A Fabulous 4-H Family
A Fabulous 4-H Family

A Fabulous 4-H Family

by Nan Clark of Chesterfield, MA

I write the first draft of this story with a special pencil — white with green lettering and a green 4-leaf clover. Each leaf is imprinted with a white H. Below the clover is this motto: “To Make The Best Better.” Further lettering states: “I pledge my Head to clearer thinking – my Heart to greater loyalty – my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

4-H clubs throughout America and around the world help boys and girls learn leadership skills, develop self-confidence and self-esteem, utilize creative thinking and become more productive community members. The program constantly changes to keep pace with the interest and needs of modern youth. All boys and girls ages 5-18 are welcome. Before I introduce you to one very special 4-H family, it seems fitting to give you an overview of the history of 4-H.

Some of my research took me to a book by Thomas and Marilyn Wessel entitled “4-H American Idea, 1900-1980.” I took further information from a 4-H web site where you will find a plethora of categories to investigate on this subject. Like me, you might be surprised to discover that this far-reaching activity was not started by any national leader nor charismatic group. It “embodied those qualities that had characterized the movement of agriculture across the continent.” (early 1900’s) “Here and there, among farm families, agriculture scientists, school teachers, administrators and concerned citizens, the seeds of 4-H were scattered.” A central theme emerged: “Farming and rural living were… cherished and nurtured as a way of life.”

At this time it was John Dewey who said the “American Approach to education is a combination of abstract instruction and learning by doing.” This was unlike education in Europe; yet, public schools still stuck to readin’, ritin’, & ‘rithmetic—a rigid curriculum. Liberty Hyde Bailey of Cornell University described the situation this way: “The teacher measures everything in terms of the city. She talks of the city. She returns to the city at the end of the week. In the meantime all the beauty and attractiveness of the country may be unsuggested. Unconsciously to both the teacher and pupil, the minds of the children are turned toward the city. There results a constant migration to the city, bringing about serious social and economic problems. But, from the educational point of view, the serious part of it is the fact that the school training may unfit the child to live in its normal and natural environment. It is often said that the agricultural college trains the youth away from the farm. The fact is, the mischief is done long before the youth enters college.”

So bit-by-bit or seed-by-seed the 4-H idea evolved with nature studies, corn growing contests in Illinois, corn clubs in Iowa, agriculture clubs in Ohio, boll weevil control in Texas, agricultural extension work promoted by Massachusetts Agricultural College (now UMass) even urban club work in Rhode Island. Growth quickly spread to Canada, Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It is now considered that 4-H officially began in 1902, and in 2002 the centennial was celebrated around the world. Most recent statistics indicate there are approximately 5 million boys and girls in this youth education program of cooperative extension services. The success of 4-H has come through nearly 600,000 volunteer leaders, backed by Land Grant University staff in every county of this nation. With international cooperation, 4-H is also adding to world understanding!

In 1907 the first emblem to be used nationally was only a 3-leaf clover designed by O.H. Benson. The 4-leaf clover appeared in 1911 with the word ‘Hustle’ added to Head, Heart & Hands. Later on, the word Hustle was changed to Health, as it stands today.

My involvement with 4-H has come through country fairs and with my interest in the 4-H Ox Teamsters of New England. At 4-H Fairs I’ve been very favorably impressed with these capable young folks and their interesting and varied activities. Finally, I felt compelled to explore 4-H with a story. At a 4-H Auction I offered for bid my plan to highlight a family for publication in my favorite farming magazine. The King family of Inlet Brook Farm in North Brookfield, Massachusetts bid on and won my story item. Little did I know what an awesome experience awaited me.

I first met Andrew King and his father, Bill, at the Belchertown, MA, Fair where they were preparing to show their registered Toggenburg Dairy Goats. We chatted while Andrew groomed several does and Bill explained that 4-H is really a combination of many other youth organizations. “Anything you can dream of you can do in 4-H. Not just rural youth, but urban youth as well, because 4-H has expanded and adapted to the changing times.”

