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State Fair Judge credits 4-H with sparking his own creative passion

Jim Sannerud, a professional artist who specializes in woodturning, grew up in Ham Lake, Minnesota as a member of Anoka County 4-H. Pat Morriem, retired 4-H agent and educator, recalls "Jim was a great 4-H member. He was an outstanding camp counselor and mentored a lot of young campers at our Anoka County 4-H Camp Salie. Jim had such a great rapport with young 4-H members; they looked up to him and learned from him."

Much of Jim's 4-H experiences focused on poultry (his 7th grade Golden Giant entry won third place at the State Fair), but it was in the shop of his club leader, Kenny Irvin, where Jim was introduced to woodworking (his first project was the yellow gumball machine pictured on the left). One of the many woodworking tools and machines Kenny kept in his shop was called a lathe and Jim was especially intrigued by it. Now, decades after that first visit to his 4-H club leader's shop, Jim spends hours each day using a lathe turning wood into beautiful works of art and utility.

10 years ago, after spending most of his professional life as a cabinet and furniture maker, Jim decided it was time to turn his much-loved hobby of woodturning into a career. Twice he's traveled to northern Sweden in order to study under master sloyder Wille Sundqvist. As his skills and creativity sharpened, he began displaying and selling his work in art fairs across the country. He shares his woodturning expertise with enthusiasts of all ages and experience levels in classes throughout the United States, as well as in Sweden and Ukraine.

Jim is proud of his 4-H roots and prioritizes giving back to the program that introduced him to his creative passion. Since 2001, Jim hasn't missed a year of judging 4-H woodworking projects at the Minnesota State Fair. "Jim's personality makes each 4-H'er comfortable in the judging experience," notes Sandy Ducharme, 4-H Exhibits Coordinator at the Minnesota State Fair. "The knowledge and passion he shares with them enriches the learning and judging experience."

Jim proudly displays his judging pins on the wall of his St. Paul studio. He hopes that giving back to 4-H as a judge will encourage another generation of youth to explore their passions. "4-H really fostered my creativity and sparked my interest in the art of creating," mentioned Jim during a recent interview at his St. Paul studio. "I hope my time volunteering at the State Fair each summer does the same thing for this generation of 4-H youth."

Jim's artwork can be viewed in person at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais and the Gallery of Wood Art at the Landmark Center in St. Paul. To learn more about Jim Sannerud, visit his website at

By Erin Kelly-Collins
Alumni Coordinator
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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