As the Fillmore County Fair approaches, families throughout the area are busy preparing projects for judging and 4-H promotion. Many in the county have followed the example set by their parents and grandparents, carrying on a strong tradition of involvement and leadership at the local level.
One such individual is Kirsten Ruen of Lanesboro. Now a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, Kirsten has been an active member in Lanesboro Livewires 4-H since she was in kindergarten, spending three years as a Cloverbud before devoting 11 years to the 4-H program.
While many often hear of members showing animals at the local county fair, Kirsten has taken unique routes. In addition to showing sheep in the past, Kirsten has also entered projects in needle arts, fine arts and horseless horse, which allows her to share her knowledge of the horse industry and the history of horses, without owning or leasing a horse of her own. She participated in Share the Fun, a program where youth from counties can prepare and perform a play, dance or musical. Kirsten held multiple positions in this program, including youth leader, secretary and president.
“My favorite activity would be helping to run club meetings and getting the opportunity to go to the Minnesota State Fair with my projects,” noted Kirsten.
Like many 4-H members in Minnesota, Kirsten attributes her involvement in 4-H to past generations in her family. Both her father, David, and her mother, Joan, spent many years as active members, inspiring their children to do the same. David often showed beef cattle and hogs, and eventually held the titles of State Ambassador and Fillmore County President.
A 4-H member of Polk, Minn., Joan became very involved at a young age, entering projects in general categories and Share the Fun. Joan also expanded her experience in the program by holding titles such as club secretary, club president and County Ambassador.
Devoted members are occasionally lucky enough to attend 4-H conferences. David had the opportunity to gain leadership experience by attending the Minnesota Junior Leadership Conference at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in the summer of 1980. He spent this conference learning leadership and social skills and networking with people of similar backgrounds. Little did he know, his future wife attended the same conference on the same day. Fourteen years later, the two learned of this coincidence and even found a group photograph of all the Minnesota kids in attendance.
Like Kirsten, David and Joan credit their 4-H involvement to past generations, their parents. Kirsten’s grandmothers, Gloria Ruen and LaVonne Jallo, pursued 4-H as youngsters and, in return, persuaded their children to do the same.
Joan remembers her time in 4-H as a program that helped her grow as a person, have pride in herself and give back to her community.
This year, Kirsten is entering projects at the fair in fruit, preservatives, food and nutrition and photography. She also looks forward to working a shift at the 4-H food stand and watching the sheep show.
“I think that 4-H is a wonderful organization for both rural and urban youth to be a part of. I have gained many important attributes from 4-H to become a successful and driven young adult,” said Kirsten.
Kirsten says she is proud to tell employers that she is a part of this organization, because it’s known for promoting leadership, teamwork and advancing public speaking skills.
Through 4-H, Kirsten feels she has expanded her networks by meeting kids all over the county, state and country.
Visit the Fillmore County Fair in Preston next week, July 22 to 26, to observe how time and tireless devotion to projects have paid off for Kirsten and other 4-H members in Fillmore County.