Boys and girls from age 5-8 are called Cloverbuds. They can be active and learning in a club, receive ribbons and recognition but can not win prize money at the fairs until they become Juniors age 9-13 and Seniors age 14-18. On Bill King’s cap are the letters IFYE, which used to stand for International Farm Youth Exchange. It is probably a little-known fact that President John F. Kennedy modeled the Peace Corp program after IFYE which was already in existence and having world-wide exchanges with youth in foreign countries. 4-H’ers who were farmers’ sons and daughters lived with farm families around the world, exchanging information regarding agriculture and their cultures. According to Bill, “In the 1970’s the meaning of ‘F” in IFYE was changed from Farm to Four-H because we became more urban. The program continues today with over 14 foreign countries involved.” The goals may be similar to those of the Heifer Project which funds placement of livestock to needy families everywhere, helping folks and communities recover from poverty and/ or natural disasters and build local self-reliance. Bill King’s father was a dairy farmer and has sent Guernsey cattle to folks in Guatemala via the Heifer Project.

For years there was some tension and teasing between the dairy cattle farmers and the dairy goat farmers. Bill remembers that, as a teen, he snickered at the dairy goats in the barn of the Eastern States Exposition. He said to his friends, “Can you believe they milk those things?” Now, he says “We’re one of them. Goats are so much easier. They maintain themselves well, don’t get sick very often, they’re hardy, milk quite easily, take up less space, eat less and are personable.”

According to Bill and Andrew there are two goat associations: the American Goat Society and the American Dairy Goat Association. These groups are trying to get together and develop mutually beneficial alliances. Nigerian Dwarf goats have also become very popular. At a recent fair in MA, there were 40 or 50 of that breed. Bill says, “Now we dairy goat people sometimes raise eyebrows at the Nigerian Dwarfs because they are so short and have such small udders. Kinda comical, but the people that own them love them as pets. Actually, those small udders can be more uniform.” Bill continues, “Goats are very adaptable to whatever space you have. We don’t have a barn, we have an open, south-facing shed and we also keep some goats in our garage. Cars stay out! There’s a small corral for our yearlings and the milkers have a separate stable area. After the haying is done, the goats get to free-graze on the lawn and in the field. Predators have not been a problem yet, but we do have coyotes and even a bobcat in our area. Local dogs are all tied. Our pen has pretty high walls so a predator would have to be a good—a really good jumper! We have had occasional trouble with hawks and foxes after our chickens, so we close them all up at night. For chickens we have production birds and purebred show Bantams. The Bantams are kept in open-bottom cages from which they can graze a designated area. The production birds have free-range of the whole lawn.”

Because of a previous appointment I had to leave these fine folks and their well-groomed goats before the showing started. Thankfully, they invited me to visit them at their farm on Columbus Day when the whole family would be home. It turned out to be an amazing adventure, full of surprises. I was greeted by the contented clucking of chickens and the friendly, curious calling of several goats. Immediately I felt welcome because I once raised both goats and chickens on my own farm. It warmed my heart to hear them again. Inside the well-kept house other senses were tantalized. Bill’s wife, Janice, and daughter, Emily, were in the kitchen preparing Polish Galumpke and Emily’s blue-ribbon chocolate chip cookies for our supper. Those aromas had me salivating long before the meal. I soon discovered this whole family has a 4-H history. Janice, looking healthy and happy in her well-stocked kitchen, took time to give me her background. “Growing up in Indiana, I was in 4-H for eight years where I did a lot of knitting, crocheting, foods and flowers. Domestic type products, as there were no animals on our farm at that time. 4-H is such a great program for kids to learn how to do things on their own. Today most kids don’t have that exposure — they don’t know how to cook, even how to boil water! They can’t sew, can’t even make decisions on how to buy economically and prepare foods nutritionally. If you don’t know how to cook, you’re at the mercy of the food processors and you have to eat high fat, high sugar, over-processed foods. If you do know how to cook, you have more control of the nutrition content of your food, especially if you raise it yourself.

