From 4-H’er to the US Senate

As a youth growing up on her family’s farm in Montgomery County, 4-H played a large role in U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s upbringing — instilling many leadership skills she uses today.

Ernst, a Republican, was an eight-year member of the Frankfort Clovia Clan 4-H Club and, during her time, she said she took part in a variety of different activities that included photography, sewing, home furnishing and food and nutrition.

In addition to participating in several project areas, Ernst said she took away much more than that from her 4-H experience.

“Being a member of 4-H taught me how to work as a member of a team and in a leadership role – skills that I’ve built upon and that have helped me all my life,” she said.

Ernst said there is one special person she credits for helping her to excel in her 4-H career.

“Without a doubt, my mother, who was our leader, was a central role model for me during my time in 4-H,” she said.

Why join 4-H?

Ernst said by participating in 4-H, youth will find out it opens them up to new friendships, challenges, opportunities and an entire community and network of individuals from different generations and from across Iowa.

“It’s a wonderful experience and I encourage anyone who can, to participate,” she said. “This is such an extraordinary opportunity to learn valuable skills, meet wonderful people who you will get to know well and become friends with, and have tons of fun in the process.”

Ernst’s family raised pork, corn and soybeans on their farm. When she was in college at Iowa State University, she joined the Army ROTC program, which ultimately led to her 23-year military career in the Army Reserve and the Iowa Army National Guard.

In 2003, she served as a company commander in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, an experience she said has had a profoundly positive impact on her

“Today, in the U.S. Senate, I may wear a different uniform, but I have the same focus and commitment to serving the American people,” she said.

In November 2014 — after her service in the Army Reserve and the Iowa Army National Guard, and then in state government — Ernst was elected as the first woman to serve in a federal elected office from the state of Iowa and also became the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the United States Senate.

In Washington, Ernst serves on five Senate committees of major importance to Iowans: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; Judiciary; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship.


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