HUNTERDON COUNTY, N.J. — Despite the pandemic restrictions, Hunterdon County 4-H programs are still going strong, just with adjustments.

Meetings and even state wide competitions are now down via Zoom. Members continued to work on their projects, but on their own at home. Hunterdon had the best statewide participation in a virtual state 4-H fair since all county fairs were canceled.

To celebrate the 2020 National 4-H Week, Oct. 4 to 10, Hunterdon 4-H members and leaders wrote about what 4-H means to them.

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From Getting One Goat To Leading Hunterdon’s 4-H Program

For more than a century 4-H has enriched the lives of young people. 4-H builds life skills, confidence and makes our children into better leaders.

 I am a 4-H Alumni of Hunterdon County. I joined the program in 1976 when my mom, Carol Jurkowski started the Udder Joy Kids 4-H Club. We started with one goat and before we knew it we were milking 20+goats twice a day. We did not know much about goats when we started. 4-H provided opportunities for learning, as well as provided us with connections to 4-H Volunteers who were knowledgeable in goats. Many lifelong friendships were made as we traveled all over the east coast from goat show to goat show. As a youth I learned the valuable lessons of hard work, public speaking and responsibility. When I had children of my own, I started a Cloverbud program and later Kick Butt Kids. It was a thrill to watch my children enjoy baby goats and experience many of the fun and educational programs that I experienced as a kid.

4-H is a family affair and along with my husband we started a shooting sports club where we can enjoy the sport together with our kids. I began to work with Rutgers Cooperative Extension in 1985, and currently I coordinate the program for Hunterdon County.

So what is 4-H? 4-H today, is more than cows and cookies, it is a hands-on educational program that teaches leadership, public speaking, respect, responsibility and lifelong skills. 4-H offers programs and education in Agriculture and Livestock, Family and Health Science and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). 4-H relies on Rutgers Cooperative Extension Staff for guidance as well as adult volunteers to mentor our youth through club projects. Funding of the program is provided by Rutgers our land grant university, Hunterdon County 4-H Association and Hunterdon 4-H Clubs. The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders provide the program with support of office space, staff, meeting rooms and support of the Hunterdon County 4-H and Agricultural Fair.

Hunterdon County has served many youth. We have 22 clubs including Dog, Robotics, Shooting Sports, Family Community Science, Livestock and Equine. Mt. Airy Dairy 4-H Club is the longest going club, founded in New Jersey 97 years ago. Lousia Cole, volunteer leader of the Hunterdon Hoppers and Jr. Leaders, has been with the program for 59 years. 4-H could not be successful without our volunteers. The volunteers are truly the success of our program. Over 150 volunteers work with clubs, judge a variety of programs, assist with the weeklong fair.

4‑H programs are grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing. Youth work in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. As youth get older they become mentors to younger children. Kids can concentrate on one focus area or they can try a variety of programs throughout their 4‑H experience. 4-H aids in helping youth select career goals, as well as preparing them for college interviews.

  • Sherrie Peterson, Hunterdon County 4-H Program Assistant

Paying It Forward Through 4-H

I consider the eighth grade one of the worst years of my life, but it led to better things. I had made lots of new friends in seventh grade but when schedules were assigned the following year, none of my friends were in my classes. I had trouble fitting in with my new classmates and even had to deal with bullying. I was made fun of because I was one of the “horse crazy” girls.

Then I found 4-H. I found a whole club full of “horse crazy” kids just like me. I had found home! Even though I didn’t get started until much later than most members, I made the most of my 4-H experience and attended several national events.

There was no doubt that I would continue my involvement with 4-H after I graduated. I became a volunteer leader as soon as I was old enough. When I moved to Hunterdon County I started a new club for the next generation of horse crazy kids, especially those that don’t own their own horse. That was 30 years ago.

The memories of going to national 4-H events are most poignant to me, and I am glad I have helped other members form their own memories.

  • Lillian Shupe, Centaurs 4-H Club Leader

Grew Up In 4-H And Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

Hi! My name is Josie Whitmore, I’m 17 years old, a senior at Voorhees High School, and this is my 10th year in 4-H. Before I officially joined 4-H, I would go to every meeting with my older sister, waiting for the year I could officially enroll.

I grew up in the Hunterdon County 4-H program, and throughout my years I have been in A-Paca Kids, Round Valley Riders, S.A.V.E., Junior Leaders, and Kick Butt Kids. My experience in 4-H has been a one of a kind, irreplaceable experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else.

