Each month, we highlight Ohio 4-H alumni who have amazing stories to share—their personal experience in 4-H or how they are giving back to the program. This month we spotlight James Anderson, an accomplished Delaware County 4-H alumnus and park naturalist in Marion County.
Throughout his nine years in 4-H, Anderson experimented with a variety of projects. He completed woodworking, photography, nutrition, and natural resources projects, and raised sheep, rabbits, chickens, and cattle. He was even selected to compete at the Ohio State Fair with one of his food and nutrition projects. “I didn’t receive the clock trophy or a ribbon, but it was still an amazing experience and I’m grateful for the opportunity to this day,” said Anderson.
“I am fortunate to have a lot of great memories from my time in 4-H, so it’s hard to pick just one.” But the moments that stand out to him are the community service projects he completed with his 4-H club. “We assisted residents at a local retirement community, picked up trash at Alum Creek State Park, cleared out invasive plant species at Stratford Ecological Center, and more.” Anderson’s father was his club’s advisor and saw the importance of community service; he made sure to instill this value in his son. “Once he told me, ‘We don’t do community service to make ourselves look better to others; we do it because it is the right thing to do,’ and that has stuck with me ever since,” Anderson said.
4-H also helped Anderson develop a strong foundation in public speaking, an essential skill in his career as a park naturalist for the Marion County Park District. “My whole career is based on public speaking. Without 4-H, I’m not sure where I would be today or if I would have the confidence to speak to large audiences.”
In addition to the lasting lessons and life skills, 4-H camp, holds a special place in his heart—it is where he met his wife. “We met at a camp counselor workshop at Camp Ohio. She was from Morrow County, and we lost touch over time, but were able to reconnect through social media a few years later. Now, we like to tell people that our relationship got its start in 4-H!”
Anderson continues to give back to Ohio 4-H in a variety of ways. He volunteers in Marion and Delaware counties as a natural resources project judge and this year served as a judge at the Ohio State Fair for the Why Trees Matter project. He and his wife also assist with rabbit skillathons in Morrow County and have served as 4-H advisors. “We are planning to return as advisors in the near future and are excited that our son has begun his 4-H journey as a Cloverbud in Morrow County.”
For current and future 4-H members, Anderson’s advice is to try everything at least once. “Avoid doing the bare minimum,” he said. “Every year my dad challenged my sister and I to try a new project. We never had to do it again if we didn’t enjoy the project, but he wanted us to get the most out of our 4-H experiences.”