“When we moved to Illinois, my parents got involved in organic farming. We grew corn, popcorn and wheat. Our cornmeal was used by the Chicago public school system to make their tortillas. Eventually I went to college and started out as a Home Economist. Soon I changed my major and became a Registered Dietician. I was still in the food industry and a lot of my early experience came from 4-H. It can give kids more of a hands-on way to live than what school classes provide. So many kids have no idea where food comes from and don’t even know how to put a plant in the ground. I think everyone should have a garden and learn how food grows. It’s a wonderful experience to watch things come out of the ground.”

As a medical provider, Janice has a Nutrition Consulting business in which she does a lot of retraining through medical nutrition therapy, helping patients learn how best to cook foods to increase vitality and overall health. Many people are eating the wrong foods and missing a lot of nutrients. Janice is also Director of a regional school district nutrition program providing healthy school breakfast and lunch programs. She does presentations for the Council On Aging and other organizations.

“Seniors often have decreased access to food, transportation and money. Too many people subsist on soup and sandwiches, donuts and coffee. That’s how they live and they don’t feel well. They are not able to experience the joy of their life. Many food programs are out there but people need access to them.

“Bill and I like to teach our kids things that they can do for a lifetime. Then they can grow up to be wonderful adults who can, in turn, teach their kids and others in their communities. These are survival techniques! Andrew is probably the only one of 2000 kids in his high school who gets up and does chores first thing in the morning, before going to school. He milks the goats by hand. Chores build character and perseverance.”

Concerning Bill, we already know he grew up on a dairy cattle farm. So he certainly knew about chores, even if he hadn’t yet gravitated to milking goats. In college he did four years at University of Massachusetts studying Natural Resource Economics, Forestry and Landscape Architecture. At Cornell University he got an MA in Rural Land Use Policy. He says, “This comes down to mainly protecting farmland and working with Rural Community Development. Unfortunately, it’s just not profitable to have a dairy farm in Massachusetts.” So Bill is a Real Estate Broker and Appraiser which helps support his true love – farming. (It also helps support his other true love – Janice, Andrew and Emily!)

According to Bill, “Farming has become an issue of economics, so farms continue to go out of business. (The last dairy farm in my home town of Chesterfield, MA, closed for good early in 2006. Very sad news.)

“There is too much of an imbalance between what farmers get for their product and what it costs to produce it. Parity agriculture doesn’t exist. However, the small family farm is pretty self-sustaining with a vegetable garden and some livestock. Anyone with a little know-how can enjoy a way of life that is closer to nature and more self-sufficient. If you know how to can and freeze foods you’re in good shape. Of course, weather is important. The floods in some areas of MA were devastating in 2005.”

After leaving Cornell, Bill took his first job in Rural Community Development at Purdue University in Indiana. Surprise, surprise! Janice was there as a senior in a work/study program. Bill offered her work in his department and they began dating. After Janice graduated, she and Bill were married. They had a three day weekend ‘Honeymoon’ before Bill had to go to work at his new job at Cornell. A year later they went to England where Bill had been an exchange student in the IFYE program. In a way, that was their honeymoon. They visited all the families Bill had stayed with earlier in England, Scotland and Wales. They still keep in touch with many of these folks via e-mail. For a while the Kings also became volunteer 4-H leaders. When time constraints limited their involvement, Janice and Bill started their own family 4-H club called the Greenleaf Leaders. It is just the four of them and what a happy decision for Andrew and Emily. In their spare time, the Kings also participate in two other specialty clubs!!

I concur with the Kings that at one time everybody was in some kind of agriculture so everybody knew it well. Now at country fairs there are far fewer exhibitors. Bill says, “People are losing the talents and skills they once had. Even people who have a four-acre lot don’t know how to manage it. They let the back yard grow up, don’t have a garden, don’t take the time to appreciate it because they are busy doing the urban scene.”

Janice and Bill know that it is a very complex issue that there are so many overweight children in our country. “Because they aren’t eating properly or exercising, they are negatively impacting their present and future health. Processed foods and beverages are killing us, slowly but surely. Our family is championing another trend — trying to incorporate components which support a dynamic and healthy lifestyle. Small Farmer’s Journal is part of this trend also. Now the hobby farms are pioneering ways to incorporate manageable aspects of small-scale farming. They’re learning because they want to learn. They will be able to keep themselves going.”

