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Defining a Volunteer with 4-H Livestock Projects

Defining a Volunteer with 4-H Livestock Projects, by Chris Boleman, PhD

During stock show season, I am frequently asked about 4-H rules and guidelines regarding volunteers. This seems to be the time of the year I get these questions because many local, regional, and state livestock shows have rules regarding adult volunteer help at livestock shows. So, I thought I would do my best to clarify some of this.

Always, always, always double check the respective livestock show’s rules. All stock shows (from local to national) have their own rules and a lot of times people will confuse individual livestock shows rules with other show rules and with 4-H rules.

Stock show rules regarding adult volunteer help supersedes 4-H rules at the livestock show. Texas 4-H Members are invited guests of the stock shows and as invited guests participating in the junior show, the rules of each specific livestock show should be followed.

4-H is a non-formal educational program delivered by volunteers who are managed by County Extension Agents.  A 4-H volunteer leader is a person who is responsible for a group, activity or event, and the members and/or other volunteers involved in the county in which they serve.

Here are some common questions I receive specific to 4-H livestock volunteers.

Can I serve in multiple counties as a volunteer?

No. 4-H is committed to a volunteer serving in only one county. This is because we want there to be an on-going relationship with the local County Extension Agents, other local 4-H volunteers, parents, and youth.

Why can’t I help a family outside my county where I serve as a volunteer?

This is a continuation of the previous question. So, to add on, 4-H volunteers build relationships with families and the county office through club meetings, project meetings, program workshops, clinics, practice sessions, etc. This is difficult (if not impossible) to do in multiple counties.

Moreover, with recent changes in TAMU System Youth Protection Standards and Regulations, a general liability policy secured through Texas 4-H, and accidental / medical policies purchased, volunteers must have a direct relationship with the County Extension Agents that oversee the county 4-H program.

Finally, a lot of the times, this question surfaces from someone that has sold a livestock project to a youth in another county and they want to help them at a show. Frankly, this would not be categorized as a volunteer role.

In conclusion, thanks for allowing me to clarify some of these common questions. Again, make sure you check the stock show rules and the Texas 4-H Youth Development Rules and Guidelines.

Thanks so much for all you do for Texas youth.