‘A passion for 4-H’ – Extension welcomes new 4-H coordinator

Published 8:06 am Tuesday, July 18, 2017

April Johnson is the new Mower County Extension 4-H Program Coordinator — a position she was born to fill.

Its broad base of programming for helping kids find the thing they love attracted her most.

“I’ve always had a passion for 4-H,” she said. “I love the fact that through 4-H, you design what you want to learn. And I like that you can try things — and if you don’t like something the first year you try it, you can switch to something else.”

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Johnson, 27, began her duties on June 5, after serving for four years as a member services coordinator for AMPI, a dairy marketing cooperative, working at the company’s New Ulm corporate office.

Being able to work in 4-H again, however, has been her dream.

A native of a Windom-area dairy farm, she was an active participant in Cottonwood County 4-H. Her memories of working on a variety of 4-H projects were good ones, and preparing for the fair was always a highlight of the summer.

Her early mentors were her parents, Elizabeth and Dean. They are project leaders today and her mom is the county’s 4-H treasurer while her dad is active in the dairy science area. Their impact is felt throughout the family: Johnson’s sister, Chelsey Asche, is also a 4-H program coordinator in Rock County, in the southwest part of the state; her brother, Jacob, is an ag teacher in Windom. Youngest brother, Ethan, is an active 4-Her and FFAer in high school.

“And I had a lot of influential leaders” in 4-H, including the late Andrea Ruesch, who served as 4-H program coordinator in Cottonwood County.

She began her studies in dairy production at South Dakota State University at Brookings; half-way through her sophomore year, she realized that she wanted to work in 4-H as a career, so she added ag education as a second major.

Johnson had been keeping her eye on 4-H position openings; when this one opened, she said, she wasted no time applying.

“One thing that makes Mower County unique is the strength of its volunteers,” she said, that translates into strength of projects. Shooting sports, rabbit, llama, dog and horse project areas are particularly strong due to its leadership.

Mower 4-H also “does a great job staying true to its ag roots,” Johnson said. “There is lots of strength in the animal science projects.”

Still, she said, there is “opportunity for all … there is truly a project area for everybody.”

Her goals, she said, include “to learn as much as I can … and to enhance and offer more learning opportunities for kids.”

“As we go forward, our goal is to reach audiences who perhaps haven’t been served in the past,” she said.

She said she is impressed with the corps of leaders that oversee the county’s 11 clubs and 400 members. “They’re the backbone of the program,” she said.

Johnson is also is extremely happy with the Extension team with whom she works: Jan Olson, office support specialist; summer assistant Dedee Bergstrom, and intern Lisa Stundahl.

“They are excellent; I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them,” she said.

The program is entering “prime time” — that is, fair time. The Mower County Fair will be held Aug. 8-13 in Austin.

Johnson urges the community to attend the fair — it is time for 4-Hers to shine.

“It showcases the work done through the entire year,” she said. “Come and check out the 4-H events; it’s also an opportunity to see what programs we offer.”