Candid Conversation: Kentucky 4-H President Landry WoodrumPosted on Oct 19, 2020
KFB Candid Conversation presents a discussion about the topical issues facing the agricultural industry and rural communities in a question and answer format. In this column, State 4-H President Landry Woodrum discusses the benefits of being involved in the organization and what he has experienced being a state officer during a pandemic.
Landry, could you share with our readers a little about yourself and how you became involved in 4-H?
My first 4-H experiences weren’t exactly voluntary. My mom became the Boyle County 4-H Agent when I was a baby, so I tagged along with her to 4-H camp and club meetings. It didn’t take me long after that to fall in love with 4-H of my own accord. By the age of 9, I was counting down the days to 4-H summer camp. Beyond mom’s career choice, 4-H is a family tradition. My paternal grandfather left the state for the first time to represent Kentucky at National 4-H Congress in Chicago, and my maternal grandfather served as Kentucky 4-H President in 1958. As for me, I graduated from Boyle County High School last May, and now I’m studying Agriculture Economics at the University of Kentucky (UK). I hope to work in sales after college, and eventually retire to farm full time with my dad and brother. I’ll be the 5th generation of Woodrums to live and work on our cow/calf operation in Casey County.
Since joining 4-H, would you describe some of the events and activities you have been involved with and are there some of those events that are particularly special to you?
As a junior member I competed in the demonstration contest, covering topics ranging from giving shots to cattle to Karate stances, as well as a variety of woodworking and craft projects. I was also a member of our business club, in which I sold PVC pipe marshmallow guns at festivals to fund my LEGO habit (and save a little). I found my niche in the organization in middle school when I went to my first Teen Summit, a leadership program for middle schoolers held at the Lake Cumberland Leadership Center. I dove headfirst into 4-H Leadership after that, serving on a couple of conference planning committees, as well as an officer at the county, district, and finally state level. One event that has a special place in my heart is 4-H summer camp. I’ve attended for 12 years straight, and my enthusiasm for it hasn’t faded a bit.
As we make our way through a pandemic, how have you and other 4-Hers adjusted to some of the changes you have experienced?
At first, when we found out that many of our favorite events were either going virtual or being cancelled, many of us were crushed, especially the seniors. But after the shock wore off, 4-H’ers all over the country decided to grab the bull by the horns and make it work. Everything from county club meetings to national conferences have gone digital, connecting members and providing positive youth development in spite of the global pandemic. For example, our first two State Teen Council meetings of the year will be held in a hybrid format with council members meeting in small groups across the state, non-traditional, sure, but unforgettable as well!
When it comes to major events such as the 4-H Emerald Gala for instance, how has the adjustment been from going from in-person involvement to virtual participation?
The shift to virtual platforms has been just as difficult for 4-H and the extension service as it has for everyone else. However, it has been a shining testament to our adaptability. With the specific example of the Emerald Gala, we are all going to miss the opportunity to dress up and gather with others that are passionate about 4-H, but because we are going digital we are also reaching new audiences we would never have reached with an in-person event.
Have you recognized any opportunities that might be the result of remote learning and virtual involvement?
One major result of our virtual programming is that Kentucky 4-H’s online presence has boomed, all our social media accounts are much more engaged than they were previously. That boom created an opportunity to reach parents who use online content to keep their kids busy, many of whom have never heard of 4-H. The bulk of our online content is called “Kentucky 4-H Virtual Experience,” a series of 15-minute videos that focus on a particular topic. For example, I’ve produced an episode on farm equipment safety and one on basic parliamentary procedure. We sincerely hope that these new families will continue their involvement beyond the era of social distancing.
What do you tell other students about 4-H who might be considering becoming a part of this organization?
The “spiel” on 4-H varies depending on the age group, but generally I’ll tell interested youth that we are the oldest and largest youth development organization in the U.S., that we have opportunities for every youth regardless of interests, and that this organization will help you grow as a leader, communicator, and person while pursuing what you enjoy. Another point I often bring up is that 4-H compliments other activities like athletics or career and technical student organizations (FFA, FCCLA, SkillsUSA, etc.) because your level of commitment is entirely up to you.
What are your plans for the future, and how big of a role has 4-H played in those types of decisions?
My ultimate goal is to be able to farm full time with my dad and brother, but first I’d like to work in the agriculture industry for a while. I am leaning towards pursuing sales or management as a career path because both of those involve working with people, and it seems my skillset is best suited to working with others. Through serving on various officer teams, planning committees, and councils, 4-H helped me identify that I have a penchant for communication and leadership, and I hope to apply those skills in my career, whatever it may be. 4-H also led me to attend the UK College of Agriculture. I spent a lot of time at UK for 4-H functions and because of that I never seriously considered going anywhere else.