4-H laid the foundation for everything for Emily Meinhardt.
Meinhardt, a senior in agricultural communications at K-State, spent her childhood involved with 4-H and now interns for the Kansas 4-H Foundation. As she starts to pursue a career, she hopes to take the lessons she learned from 4-H with her and share them with future 4-Hers.
“Everybody thinks you have to be from rural America, but there’s cooking projects, there’s arts and crafts,” Meinhardt said. “It’s not about the farm animals, but it’s about the skills and the things it leads you to find about yourself.”
Growing up in Marysville, Meinhardt, 21, and her three younger siblings participated in 4-H, and it became an activity that bonded her family.
“4-H was kind of a family thing,” she said. “Long nights in the barn with my siblings, that’s a lot of memories.”
Her primary project was showing cattle. Meinhardt shows Hereford cattle, and recently finished a stint as the National Hereford Queen. She competed against young women from across the country in knowledge of the Hereford breed and several other categories to earn the title.
The title gave her the opportunity to travel the country handing out awards at Hereford shows. Meinhardt said she enjoyed being able to travel and speak to youth, Hereford breeders and others about the breed.
“It was a cool experience to learn from others but also to represent the breed,” she said.
Caring for her animals taught her a lot of responsibility at an early age, Meinhardt said.
“It teaches you a lot of responsibility, feeding them before you feed yourself and making sure they’re well taken care of,” she said.
Responsibility is one skill Meinhardt said she learned from 4-H. It also taught her about creativity and taking constructive criticism. She said hearing thoughtful comments from judges were inspiring because she felt they wanted to help her improve.
“It makes you want to be the best person you can because other people believe in you,” she said.
Meinhardt said being able to enter as many projects as she could helped foster her creativity because so many categories were open-ended. It was a skill that served her well when she started her internship at the Kansas 4-H Foundation, which is based in Manhattan. Her primary job was to create videos of 4-Hers and 4-H programs. Meinhardt said she had freedom with the videos, which helped her find her voice and how she liked to put them together.
Anna Ramsey, Meinhardt’s supervisor at the foundation, said Meinhardt has begun to define her style.
“Having that identity is going to help her succeed,” Ramsey said. Ramsey said Meinhardt is ambitious, determined and always looks for ways to do good in her community.
“She’s always looking for ways to broaden her horizons, whether it’s through making connections or learning new skills,” Ramsey said.
Although she can no longer participate in 4-H, Meinhardt hopes to maintain connections she made through the organization.
She said she met many mentors through 4-H and she hopes to serve in that role for others.
“When I do things or take on a different position, I think about the 4-Hers at home who look up to me and how they will see this,” she said.
In the future, Meinhardt would like to continue being involved with 4-H as a volunteer or judge.
“I want to give back to 4-H because it played such an important role in my life,” she said.