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Middlesex County 4-H in Haddam

Submitted by Rebecca L. Durinick*

Photos by Alice Durinick.

February 3, 2018 — What does the 4 H’s mean? Most people if you asked wouldn’t know what 4-H is or what the four h’s mean. To me they were my life for the past 10 years, and will always be within me.

When I was just six years old enjoying the Haddam Neck Fair I happened to come across the sheep show. Young children like myself with their sheep all clean and trimmed were being walked around in circles and then set-up so the judge could look at them. As I remember the day a few of the adults were friends of my parents, and saw how interested I was. They asked me if I would like to try. I was lifted over the railing and the smallest black sheep was brought out on a lead rope. Nicole Mckay whispered to me what to do, and I was awarded a Blue ribbon which I was told I could keep. You can imagine how this plays out.

I was soon attending a 4-H meeting. Still to young to start, because you had to be seven years old, but we went to observe until I turned seven, and then I was fully involved. I joined the Ewe & I club out of the Middlesex Extension Center here in Haddam

The next thing I knew I was hanging out at the farm next to my grandparents. Sycamore Farm was run by the DiGioia’s. Diane and my dad had grown up together, and the DiGioia’s were so helpful in my learning about sheep, goats, horses, and pigs. They shared in my excitement and even went to Rhode Island to pick up my first two breed Cheviot sheep. They allowed me to keep them at their farm for a year while I was learning how to care for them, and my parents were building stalls in our barn. Leah was a few years older than me, but she was one of the best showman and teachers there was at that time. I couldn’t wait for school to be over every day, because it was off to the farm to learn how to take care of my sheep and the finer points on how to show them off. Leah was also in the Ewe & I 4-H club.

My first 2008 Cheviot Sheep lamb – Jill

4-H is a positive youth and development program known world wide. Do you know it’s the largest youth developing organization in America with almost 6 million youngsters. It’s a little over 100 years old and its idea was simple. Help youngsters gain skills to be proactive within their communities and develop with a hands on approach. Learn by doing!

As I reflect back through the years 4-H was more than just an agricultural based program, however, its fun dealing with all types of animals. If there is something your interested in I’m sure 4-H has a project area to cover it. Many clubs are focused only on crafts, some specialize in robotics, STEM, large or small animals, archery, community service or anything you can think of. A lot of clubs are a mix of things.

In 4-H I was able to learn how to give a Presentation and compete against others in the county with the hopes of going to the state level. Yes, you have to dress up look presentable and given your age it will be either 3 or 5 minutes of your time to educate others on something you’re passionate about. You will have to answer questions from the judges and then wait for the results.

2011 Food Show

The food show was probably one of my favorites. There is a theme each year and you get to either compete individually or as a group. Each person has to make a dish to help support their clubs balanced meal. Our club won a few over the years, but the best part was tasting everyone’s dishes after the final judging was over. Community service projects were always especially fun for me. We were able to meet people we wouldn’t normally have in our lives and see them smile. Some though were miles away at war, or in 3rd world countries, but all the same we knew they appreciated our work. Citizenship day at the
CT. State Capital in April is where it all happens, and you are able to meet your local congress and senators in action.

2011 Avery Point

Environmental science day at Avery Point in the summer allowed us to go out on the boat and help in their daily drag and survey of the ocean floor. In each club there is a President, VP, Secretary and Treasure and as you grow you will be able to run for each position and learn how to lead. This also allows you to become a 4-H Fair officer,
manager or superintendent. I was fortunate to take on all these offices and show the younger members of my club that they too someday how to lead by doing.

Our yearly 4-H Auction is held every year the Saturday before Mother’s day and it’s always fun to see a bunch of adults swing their numbers and try to outbid their friends and neighbors in the community. Its open up to the community and if you wanted to donate gently used items that could fit in the trunk of a car they are always welcome the week prior to the auction during Extension Center hours in Haddam. Better yet come out at 5:00 p.m. and join in the fun!

I can’t believe 10 years have gone by so fast as I’m aging out of this program, however, I hope someday in my future to possibly lead a 4-H club and allow the youth of that time to enjoy the wonderful opportunities 4-H has provided me with.

Citizenship day at the State Capital is another wonderful event and it’s open up to anyone not just 4-Hers. It allows you to learn about how our government works. This year the 4-H offered a select few from each state to go to the Presidential Inauguration. I was one of the five chosen out of 20 to attend this once in a life opportunity. I also went down to Washington D.C. this past summer for a week to learn more on how our voices could be heard on capital hill. There are other trips for the older members like National Dairy days, Congress, and Conference all held out of state.

Our pledge says it all. I pledge my HEAD for clearer thinking, my HEART for greater loyalty, my HANDS for lager service, and my HEALTh for better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.

If you have a child between the age of 7 and 18 that you feel is interested in learning by doing you can contact Emily Alger (emily.alger@uconn.edu) at the UConn Extension Center on 1066 Route 154 in Haddam. Emily will help you decide what best club fits your needs. Even if you want to be a Lone member you still can join in the events and trips.

Senior at Mercy High School

5 Responses to Middlesex County 4-H in Haddam

  1. Carol Birdsey

    February 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Great job Becky. So glad you want to be a 4-H leader. You have been a great example for the younger 4-Hers over the years.

  2. Pamela Gray

    February 14, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Great article Becky! You learned and grew tremendously over the years, with lots of fun and good friends on the journey!

  3. Linda Zanelli

    February 14, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    What a great article.

  4. Emily McCabe Alger

    February 14, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    💕. Great article Becky. You make me proud every day.

  5. Susan Dearborn

    February 14, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Awesome! Very well written! Well done Becky!🍀🍀🍀