KINGDOM CITY, Mo. — The heifer stepped on 10-year-old Sophie Geppert's shoelaces as she tugged her cow across the barnyard.
Geppert nudged the Holstein affectionately.
"She's about 1 year old," she said. "Mama bought her for me at a sale in Oklahoma we go to."
Geppert is a proud 4-H member who showed dairy last year. With sign-ups for 4-H opening soon, Geppert wanted to encourage other children to join the organization.
"I like the meetings, and we always have a livestock tour where we go to other people's barns so they can show their animals off," she said.
National 4-H Week begins Oct. 1 and will be preceded by a kick-off event for Callaway County 4-H participants, said Sarah Rohrbach, youth program assistant with the University of Missouri Extension in Callaway County. The free kick-off event is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the former Lions Club Park in Auxvasse.
"This is the first year we're having (a kick-off)," Rohrbach said. "It's a chance for all the clubs in the county to gather together, and it's also for any family interested in 4-H to come talk to club leaders. There'll be kids from each club there to talk to."
Open sign-ups for 4-H begin Oct. 1 and run through December.
Callaway County has several clubs, including the Mighty Mokaners, the Hardin Hustlers and the New Bloomfield Cruisers, among others.
Cole County, too, has several 4-H clubs based in Jefferson City, Taos, Wardsville, Brazito, St. Martins, St. Thomas and more.
For more information about 4-H or to find a club, visit extension.missouri.edu/4h.
This will be Geppert's third year participating. She lives on a farm in Kingdom City, which belongs to her grandpa Harlan Borman, where the family has a small herd of cows.
While she herself hasn't been part of the organization for long, her family has a long history with 4-H.
"Sophie is a fourth-generation Callaway County 4-H-er," her mother, Kate Geppert, said. "Her great-grandmother Geraldine Atkinson was in 4-H and was a 4-H leader for the McCredie 4-H Club."
Kate's parents, Borman and Judy Atkinson Borman, were also members of 4-H. Each went to the National 4-H Conference in 1959 and 1958, respectively. All four generations have favored showing dairy.
Sophie is carrying on the dairy tradition — she showed her heifer at the county fair this year — but she also has done arts and crafts, cake decorating and horsemanship.
"There's like 50 projects, from aerospace and amphibians to woodworking and welding," she said.
Sophie said she's learned a lot from participating in 4-H. Her grandpa taught her how to handle cows so she could be more successful at shows, she said.
"It's a lot of fun, and you get to learn how to do new things," Sophie said.
In arts and crafts, she made a wooden barn quilt, which soon will be proudly mounted on her family's barn.
She also picked up a new hobby.
"I had to do 'Exploring 4-H' last year, and I learned to fish for the first time," Sophie said. "I got a pole for my birthday."
She and her family praised the strong community aspect of 4-H. Kate said some of her old friends from 4-H now have children of their own in Sophie's club.
"It's a real community, and that's one thing I like about 4-H," Kate said.
Rohrbach said 4-H teaches valuable skills to children, like public speaking.
"I think it makes them more well-rounded and teaches them responsibility as they're taking care of animals," Rohrbach said. "They make friends."
Her four kids are all 4-H members, she said.