The skills I’ve learned along with the friendships I’ve formed and the memories I’ve made formed me into the person I am today. One of my favorite adventures in 4-H was competing as part of the New Jersey team at the national hippology competition in Louisville, Ky. This trip allowed me to experience a totally different environment than what I’m used to and taught me so much. Being a part of this team was such an amazing experience, and not only taught me horse knowledge, but teamwork, leadership, creativity, independence, and collaboration.

Another one of my favorite opportunities from 4-H was Citizenship Washington Focus. This was a trip to the capital with 4-Hers from all over the country where I learned leadership, citizenship, independence, charisma, and also just had such a fun time. Exploring the nation’s capital while learning and making friendships and broadening my worldview is something that I would never be able to experience without 4-H.

As for my future, there is no doubt 4-H will continue to play a huge role. I want to go to college for a life science field, which 4-H has obviously influenced and prepared me to do. 4-H sparked my love for learning and growing and pushing to be the change in my world, to make the best better. 

  • Josie Whitmore, Hunterdon County 4-H Ambassador

Opportunities Reach Beyond Hunterdon’s Borders

My favorite 4-H memories are from the State and National events that I have attended. Examples include the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship, Winter Camp, and North Jersey Teen Conference.

Events like these are many 4-Hers favorites because they give us experiences that others don’t get. They are also meant to be events to learn new skills and have fun meeting new people. I love to go to these yearly events with my friends and have fun doing community service and workshops. Another reason I love these events is that they allow me to meet new people, people I would never even have the opportunity to come into contact with.

The chance to meet new people applies to national events even more. Not only do you meet many new and interesting people but also you compete and learn many things. I have gone to Nebraska for the National Shooting Sports Championship twice now and I have loved every second of the trip: the long drive, the competition days, the chance to meet 4-Hers from other states with similar interests, and the opportunity to get to know the other team members from New Jersey better.

Of course, the food can’t be forgotten – having a great meal together after a long day of competition and hearing how other team members did is a great feeling. The feeling of your hard work paying off is a great experience as well as knowing that you did your best. The practice or studying may have been hard and time-consuming but you do it anyway to make sure you can do your best no matter what.

One specific aspect of the National Championship that I love is the pin trade. Competitors bring along a pin or something from their state to trade with others. The idea is to find people from other states and trade pins. This makes a game out of meeting new people. That is perfect for me. I am more of a quiet person who isn’t the best at small talk or starting conversations. These pin trades allow me to walk up to someone, ask if they want to trade pins then start conversing with them.

I love 4-H and all the memories I have created while in the program. The experiences have opened me up as a person. Making it easier for me to strike up a conversation or walk up to a random person and have fun talking.

  • Andrew Lederach, 4-H Ambassador

Clubs Go Virtual Due To COVID-19

The 2019-20 4-H year has been quite interesting I’ll say. It started off as it normally does. Meetings gathered as normal. We discussed future events and community services. Our October event was trunk or treat. For trunk or treat we designed a frightful decorated trailer. The inside included cobwebs, hedges, a cauldron and orange lights for a scary effect. I wore a chicken costume and jumped scared people as they came into the trailer. Anna was an integral part of the event. She invited people to come in while she attended the cauldron. At the end of the night our club won first place. I enjoyed the process and the outcome of the night. One of my favorite parts of the evening was when we got to go around and visit other 4-H trunks.

The remainder of 2019 included a wreath making fundraiser and our Christmas party which is always a successful end to an activity filled fall. As we entered 2020, our 4-H outlook took an unusual and disappointing turn. Within months our nation was heavily impacted by a virus. The virus was called COVID 19. This virus forced us to meet virtually for all our meetings and shut down our in-person contact. As we moved forward into the year businesses and social events started to close and temporarily stop. During summertime months Rutgers University made the decision to cancel the fairs as they were too crowded of an event and could hinder the safety and well being of the participants.

Even as summer ended and fall began, we continue to meet virtually for our meetings. We still discuss fundraisers and community service along with important dates to remember. While this seems normal, I find an extreme lack of social connection within the clubs. My hope is that in the near future we can gather for meetings and other social activities.

  • Jonathan Francis, Hunterdon County Sheep Club Member

4-H Inspires Young Shepherd

My name is Steven Quattrock, I am 13 years old, I attend Wyomissing area Jr/Sr high school, this is my fourth year in the Hunterdon County 4-H sheep club.

My 4-H experience has been not only a good one, but a very inspirational experience. The 4-H program has taught me to be a better person, to not be afraid of getting my hands dirty, work hard, and to make friends more easily.

I think my best moment in the 4-H was when I came up to the table at achievement night to receive my Clover Bud graduation paper. That night showed me: one, to not have stage fright, and two don’t give up on a goal that you set for yourself.

