Caroline Hansen was deemed a 4-H member before she was born.
Born and raised on a small farm in northeastern South Dakota, Hansen grew up watching her brother participate in 4-H. Following in her brother’s footsteps, she joined the program at 8 years old with no clue of the life-shaping experiences the program would provide her.
“My brother was in 4-H and he is 10 years older, so I’ve literally been around 4-H my whole life,” Hansen said. “I showed almost every species from dairy goats to beef cattle, dogs to ducks, everything.”
Her passion for animals that she found through showing in 4-H pushed Hansen to pursue a career in the cattle reproduction and veterinary field. During her first year of college, she discovered veterinary school was not her future instead animal science took its place. After graduating in Dec. 2015, she worked at her family farm and within the cattle reproduction field for several years until a new door was opened.
Three weeks ago, Caroline Hansen returned to the program to try a new project area: Davison and Hanson County’s 4-H adviser.
“My sister is the one who found it (the job) and sent it to me saying, ‘You should apply for this,’” Hansen said. “4-H was such a big part of who I was growing up and who I became. It seemed like a really good opportunity for me to get back to the program that gave me so much.”
As the two counties’ adviser, Hansen acts as a resource and liaison to the state office for all things 4-H. She also has the responsibility of helping plan the Achievement Days in each county every summer.
“It’s been great; I have learned so much,” Hansen said. “We’ll make it through this Achievement Days and then hopefully moving forward things will be a little smoother.”
Davison and Hanson County’s Achievement Days begins next week and Hansen said both counties are ready to go even despite Hansen’s recent arrival.
“In Hanson County there is a great secretary that had everything planned, and in Davison County their leadership association deserves all the credit,” Hansen said. “They took on the responsibility of planning these Achievement Days and there really hasn’t been a lot for us to do other than last minute decorations, letters and reminders.”
After Achievement Days wraps up, Hansen plans to focus on the future of the counties’ 4-H programs. Although Hansen is waiting to set goals until she can sit down with the counties’ members, leaders and families to see where they want their programs to go, she has some short-term goals in mind.
“The biggest thing I would like to do is figure out where the passions lie for these kids,” Hansen said. “I know Davison County, in particular, has a broad perspective of different things.”
Hansen’s childhood 4-H program was big into livestock projects, and while Davison and Hanson counties don’t share the same amount of participation numbers in the livestock area, Hansen is excited for the challenge of recruiting more youth to 4-H based on other project areas.
“With the dynamic of Mitchell being a larger city, you have an opportunity to find those kids who are really into things like science and bring them in,” she said. “I’d like to meet kids where they’re at.”
She hopes to attend events around the communities that showcase kids’ abilities in different project areas and spread the word that 4-H is another way to improve and showcase those abilities. Hansen also hopes to utilize the 230 active 4-H members to bring more kids to the program while giving them valuable life tools.
As a former State 4-H Youth Council President, Hansen knows the opportunities, relationships and confidence the program gives youth.
“I’d really like to use the youth that we have and provide them a platform and opportunity to expand their leadership skills by sharing all their different passions,” she said. “I hope they take advantage of the trips they can take where you can go to build your leadership and speaking skills and confidence while building friendships along the way.”
Those interested in joining 4-H can contact the Davison or Hanson County Extension Office at any time throughout the year.
Although many kids look forward every year to receiving a ribbon for their hard work at the fair, Hansen believes Achievement Days is only a small piece of what 4-H gives its members.
“4-H is an opportunity,” Hansen said. “It’s a program that can give you more than just a ribbon at the county fair and I hope kids see that.”
4-H Achievement Days in Davison County will be held Aug. 1-3 at the Davison County 4-H Grounds. Highlights include a pancake feed and annual community barbeque, Ag Olympics and Round Robin on Aug. 5.
4-H Achievement Days in Hanson County will be held Aug. 4-5 at the Hanson 4-H Grounds.