learned how to cook, grow a garden, and all about my favorite topic – dairy cattle.

For those of you who share my background in 4-H, I don’t have to explain much about all the practical knowledge I learned. Even more so, I don’t have to explain the way my 4-H leaders and fellow members made learning so much fun.

There’s one lesson from 4-H, however, that I have come to appreciate more and more as I have grown farther removed from my youth participation.

The 4-H motto reads: To make the best better.

I could recite it in my member days, and to be fair, I could recite a lot of things about the program. But, I’m not sure I could explain what that phrase meant to me.

Recently, I was asked to reflect on my days as a member of the Valley Victors 4-H Club in my home state of Kansas. When asked what 4-H taught me, those were the words that came to mind. You see, somewhere along the line, the message really sunk in.

Here’s what I wrote about my 4-H experience, “More important perhaps than the information gained was the mentality I picked up from my involvement. That started with the 4-H motto: ‘To make the best better.’ The attitude of continual improvement has been one that I carry with me through every personal and professional opportunity, and a lesson I have 4-H to thank for teaching me.”

When I arrived at Hoard’s, I looked above the doorway and there was a sign that read, “The next issue will be our best.” The phrase was coined by Bill Hoard Jr., the grandson of W.D. Hoard and the third publisher of Hoard’s Dairyman, but I had to chuckle as I immediately thought back to “To make the best better.”

It’s the intangibles – dedication, hard work, continual improvement – that programs like 4-H have made an art of instilling in its young people. It’s one of the reasons I am so thankful I grew up around the program, and it’s why I choose to give back as a volunteer now.

Maggie Seiler

The author is an associate editor. She covers feeding and nutrition, youth activities and heads up the World Dairy Expo Supplement. Maggie was raised on a 150-cow dairy near Valley Center, Kansas, and graduated from Kansas State University with degrees in agricultural communications and animal sciences.