A Fabulous 4-H Family

Emily and Andrew were both willing to talk about their 4-H experiences so, ladies first. While we talked, Emily was holding in her lap a beautiful black and white Polish rabbit. She explained, “This is a Polish Broken which describes the color. I named him Twinkie because too many people name their black and white rabbits Oreo.” (I know of some ox teamsters who name their Dutch Belted teams Oreos.) Emily told me, “Some people keep rabbits in the house because rabbits can be trained to use a litter box, like cats. They also tend to chew things like electric cords — not good. Twinkie lives in the garage area. If I take him to the fairs, I must first get him a tattoo for identification.” Emily has already exhibited her sewing, knitting and baked goods, and won some blue ribbons. She learned these things from her mom and also another 4-H club that teaches these crafts. Emily’s eyes twinkle when she says, “My mom teaches me the tricks that help you do cooking and sewing better!”

At this point I was shown many of the craft projects Emily has completed and shown at area fairs. She and Janice described certain stitches and how beads are fastened on her recent clothing project. This mother/daughter relationship is powerful and so full of love and encouragement, as well as cherry-cheeked good health. It was no surprise to learn that eleven year old Emily also maintains straight A’s in sixth grade and plays both the piano and organ quite well. Emily King — the world awaits you!

A Fabulous 4-H Family

Andrew’s turn. He got started in 4-H when he was eight and is still going strong at 16. First there were Rhode Island Red production chickens: one rooster and six hens. He exhibited them at the Worcester County 4-H Fair where his rooster won Reserve Champion. He also took to the fair a dozen fertilized eggs from his free-ranging hens and won first place. These eggs are a nice orange color and are lower in cholesterol than non-fertilized eggs. Although his chickens are free-ranging, Andrew makes sure they are enclosed at night. He says, “Hawks are the worst predators — a chicken will disappear without a trace. A fox might leave the feathers. Some people feed bread to their chickens but we don’t. The yeast in bread can cause a wasting disease. Also, an egg could be laid without a shell.”

Andrew assured me that at the fairs the 4-H’ers know how to have fun. “At one poultry show someone put some gourds in a few cages. They were shaped like chickens or ducks, sort of. One was even a goose-necked squash. Spectators got a good laugh!”

By the time Andrew was ten there were Toggenburg goats being raised at Inlet Brook Farm. When these goats are dehorned by a veterinarian they are given Novocain to lessen the pain and stress. From a company in Georgia the Kings give their goats a mineral/vitamin supplement and herbal wormer. Bill’s brother is a small animal veterinarian, so he was given a stool sample which proved to have an imbalance of microbial activity. Because the goats seem to be a father/son project, I got information from them both. “Instead of giving our goats a chemical remedy, we chose a natural wormer which is 100% herbs. Plus we give them a tonic which is good for the immune system. The goats get the tonic and wormer every seven days. It’s a powder we place in their feed. We also feed crimped oats and sunflower seeds along with the pellets and textured feed. There is a mineral/salt block for them to lick anytime. So they are pretty healthy. In six years of raising goats we’ve never had a sick goat, never had one die on us, never had any mastitis. You have to keep your fingers crossed when you go to some of the big shows because you don’t know what your animals can be exposed to. You do the best you can. Invariably, the goats eat some scattered feed off the ground, so we spray chlorine bleach on the steel pens and on the floor before we pen our goats at a show. “Goats are not grazers like cows, they are browsers. They love to eat raspberry and blackberry bushes. You have to be careful if they free-range because certain things are poisonous to goats: azalea, rhododendron, mountain laurel for example. Goats love poison ivy and it can come through the milk and provide a case of poison ivy to the family. Goats can also over-eat on almost anything so you have to be vigilant to manage them.

“We love the goat products. We do not pasteurize our milk because we feel that changes the flavor and nutritional value. We love the sweet and nice texture of the raw milk, so we just filter and cool it. It is naturally homogenized and lower in lactose. In summer we milk with one pail inside another pail of ice cubes to preserve the flavor.” (This surely reminded me of my days with goats long ago. I filtered that sweet raw milk and put it into sterilized green glass jars. Oh, yum. And for supper the Kings offered me some of their tasty milk. What a treat!)

