This past week, my friend Gennifer Cape asked me to present to the annual Crawford County 4H Leaders Banquet.
I talked about what 4H has meant to me and my family and how it has affected our lives. Here are the words from my talk. If you aren’t already, I encourage you to find out more about 4H and see how you can become involved in 4H wherever you live.
What 4-H has meant to me
I think most of you know me but my name is Jason Medows and I grew up outside Cuba Missouri
My dad, Charlie Medows, moved up here from the Missouri Bootheel when he was about 10 years old with his family. They settled close to Safe, MO
My mom Pat Stone was born in Redbird, Missouri close to the Bourbeuse River.
My parents met while my dad was tending bar at Camp High Lite between Cuba and St James on Route 66.
They married in 1958 and would have 5 kids spread out over 25 years
In the early years, my family began attending Prairie 4-H with so many of the family’s of current 4-H members.
My oldest brother, Chuck, and two sisters, Lynne and Vickie showed steers at both the Crawford County Fair and the State Fair in Sedalia.
They also were heavily involved in horses showing at all of the local shows and eventually shows around the country.
My closest brother Jeff was not as involved in 4-H. By the time he was of 4-H age, my dad had become quite the accomplished quarter horse breeder and that was his passion. He skipped over a lot of the 4-H shows and went straight to competing on the AQHA circuit eventually winning a world championship and two Congress championships.
Then there was me. As many of you know, I am the youngest child by A LOT. Also, as many of you probably remember, I was quite spoiled. I was 13 years younger than Jeff and 25 years younger than Chuck. As you could imagine, I could do no wrong in the eyes of my mother. We will get to my children in a minute, I can relate so much to Boone, our youngest. I see the way Keri treats him and feel like I’m looking in a 30 year old mirror.
I started attending 4-H at the same club my brothers and sisters went to whenever I was old enough. HOwever, I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I was about 12 years old. We were at the February meeting when I was in 6th grade. They were talking about steer weigh in and Andy and Jessy Stubblefield, my best friends now and also at that time, said they were going to have steers. I immediately decided that day I wanted to have a steer.
Well, as you know, a steer isn’t really something that you can decide to do one day and have said steer just 4 days later ready to weigh in at the fair. So my mom went to Sandy Stewart and told her I probably wouldn’t have a steer but a crossbred heifer.
I bought that first crossbred heifer off of my brother Chuck. Curly was her name due to the curly hairs coming from her poll.
Up until that point, I had very little to do with our cattle operation. There was a short time when I would help my dad pretty consistently, but it was never something I took keen interest in. From that point forward, I would have animals every year until I graduated high school.
I left Cuba after high school and went to St. Louis and attended and later graduated from St Louis College of Pharmacy. While in pharmacy school, I built upon the foundation that 4-H had laid for me and bought my very own set of cows to have back home. I rented a farm and my dad took care of the cows for me while I was in school in exchange for me working for him on weekends and school breaks.
It was during this time that my passion for the cattle industry was ignited.
About the time I graduated pharmacy school, I met the woman who would later become my wife while working at the same hospital. Keri was a nurse in the Intensive Care unit and had a 2 year old little boy at the time. That boy, Levi, would eventually become my son when Keri and I married about 18 months after meeting.
Levi had his first bucket calf, Junior Nickelson, shortly after him and Keri moved in with me. We actually kept it at my dad’s house and we fed it twice a day before and after school. Even though he wasn’t yet in 4H, the seeds were being sown.
Soon, Levi, like the rest of our family, would soon begin attending Prairie 4H. When he started attending, I really realized how special 4H was. I saw so many people who I grew up with now having their kids in 4H too. Families like the Stewarts/Browns, Stubblefields, Pinnells, Campbells, and many more who had been in 4H for multiple generations like me, completing the circle with their own children.
Now, about 12 years after Keri and I were married, we have 4 boys… all of whom are active in 4H. I love to see our kids work together. We have named them the cow kids and the lamb kids based on their projects of choice.
Levi and Carter have taken a keen interest in cattle and have shown several calves over the years at the fair.
Cooper and Boone, even though they showed cattle in their early days, now show lambs every year at the fair. We love the lambs for their ease of handling and for their gentle, friendly dispositions.
As you can see, I have an extensive outlook on 4-H. What it is, what it can do for a family and for an individual. So what all have I learned
4H is a community
4H is a community unlike I have ever experienced. There is lots of competition involved. However, the competition never comes in the way of friendship. I’ll share an example of a couple of times that this has rung true… both of them through experiences of our son Levi.
It was 2017. By this time, Levi was pretty experienced at the county fair. Levi is the kind of person who will do all he can on his own. Very independent. I believe this was his third steer but 6th year showing at the fair. He had a friend who was stalled right next to him who was in his first year of showing a steer. As it turned out, they were in the same weight division in the show and thus would be competing against one another. Well on showday, I watched as Levi helped his friend get his steer ready for the show ring. It didn’t matter to Levi who won that class that day. He was more concerned with his friend being as prepared as possible for that show.
It turned out that Levi would go on to win that class and be in the Final Drive for the Grand Champion. As the judge made his pick for grand, he selected our good friend Dani Deppe’s steer as Grand. I was standing ringside next to Levi as he showed and he couldn’t hide his excitement. He looked at me with joy as he realized Dani had won. He didn’t even care that it wasn’t him who was selected for grand, he was so excited for his friend!
As I said, 4H is a community. It is about the relationships that are forged and cultivated. It teaches us that we are to be competitiors but also have compassion and zeal for others accomplishments as we would our own.
Cultivating Family Relationships
As mentioned, our family and others like it are generational 4-H families. We are actually still second generation because our family is spread out over so many years. But many like it are 3rd and 4th generation here in Crawford County. Let’s take for example the Medows and the Stubblefields. Drew and Dori Stubblefield were in Prairie 4-H with my brother and two sisters over 40 years ago. 20 years past that, Drew’s kids Andy, Jessy, Erin, and Matt were in 4-H with me. Now fast forward 20 more years and my kids are in 4-H with Andy and Jessy’s kids. I love the generational aspect of 4H
In the same breath as the generational nature of 4H, the friendships which are cultivated as a result of 4-H are lifelong. Like I said, Andy Stubblefield’s kids are close friends and fellow Prairie 4-Hers with my family. To this day the people I am closest with who I grew up with are the people I was in 4-H with. The two men that stood by my side when I married Keri were Andy Stubblefield and Ryan Kimberlin… two guys I shared steer stalls with each year at the county fair. To me, it’s one of the most powerful examples of the everlasting bonds that can be formed in the time spent together in 4H activities
Now to you as 4H leaders. You play such an important role in fostering the relationships formed within 4H. You are responsible for bringing these kids together and helping cultivate these relationships. It has been so incredible to see my kids sit through the same meetings with Sandy and Fannie. It’s like a little trip down memory lane every time I attend a meeting. So to each of you. Recognize the importance of your work. You play a huge role in all of the work being done. I am so grateful for the many 4H leaders over the years who have created the space for our family’s 4H journey to blossom. I thank each and every one of you for your hard work and effort to make Crawford County one of the best 4H counties in the state.