My son is in the first grade. It’s that age of sampling different things and figuring out what interests him.

He played summer T-ball and took a winter hip-hop dance class. He talks about wanting to play the piano but also wants to learn how to code, thanks to Minecraft.

He told me the other day, “Mom, geography is my jam, and astronomy is geography of space!”

The sky is definitely the limit with this kid.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp

The author at the 4-H Cloverville section of the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. (Bonnie Jean Feldkamp photo)

My husband and I have been trying to help him experience what interests him while watching to see what passions really stick for him.

Then, I walked into the Kentucky State Fair and slammed right into childhood memories — not just mine, but my daughter’s as well.

A large section of the Fair and Expo center was set up for Cloverville, which housed 4-H projects donned with ribbons of blue, red, white and purple.

This is my favorite section of the fair.

“It’s not just cows and plows, it’s so much more,” said Kimberly Adams-Leger Ph.D., the University of Kentucky Extension Specialist for 4-H Youth Development.

Yes. There are animal and agriculture projects but as I walked through Cloverville, I also saw projects in geology, entomology, ceramics, photography, creative expression, place settings and more.

Childhood is that special time of self-discovery for each of us, a time when we’re trying as many things as possible and figuring out who we are. One of the things 4-H does incredibly well is provide kids an entry point into so many different interests while also providing a community of support around that childhood exploration.

What one child latches on to will be completely different from another, and at the same time these kids come together as a club to support one another in their endeavors.

Kids strive to do their best because — thanks to the Danish Awards system that 4-phases — the competition is with oneself.

The University of Kentucky describes it this way: “The purpose of using the Danish judging system is to give every 4-H member the recognition deserved for the work that was done. It also helps young people recognize the need to improve their skills and to ‘make the best better.’”

The focus is inward. Even when I participated in 4-H speech competitions where only one person moved on from the local event to compete regionally, the individual process was invaluable. It was about my research, writing and delivery.

When my daughter was in 4-H, she presented projects on everything from how pneumatics work to how the nose of a bloodhound works. She also earned medals for citizenship and veterinary science.

I have such affection for 4-H. I love that it is not segregated by gender and that clubs have a focus on the greater good, fostering civic engagement and good stewardship for our communities.

My children are 15 years apart in age. I have been away from 4-H for several years. How could I have possibly forgotten?

When I walked into Cloverville at the State Fair I could not believe I had not yet considered 4-H for my son. Like so many other moments in my life, 4-H showed up last week right on time. When I left the fairgrounds, I messaged our local club to enroll my son as a Cloverbud.

4-H, here we come — again.

Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a wife, mother of three kids, and the opinion editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Louisville Courier-Journal. She can be contacted at, followed through her YouTube channel and on Twitter: @WriterBonnie, or click here to learn more about her. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.