At 16 Andrew King belongs to two 4-H clubs: This’N That 4-H Club and his family club, Greenleaf Leaders. He knows how to get food on the table: from the garden come the vegetables, from the goats comes the milk, from the chickens come the eggs. And there’s the manure that goes back on the garden. The small family farm is a complete circle.

Andrew tells me that in the judging of goats there are many categories which can be summarized thus:

  1. General appearance
  2. Dairy character
  3. Body capacity
  4. Mammary system

Each of these areas is divided into sub-categories. An excellent linear appraisal score is 90 or above. Two of the King goats are appraised at 90 and their best goat is appraised at 92!

Andrew sees this in his future, “I’ll get back into goats after college. When dad retires I’ll make him my head goat herd manager. Mother will be our chef. Emily can play soothing music for my animals which will improve their production.” At this we all dissolved in laughter. Actually, Andrew does play the radio for his goats when he milks — mostly country music and some soft rock. He also keeps accurate records on all his 4-H animals. This year he has done a resume to send to the state 4-H office. He has been accepted to go to the National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. This is considered one of the pinnacles of 4-H. Teenagers from all 50 states will participate in this expense-paid trip to help 4-H programs evolve and to bring new ideas back home.

Goats and chickens are not the only interests for Andrew. He and his dad have taken part in several lumberjack contests at fairs. Two years ago they were fifth place and in 2005 they came in second. So they are closing in on another blue ribbon. Also in 2005 Andrew won the coveted medallion at Worcester County 4-H Fair. It is given every year to the exhibitor who most supports the success of the fair — before, during and after. This includes coordinating the setting up and taking down of exhibit areas.

Each year since 1926 the Trustee Silver Cup has been given out at the Worcester County 4-H Medal Winners Banquet. It goes to the youth who is not only an outstanding exhibitor but also has kept excellent project records. Few kids do both. Andrew says, “Actually, my dad’s name is on the cup, my uncle’s name is on there, and now my name. The King family is well represented over the years.” I understand there is also a trophy for girls and I predict that Emily’s name will be there one day.

Like his sister, Andrew is an honor student. He also plays football, baseball and golf. You might wonder how he finds a balance with all these activities. It is important not to become overwhelmed. This is a challenge for the whole family. I was delighted to discover one day when I phoned that Andrew was out with friends, ice fishing.

While it was still daylight I was given a tour of the grounds and even had a conversation with some goats and chickens. After that came a most delicious meal complete with sweet goat’s milk and some of Emily’s blue-ribbon cookies. All the way home I felt the excitement of writing this awesome story. I hope you are as impressed as I am with these fine 4-H folks, their loving home, their contented animals, their survival techniques, their desire to prove the value of the small family farm. The King family of Inlet Brook Farm is the closest I have come to meeting The Waltons. It has been a great pleasure to know them and a real privilege to write their story.

My 2004 – 2005 4-H Story

by Andrew King of West Brookfield, MA

This 4-H year was the most extensive fair season to date. I exhibited at 11 fairs and shows including Worcester County 4-H, Hampshire County 4-H, Sterling Fair, and Big E just to name a few. This year I have also begun to reduce my poultry population and have decided to focus more on goats. I now have five chickens from my original flock of 19. This year I had my first experience with enterotoxaemia at the Big E. I also began my new job as janitor of my church. Additionally, I attended my first 4-H Teen Leadership Conference at the University of Maine in Orono over the summer. This year is my eighth year participating in 4-H and every year continues to get better and my project commitment is more extensive.

As you can see, this 4-H year has been a very busy one. It began in the spring when the goats were preparing to kid. We had seven goat kids and placed advertisements in the newspaper to sell a few. We sold two pairs (a doeling and a buckling) and took one to auction. The two that we have kept are named Daisy and Tansy. My goat herd currently consists of seven goats. I regularly clean out the pens every day and trim their hooves every month to keep them happy, healthy, and clean. Of course, they have to be fed and the milkers need to be milked twice a day.

