POLSON, Mont. - Cassidy Norick has made the 4-H motto “learning by doing” a part of her life for more than a decade. This year she represents her club with her hog, Mr. McSteamy.
“You wake up, you feed your hog, you work with your hog, and you love your hog,” said Norick, who is also a counselor and mentor.
At 16 years old Norick is a national 4-H qualifier and an outstanding student, but she says her true passion lies in mentoring.
"We have younger members in our 4-H club, and I just help teach them how to work with their hogs, what community service looks like, and even when you're not asked to do something, if you see someone struggling you should go help them," said Norrick.
At the 100th anniversary of the 4-H club organizers at the Northwest Montana Fair say it’s more than just raising livestock. It’s also a way of life.
"They strive to teach community service, responsibility, integrity and honesty. We just want to try to make them a good, well rounded citizen,” said Sandy Evenson, the 4-H Council president for the state.
Children as young as 5 can join 4-H. With 500 members in Flathead County organizers say the fair is the busiest time of the year. For almost a year at a time members are responsible for all aspects of taking care of an animal -- from rabbits to steers. All the expenses come out of their pocket and are hopefully returned when they sell their animal at the fair. This gives them a unique learning opportunity.
"4-H teaches you the responsibility and how to care and how to make friends -- you just learn so much,” said Norick. “I feel like without 4-H I wouldn't have the responsibility of how to take care of an animal and how to manage what I have to manage."
Norick is planning to follow in the footsteps of her three older brothers and wants to go to college after she graduates. While she says she wants to go into the medical field, she also says she won’t soon forget her agricultural ties.
"Five generations of my family have been in the 4-H program. It's definitely in my blood," she said.
It’s a longstanding family tradition she’s determined to keep.