4-H youth often say they enjoy competing in judging contests – without even realizing they’re developing lifelong skills.
The North Dakota 4-H program offers contests in livestock, crops, horse, meat, range, land and dairy judging and consumer decision making in addition to communication arts, equine presentations, hippology, horse and livestock quiz bowls, and shooting sports.
“Through judging contests, youth have the opportunity to set goals, gain knowledge and practice what they have learned,” says Brad Cogdill, Center for 4-H Youth Development chair. “Decision making, oral and written communication skills, and problem solving are three life skills youth learn and practice as they prepare for and compete in contests. As team members, they develop interpersonal, leadership and cooperation skills.”
Former LaMoure County 4-H’er Eric Lahlum now coaches the county’s crops judging team.
“I use the skills I learned in 4-H judging contests daily in my career,” says the Corteva Agrisciences territory manager. “I use the critical thinking and communication skills every day in my interactions. Being able to quickly identify seeds and plants allows me to properly recommend the correct product to help solve farmers’ problems.”
Jacob Klaudt of Beulah participated in the consumer decision-making contest.
“One of my favorite parts was bonding with my teammates and using that chemistry in the group think portion of the contest,” Klaudt says. “Preparing for the national contest took a lot of time and dedication, but it definitely paid off. The experience helped further my public speaking and decision-making skills.”
Research supports the lasting impact. One study found that 97% of judging alumni indicated their 4-H judging experience positively influenced their personal success. In another study, 84% of those who competed in dairy judging contests said they use the evaluation and decision-making skills they learned professionally and personally.
Cogdill says these skills help 4-H youth become competent, capable and contributing individuals as they transition to adulthood.