The spring is also when the garden and the trees begin to awaken. My dad and I had put compost on in the fall so it could sink into the soil as the winter snow melts. In the spring we use a rototiller to mix compost into the soil. This year in May we planted corn, beets, beans, broccoli, Swiss chard, red and white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, squash, and sunflowers in May. After the weeds begin to grow, my dad and I hoe them out to leave room for our food plants to grow.

In the summer, Dad and I continue to weed the garden along with mowing the lawn, letting the chickens out, and letting the goats out. I mow the lawn every other week. I mow my house lawn and my dad’s office lawn. This year my dad and I took on the project of mowing our own hay field and making our own hay. I got to drive the tractor and mow the pasture. I also let the chickens out which allows them to eat grass, insects, and get a more nutritious diet than just eating grain. The goats also get let out too, and they run around, exercise, and eat grass in the field.

In the summer, I prepare for the fairs. I clip my goats, give them a bath, and organize my show box to make sure that I have everything I need for the fairs. My chickens also get a bath and their toenails are trimmed. This year I focused on trying to make one of my milkers, Madeline, a permanent champion so I went to more ADGA sanctioned shows. This year’s fair season began with Western Mass Breeders Association in June and ended with the Big E Open Show in October.

For the eighth time in my 4-H career, I have exhibited at the Worcester County 4-H Fair. This year I was honored with the Dorothea Mahoney Award that is presented to the youth who contributes the most to the success of the fair. It was a great honor. This year my glass door bookcase won Champion Woodworking, my white potatoes won Champion Vegetable, and my eggs won Champion Egg. I brought 7 chickens and seven goats to the fair. My Buff Plymouth Rock cockerel won Reserve Champion Bantam. My goat, Madeline, won Best Toggenburg Milker and Best Doe in Show. One of my yearlings, Lilly, won Best Jr. Doe in Show. I also helped out at the 4-H Auction to help raise money for the fair. This year was a very enjoyable year at the Worcester County 4-H Fair.

I achieved one of my Goat Project Goals!! My goat, Madeline, got Best Doe in Show for the third year in a row at the Sterling Fair. But this year sadly, I was the only dairy goat exhibitor. One of my yearlings, Erika, won Best Jr. Doe in Show. I won Champion Showman.

This year I took six goats: one aged doe, two milkers, two yearlings, and two kids to the Big E. This was my fourth year attending the Big E 4-H Dairy Goat Show. My goal for this year was to get Madeline two more legs so she would become a permanent champion. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen this year. In order to get a leg you need ten milkers and there were only nine Toggenburg milkers present for the competition there. I was one short. Nevertheless, I won Champion Toggenburg, Highest Milk Production for the Toggenburg Breed, and Reserve Jr. Champion. I also attended the Open Show after the Youth show. My yearling, Erika, got Jr. Champion Toggenburg.

A Fabulous 4-H Family

My best goat, Madeline, contracted enterotoxaemia (a build up of toxins in the rumen) at the Big E. She was very sick and almost died. We had to call a veterinarian and put her on an IV and sleep with her through the night in Mallary Arena. This was the first severe illness that any of my animals have ever had in the six years I have raised goats. We believe that the very rich alfalfa hay that the show provides caused this toxin buildup. Next year I am going to bring my own hay. Now, Madeline has made a full recovery and is milking strong and eating every blade of hay and grass in sight.

Fall is one of the prettiest times of the year on the farm. During that time the second and third cutting is being cut and the leaves on all the trees begin to change color. The goats also have their hooves trimmed and begin to grow their winter coats. The chickens begin to lay fewer eggs with the drop in sunlight. The garden is also prepared for a winter nap. All the crops are harvested and rye seed is planted for a winter cover crop. In the spring, it will be rototilled to enrich the quality of the soil.

Winter is a maintenance time on the farm. Anything that is broken is fixed and there is a constant battle with the cold. Every morning waterers have to be thawed along with the twice a day chores of feeding, cleaning, and milking the goats and feeding the chickens. In November, we also have to breed the goats so that they will kid in April. This year we are going to take the goats to Hebron, Connecticut to Kathleen Waters who is another Toggenburg breeder.

