By Deb Patterson
WARSAW – “Deep Roots Yield Success” was the theme for the 2021 Kosciusko County’s annual Extension Meeting held virtually Monday evening, March 1. The keynote speakers were three former 4-H’ers who have used their 4-H experience for success.
Speakers were Beth (Sans) Van, Chicago, a former Syracuse resident and Milford Helping Hands 4-H’er, now residing in Chicago; Lauren Klusman, Warsaw, a former Silver Lake Rambling Farmers 4-H’er; and Madelyn Zimmerman, Milford, a former Milford Helping Hands 4-H’er.
Van was a teacher and found a need for balance between teaching and her daughter’s school schedule. She stepped away from teaching and used her interest, talent and passion for sewing to start an online business, HavenHandMade.com, in September.
Sewing was one of the 4-H projects during her 4-H tenure. “It is something that would stick with me my entire life and has had an impact on my life,” Van said. She noted 4-H gave her skills important to her and had it not been for 4-H she would not have learned to sew at all. “It was something I enjoyed … it clicked with me and was a creative outlet.”
She said what she learned in 4-H and through the project judging process taught her to discern between well done and just done. “I’m very grateful for the experience I had in 4-H. Sewing is one of the examples that benefited me long past my 10 years in 4-H.”
Klusman after high school went on to Indiana Wesleyan University where she majored in graphic design and photography and is now marketing and communications manager for Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce. While she had taken various 4-H projects, her favorite was photography. It led to her starting a business her sophomore year in high school taking portraits to a business after graduation taking wedding photographs.
“I believe 4-H gave me the opportunity to explore several different areas of interest. Five to six years into 4-H, I found I was passionate about it (photography) … got me out of my shell.” She noted learning leadership, responsibilities of meeting deadlines and pressure at a young age, is something she has taken with her as she became an adult.
Zimmerman, who has won numerous awards because of her 4-H and agriculture experience, is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying agriculture communication. It was through the livestock project she fell in love with animals and the people who supported her. In three years she had a lot of success and had started her own beef herd. But when an incurable fatal disease hit her herd, having to put down a large number of that herd, she started on a unique path, as a sixth-grader.
She discovered there was no one her age who understood how she felt about agriculture at school at that age. Realizing there were others who were not understood and finding things hard, she began reaching out to those people. She invited them to her home to do homework and began sharing agriculture and livestock information. It resulted in her helping several start their own herds and new members into 4-H. Because of her experience and eagerness to talk about agriculture with others it has earned her awards and provided opportunities to share agriculture with others around the country.
“It’s something I tend to do the rest of my life,” she said. “Ag is my passion … I intend to work with an agricultural company talking to producers about why they do it and what they are doing … filling the gap with correct information.”
Zimmerman wants to give back to those who helped her during her 4-H tenure. “I would not be who I am today without people investing in me I want to pass on the knowledge to the next generation what 4-H has taught me.”