I look forward to the fair every year, because I get to see my friends and all the hard work they have put into their 4-H projects. I also enjoy catching up with my friends from other 4-H clubs and seeing their projects

  • Steven Quattrock, Hunterdon County 4-H Sheep Club

Hunterdon County 4-H & Agricultural Fair Forges Fond Memories

“I love the fair!!

Those words have been said to me thousands of times over the 25 years I’ve been a 4-H Leader! The youth in our 4-H program learn life skills that help shape them to become the best person they can be. Teaching responsibility, planning skills & encouraging hard, yet rewarding work to our youth results in a wonderful & exciting fair each year!

This is where they, in turn, teach the public about agriculture, team work & have a whole lot of fun in the process! The relationship between the Hunterdon County 4-H program & the Hunterdon County Fair has helped shape our youth in our county, and will do so for many more generations to come!

  • Barri-Lynn Everitt, 4-H Association President, Round Valley Riders Leader

Aiming For The Future

Hunterdon County 4-H is one of the best youth development programs offered to youth in this county. The County 4-H program offers youth an opportunity to develop leadership, public speaking, record keeping, responsibility, self confidence and self discipline all while learning about a specific project area. Youth also have an opportunity to learn cooperation and interpersonal relations as they work together toward common goals within their clubs.

Community service is a large part of the county 4-H program and 4-H youth have many opportunities to learn about the importance of helping others through community service. 4-H is a valuable youth program in our county, state and nation.

  • Anita Christman, Hunterdon Deadeyes Leader

Carrying On The Dairy Tradition

I am proud to be a 4-H alumni and a current leader of the Mt. Airy 4-H Dairy Club the oldest 4-H club in New jersey and one of the oldest in the USA. We have been on-going for 97 years and currently have over 20 members which is a feat in itself with only 6 dairy farms left in Hunterdon County and only 37, at last count, in the whole State.

4-H teaches many life skills such as leadership, public speaking, record keeping, organization, citizenship, working with others, and community service to name a few. These skills are seldom all taught anywhere else. We take part in many County, State, and even a few National activities. Our favorite event is the County Fair but many of our members also enjoy Dairy Bowl which is like Jeopardy with buzzers and questions about various dairy and agricultural topics. Anyone is welcome to join us by leasing a calf, if you don’t have a farm, and taking part in as many of our activities as you can.

  • Betty Jane Hunt, Leader Mt. Airy Dairy

No Farm, No Problem!

The 4-H Dairy Club is very important to me because I have learned a lot about dairies and cows and it has given me the opportunity to lease a calf. Everyone is very friendly and the leaders are super nice.

  • Dylan Forbes-Larsen

4-H Provides Amazing Experiences

I've been a part of Mt Airy Dairy Club for 5 years. 

One of my favorite things about 4-H is the amazing experiences it has given me. For example, I spent a week in Washington DC to learn about leadership with kids across the country and I also attended a virtual meeting with kids from Ireland, other countries, and the U.S. as part of the Leadership for Life Program.

4-H has also given me the chance to get to know and learn from amazing people and animals too. I lease four Guernsey Cows and my one calf Bailey is at my house. Every day she follows me around and moos at me every chance she gets. She has given me the chance to learn how to raise a calf by being with her and caring for her every day.

  • Cassidy Hunt, Mt. Airy Dairy Member

4-H Expands Horizons

4-H has always been a huge part of who I am. I joined 4-H when I was 7 years old, and since it has made a monumental impact on my life. When I joined, I began in the goat project. I quickly realized how much I enjoyed the friendships, education, and agriculture that were all a huge part of this program. Fast forward 11 years later, I am a member of the goat project, shooting sports project, Junior Leaders club, and the horse project, as well as a Pink Ladies performance team member.

I have gained so many skills from the 4-H program, such as public speaking, the importance of hard work, and the value in good friends. 4-H has led me to incredible opportunities, such as helping to raise thousands of dollars for Hunterdon Medical Center’s cancer unit through the Pink Ladies riding team. Giving back to the community is only one of the many values that 4-H instills in its youth.

4-H has given me the chance to travel America and attend conferences such as the 4-H Congress leadership conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Citizenship Washington Focus in Washington DC, and the National Shooting Sports Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska. These experiences are unforgettable and taught me a multitude of ways to be successful in helping others, growing as an individual, and understanding the value of leadership.

Last August, 4-H lead me to becoming the 2019-2020 Hunterdon County Fair Ambassador. This position allowed me to spend the fair week interacting with the public and educating others on the importance of 4-H and Agriculture in our community, and overall, I was able to share my passion for 4-H and Agriculture with everybody I talked to. This was truly an incredible honor and I am so excited to continue to serve in 2020-2021.

