By Heather Reinhart
MEEKER, McLEOD COUNTIES, MN Darcy Cole loved 4-H when she was a child.
She spent 12 years in 4-H, where she participated in the sheep program and was a 4-H Ambassador. Even in elementary school, she remembers telling people that she wanted to make it a career when she grew up.
Lo and behold, Cole’s childhood years at 4-H competitions, which she said taught her life skills such as responsibility, follow-through, and leadership, came full circle when she earned an undergraduate degree in agricultural education and later landed a job as the Meeker County 4-H program coordinator.
“It’s kind of cool that way,” she said. “It’s something I really remember saying that I wanted to do as a job.”
Cole spent almost 10 years in the Meeker County position before resigning earlier this month to move across the border to McLeod County, where she now works in the same role for the county she lives in.
“My transition to McLeod County will allow me to work in my home county and require less commuting time because my office will now be much closer to my home and my children’s schools,” she wrote in a letter to all the Meeker County 4-H families.
The job change has brought Cole full circle, as McLeod County is where she grew up and competed in the 4-H program.
“It had a great impact on my life and what I became,” she said.
Among Cole’s biggest accomplishments during her time in Meeker County was creating a County Performing Arts Day (2008), adding a 4-H Shooting Sports Program (2009), Blue Ribbon Dairy Auction (2011), Rube Goldberg Challenge teams (2015), and expanding the Science of Agriculture Response Challenge teams (2015). Cole also developed many new partnerships with companies that supported the 4-H after school programs.
One week into her new McLeod County role, Cole said she is looking forward to the upcoming Winter Fruit Fundraiser, Livestock Identification Processes, and the February Movie Day at the State Theatre in Hutchinson.
Meanwhile, the Meeker County 4-H program coordinator role will be filled by a temporary worker until early June, when a new person will take over those duties.
Cole said there are many things she enjoys about 4-H, including the fact that it’s open to children starting in kindergarten and continuing until one year after high school graduation.
“Families with multiple kids can all be in the same activity, but can tailor it to each person’s individual interests,” she said.
McLeod County has about 250 4-H participants and countless volunteers that help make it successful. Cole said she will use the first year in her role as McLeod County 4-H program coordinator to take it all in and see what areas can be improved upon or added to.
“I guarantee there will be some things we’ll expand on,” she said.
Cole said the McLeod County Fair is her favorite event of the year because all the youth in 4-H come together in one place and get to showcase what they’ve been working on all year.
“I get the opportunity to see everybody and connect with them over the course of the fair,” she said. “My favorite part is, definitely, having the opportunity to see kids grow and develop their skills and interests and watch them participate in showcase events.”
Those interested in joining 4-H or learning more about the program in McLeod County can call the Extension Office, which is located on the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, at (320) 484-4305. More information is also at www.extension.umn.edu/county/mcleod.
“The project offerings are so wide and varied that there’s something for everyone,” Cole said.