Mention 4-H in the Bruce and Lori Chrestiansen home, and out come Emily and Sarah's scrapbooks. While Sarah has been out of 4-H a few years now, this is Emily's last year to show her entries at the Emmet County Fair, a family tradition that spans back three generations to when Lori's father was a 4-H leader.
Today, it's Bruce who's a 4-H leader for the 12 Mile Lakers, something he's done for 26 years - the same amount of time that Lori has been an adult volunteer.
Lori, too, was a 4-H leader for the NRG (say that real quickly and you understand what the initials stand for) 4-H Club, an all-girls club that later consolidated with the 12 Mile Lakers.
Emily, Bruce, Lori and Sarah Chrestiansen are a 4-H family through and through. Lori’s father was a 4-H leader as well.
Bruce, too, was a 4-Her - 12 years with the 12 Mile Lakers himself. And Lori was a nine-year member with the Rural EE 4-H Club, a coed 4-H club that included members in Emmet and Estherville townships.
Sarah, who just graduated with her psychology degree from the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, is going on to a graduate program in occupational therapy at USD this fall. While in 4-H, she showed market beef and had exhibits in child development, food and home improvement.
Emily, who will be a freshman in the USD political science program this fall, showed market beef and has had exhibits in woodworking, photography, clothing and food.
Sarah sees 4-H as having a big impact on her time-management skills, as well as developing a good work ethic. She learned responsibility by doing chores and by making it to all her 4-H meetings.
Emily said she learned leadership skills and public speaking.
Emily has made a lot of friends along the way, too. And both Emily and Sarah went to 4-H Citizenship Washington Focus, a week during which high-school students go to Washington, D.C. Emily has also gone to 4-H camp at Madrid and the state 4-H conference in Ames. And both Emily and Sarah have served as officers and on the 4-H County Council.
Sarah feels she met a lot of adult mentors as well, people from throughout the county who offered guidance. On top of that, the time management and responsibility she learned in 4-H helped a lot in college.
"It's helped them. People say they can tell the difference with those that have been in 4-H" when giving presentations.
Lori said 4-Hers also develop a camaraderie - even while competing with each other - like lending a halter to someone who breaks one, example.
One of the major differences Bruce sees in 4-H is how much technology has changed, giving students a lot wider range of projects they can do.
And Lori sees a lot more girls showing livestock than did so years ago.
"But in the end each individual is only going to get out of 4-H what they put into it themselves," Lori said.
Bruce sees great support for 4-H from adult volunteers in Emmet County. And it's those volunteers that will continue to make 4-H strong, he said.
Bruce and Lori both give a lot of credit to Max Yield Cooperative of Britt for picking up half of 4-Hers' $40 yearly membership fee. "That enhances the program because of the support we get from businesses too," Bruce said.
Like a lot of 4-H families, the Chrestiansens make their annual pilgrimage to the Iowa State Fair - almost religiously. "The butter cow line is usually long," observes Lori.
And the spirit of their 4-H citizenship continues. The 12 Mile Lakers and Center Champions will serve the meal for the North Iowa Broadcasting tractor ride stopping at the Emmet County Fairgrounds Friday. Proceeds will go to benefit the fair.