4H-ers learn life lessons together
Morgan Robertson-DuBois, 10, gives his LaMancha goat kid Flossie a clipping, as mom and 4H club co-leader Desiree Robertson-DuBois holds her still. Co-leader Lisa Dachinger gives Morgan some guidance, as his 2-year-old sister, Gwynneth, feeds the baby goat. Club member Jacqueline Toolan, 11, looks on from the sidelines. Their club, the Milking Maniacs, drove out from Dalton for the annual Franklin County 4H Fair, held at the Heath Fairgrounds for the first time Saturday.
Chelsea Smith, 16, of Chesterfield, stands proudly with her ayrshire calf Blue, which won supreme junior champion, or in other words, best dairy calf of any breed, at the Franklin County 4H Fair at the Heath Fairgrounds Saturday. Smith belongs to the Hampshire County 4H Cattle Club.
The Chesterfield-based 4H Misfits club poses in front of their petting zoo with ponies Wanda and Blue at Saturday's Franklin County 4H Fair at the Heath Fairgrounds. In back are members Cycelie Clice, Lucas Gray, Bown Hanlon, Kelsey Henshaw, Kaitlyn Dauphinais, Esther Stewart, Cody Hanlon, volunteer Brandon Babcock, and club leader Sherry Whitmore, center. In front are Maggie and Andrew Brisbois, who stable the ponies at home.
HEATH — Folks from all around western Massachusetts and beyond flocked to the Heath Fairgrounds Saturday, where clubs old and new brought out their best for the Franklin County 4H Fair.
“We had over 350 exhibits,” said Launie York, member of the fair’s organizing committee.
York, of Shelburne, displayed a colorful quilt made from 45 years of 4H ribbons.
“It took me three winters to make,” said York. A former 4H kid herself, York now leads the Hilltown 4H Livestock Club and the Shelburne Magic Thimblers, a 4H sewing club.
Though York and others are veteran 4H-ers, some clubs are just getting established.
“We’ve been around for six months; we’re very new,” said Sherry Whitmore, leader of the Chesterfield 4H Misfits.
A “just-for-fun” club, the Misfits aren’t into competitive showing. Its 12 members are into all kinds of hands-on activities.
“It’s not just agriculture anymore; 4H involves more things,” said 4H parent Sherri Henshaw. “The kids do robotics, culinary arts, woodworking — whatever they want.”
Though they each have their own interests, all the Misfits love animals.
“I like taking care of the ponies,” said Maggie Brisbois, 10. She and brother Andrew, 7, look after Whitmore’s ponies, Wanda and Blue.
The club also cares for the animals in Whitmore’s petting zoo. Though she used to take them on the road for profit, its proceeds now go toward the club.
While the Misfits are into a bit of everything, other clubs are much more specific.
“We’re the Milking Maniacs,” said club co-leader Desiree Robertson-Dubois of Dalton. Another new club, the Maniacs have been around for about a year, and focuses on dairy goats.
Her son, Morgan Robertson-Dubois, has plenty of time to hone his 4H skills. The family are live-in managers of Holiday Brook Farm. Saturday, Morgan got some practice grooming his 3-month-old goat kid, and 4H project, Flossie.
“I like how pretty they look once I’ve done a nice job,” said Morgan, 10, electric clippers in hand. “Above all, I like showing them, and thinking about how I did, and how I can improve next time.”
When he’s not showing his goats, Morgan’s a typical farm kid, said his mom.
“I like to fish in the river by my house, go biking, hike in the woods, and build snares to catch the pesky groundhogs,” Morgan beamed. He was also quick to share some tips for cooking farm-fresh onions — cut them into rings, and sautee them with maple syrup.
His little sister, Gwynneth, 2, seemed right at home in the Fairgrounds barns, too. As Morgan clipped Flossie, she fed the little goat, played in the hay and wandered about looking at the other farm animals.
Kids’ projects included animals like goats, show horses, sheep, beef and dairy cattle, ducks, chickens, rabbits and others out in the barns, and crafts, quilts, photos, artwork, cookies, cakes and more in the exhibit hall.
Whether their focus is agriculture, arts and crafts, or science, 4H clubs are about getting kids involved in positive activities together.
“It gets my 14-year-old off the couch,” said Sherri Henshaw, whose daughter, Kelsey, is in the 4H Misfits. “She’s not sitting around on Facebook, she’s doing something productive and learning life lessons.”
If you’d like to find a club near you, visit www.mass4h.org/4-h-club-directory. The site also includes plenty of other information about 4H, including how to start your own club or otherwise get involved.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279