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By Staff | Oct 8, 2014

SHANNON LATHAM, vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Alexander, is a former 4-H’er. She is writing a history of 4-H’s impacts in Franklin County to preserve the history and as a fundraiser for scholarships.





It’s one thing to identify a challenge, but it’s another to take action. When Shannon Latham served as a trustee on the Iowa 4-H Foundation and discovered that Franklin County didn’t have an endowed 4-H scholarship program, she began writing a new chapter for local 4-H members.

“Everyone has a story to tell,” said Latham, who is compiling a book to increase awareness of local 4-H clubs’ contributions through the years, to preserve Franklin County’s rural history and to raise funds to support college scholarships for local 4-H members.

“What seems ordinary to you can be extraordinary to others,” she said.

So far, Latham has been contacting local Century Farm families with ties to 4-H, former 4-H members, Franklin County inductees into the 4-H Hall of Fame and people connected with Franklin County’s 12 4-H clubs.

She’s including recipes from area 4-H’ers, along with local history tidbits, such as the REA Museum in Hampton, which tells the history of the first rural electric utility plant west of the Mississippi River.

“Franklin County has such a rich history related to 4-H and agriculture,” said Latham, vice president of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds in Alexander. “It’s important to preserve these stories.”

Lifelong learning

Latham’s passion for 4-H took root during her years as a member of the Coldwater Country Cousins 4-H Club in Butler County. She said she enjoyed cooking and baking a variety of foods for the county fair, refinishing furniture and showing her family’s Suffolk sheep at both the county fair and Iowa State Fair.

“I also credit 4-H for helping me clarify my career goals,” said Latham, a communications professional who writes The Field Position blog for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds.

As part of a self-directed 4-H communications project, Latham wrote articles for a local newspaper and job shadowed Keith Kirkpatrick, a long-time farm broadcaster in Des Moines.

“4-H is all about trying new things,” said Latham, who treasures the friendships she made as a 4-H member. “It expands your network, encourages responsibility and goal setting, builds your self-esteem and teaches you skills you’ll use for a lifetime.”

As a parent, Latham said she values the many ways that 4-H strengthens families and encourages them to spend time together.”

“4-H is also important for becoming a well-rounded person,” she said. “4-H members learn to think about others and give back to their community.”

This sentiment is written into the 4-H pledge, which states, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

“This pledge challenges you to think about what kind of difference you’re going to make in the world around you,” Latham said. “When you look at the leaders in many of our rural communities, from school board members to civic groups, it’s not surprising that many of them are former 4-H members.”

Future focusing

Latham said she’s excited to see how 4-H remains relevant today. It offers members special-interest activities, including outdoors adventures, shooting sports and horse clubs, where youths can meet new friends who share similar interests.

4-H’s learning opportunities also dovetail with Iowa’s STEM educational initiatives, which emphasize science, technology, engineering and math.

In addition, 4-H members have the chance to travel and expand heir leadership and citizenship skills through trips to Washington, D.C.

“4-H can really help open our eyes to see all the possibilities around us,” said Latham, who plans to complete her book soon and use the proceeds to help support college scholarships for local 4-H members.

Latham is seeking additional Franklin County 4-H information and local ag history stories to include in the book.

For more information, contact Latham atshannonl@lathamseeds.com.

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