I am not only very active in my 4-H projects, but I’m also very active in my community. My community activities include the Annual Church Flea Market, Raking Leaves, Church Janitor, Church Suppers, Post Office Food Drive, Setting up and Taking Down cages at 4-H Fair, Youth Group Fund Raisers, Local Food Pantry, Asparagus and Garden Festival, and assisted at the 4-H Foundation Banquet.

Every year, the First Congregational Church of West Brookfield has an Annual Church Flea Market. I help set up the fence around the town common two days before by putting in stakes and tying the fence to it. I also help the day of by setting up, taking down, and displaying the items that are sold. This year the Flea Market helped support the new Youth Group room that has been remodeled over the past year. Some of the money also benefits the church’s annual mission trip to Washington, D.C. While in Washington, the youth participate in soup kitchens and help feed the poor people in the Nation’s Capitol.

Every year, after the leaves have all fallen, there is a Leaf Raking Party and all the church members get together and rake up all the leaves. The kids like to pile them up and jump from trees into them. Afterwards there are party pizzas waiting to be eaten. It’s a fun time.

This year my Church needed a second janitor and I volunteered to fill the vacancy. My job includes cleaning the Sunday school rooms, kitchen, and the vestibule area. It feels good knowing that you are contributing to physical appearance and enjoyment of a beautiful church.

Usually every month the church has a Church Supper or Simple Supper. A Church Supper is where you get an all-you-can-eat dinner, drinks, and dessert. Where else can you get that good of a deal? I help serve guests and make sure they have enough to eat and drink. I also run the dishwasher.

The US Postal Service Canned Food Drive is a joint effort by the Town of West Brookfield and the local food pantry, The Sharing Cupboard, to raise food donations for needy families. I went around West Brookfield to pick up donations of food that the people had left by their mailboxes. To help the food pantry I sort out the food donations for the week and put them away.

My dad and I have been setting up and taking down cages at the Worcester County 4-H Fair for the last four years. The week before the fair we would go to the fairgrounds and rake out all the leaves and fix the fence around the Poultry Barn. I also fill out coop tags and steward for the judge. (Stewarding is assisting the judge and recording the placing of each bird for permanent records.)

The Youth Group fundraisers include the Flea Market and weekly after church bake sales. We bake all the items and bring them in for the bake sale. The proceeds go towards painting the Youth Group Room, refinishing the floors, and adding new furniture. All we have to do is refinish the floors.

This year the Asparagus and Garden Festival was reinstated. I helped the Church booth sell food including fruit cup, pasta salad, and asparagus chowder just to name a few. I would load up two huge pots of Asparagus Chowder and put them on a Radio Flyer wagon and truck them out to the food booth. If you are anywhere in the area, I encourage you to come to this wonderful May event.

I also attended the 4-H Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Banquet. This was quite an honor. I was recommended by Mrs. Guyot to represent the 4-H boys of Massachusetts at the banquet. The banquet was held at an antique car and airplane museum so I got to see a lot of beautiful cars and planes. I presented awards to many people including three people who are in the 4-H Foundation Hall of Fame. Another added bonus of the night was I won a news interview in Small Farmers Journal! Thank you for this opportunity.

My extracurricular activities include playing JV Baseball and JV Football at Tantasqua, playing town baseball, and Church Youth Group. By doing all these different activities, I am increasing my knowledge of the world around me. I am learning and doing things some kids my age have never even seen or done. Not many kids get to milk three goats twice a day or split four cords of wood or even shovel goat manure. Every week I have to organize my schedule and be responsible for my animals seven days a week every week. I only take one week off from my animals a year. I am continuing to learn important life skills such as having the right nutrition, being responsible and learning how to be organized. I thank 4-H for being the best youth organization with volunteers that make a difference. I am proud to be a 4-Her and I will most certainly “Keep the Clover Growing.”

November 21, 2005

Dear Mrs. Guyot:

I am interested in attending the National 4-H Conference in 2006.

My eight years in 4-H has proven my commitment and dedication to this organization and the values that it upholds. I have had many learning experiences and have gained significant life skills. My 4-H project accomplishments, extra curricular activities, and community service projects have all prepared me for this important event.

It would be a great honor if MA 4-H selected me as a delegate.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Andrew W. King