4-H has been much more than simply a hobby or a resume booster. 4-H has brought me my closest friends and experiences of a lifetime. Thank you 4-H for the past 11 years, and I cannot thank you enough for shaping me into the person I am today.

  • Avery Schaefer, Hunterdon County 4-H Member

First Fair Is Memorable Experience 

My name is Hailey Thomas and I’m in 7th grade at Hillsborough Middle School. I am a member of the Hunterdon County 4-H Sheep club. 

 I wanted to share a story of my first experience at the Hunterdon County 4-H Fair. 

 The day of my first fair was one of the best. When I was enjoying the summer of second grade, I was ready to work at my first fair. As a 4-H member in the Hunterdon County Sheep Club, it was my job to pack up my sheep, bring them to the fairgrounds, and do my best when it comes to showing.

When I arrived it smelt like dust and sweaty animals. The air was cool under the shade of the barn. Fellow members set up bleachers, the show pen, and pens for the sheep. I heard hammers clanging on the dusty old metal. The roar of trucks was even louder than a barn full of confused ewes and rams. I watched as colorful tents got put up, pouring the smell of carnival food out of them. I ran over to help put up the pens. Even that could not entertain me as my second grade self. I met in the center of the barn with my two cousins. We drew pictures in the dust and played tag in the show arena.

The next day was a show day. I prepared the traditional 4-H shirt and jeans. I opened the creaky old pens and brought out the big guns. ​Shylee. S​hylee is a small, very sassy ewe. If you could see animal’s personalities, you’d think she was a Pomeranian in L.A. with the attitude she has.

I stepped in the arena for the first time. I walked my sheep in a circle and propped her in the center of the arena. The judge's footsteps thundered as he judged each sheep. In the end I won first place and lived happily ever after. Kidding! What actually happened is quite sad. At that age we were Cloverbuds, which means everyone’s a winner. That meant at the time I was only useful for using my cute face to sell sheep products at our selling booth. Although, it was still the best summer yet!

  • Hailey Thomas, Hunterdon County Sheep Club Member

Cloverbud Is Not Sheepish About Love For Sheep

I like sheep. I like to play with sheep I want to own a sheep. I want to feed a sheep. I want to pet a sheep I like to go to the farm fair. I like the people in 4-H.

  • Mackenzie Johnson, 4-H Cloverbud

Once Awkward Bookworm Finds Niche In Horse Club

With a graphic horse t-shirt for each day of the week, a pair of thick glasses, and my nose often buried in an equine-related book, as an awkward elementary school kid, it wasn’t always easy for me to make friends. I was impossibly shy and irreversibly horse crazy. But luckily fate was determined to give me a helping hand. My mom signed me up for the Round Valley Riders 4-H horse club, and the best part, you didn’t need a horse to join.

It was here that I found my niche, my voice, and my closest friends. Some of which I am still in touch with 20 years later. My experiences in 4-H defined my childhood, and are still some of my happiest memories. I live in Texas now, and when I think about what I truly miss about New Jersey, it comes down to the pizza, the bagels, and my involvement in my 4-H club and county fair!

4-H began as an outlet for my particular passion, horses, but became a place where I developed my character and important life skills like public speaking. With careful nudges from leadership, I was able to participate in national 4-H programs like Citizenship Washington Focus in D.C. and 4-H Congress in Atlanta. These programs were enriching and wonderful and honestly, looked great on my college resume. But it was truly my homegrown 4-H experience in good old Hunterdon County that made me the teacher, the friend, and the mom that I am today.

You probably cannot imagine the teenage bliss of the 4-H fair- being able to sleep overnight, in a barn, on hay, with all of your best friends, surrounded by horses. But trust me, it was the best. I actually did not want to go to my college orientation because I would miss out on the fair.

Fast forward to today, I now have my own children (twins) who are only 18 months old, but you can bet your butt I’ve already researched our local 4-H programs. Once they are old enough, I know right where I want them to be- pledging their head to clearer thinking, their heart to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service, and their health to better living.

  • Mary Davenport, 4-H Alumnus

From The Barn To Law School, 4-H Skills Prove Valuable

4-H is an important and valuable program because it provides youth with a wide variety of opportunities to participate in hands on, practical activities. 4-Her’s are taught early on that success comes from hard work, dedication and teamwork. Additionally, the participants are encouraged to take on leadership roles in their clubs and on committees. 

4-H taught me the skills I needed in order to succeed in college, as a young professional, and now as a law student. Growing up in the New Jersey 4-H program, I learned the tools to be an effective and confident public speaker, I learned how to be a fair team player, and I learned how to manage my time.

The bond I was able to form with my 4-H project animals showed me that a strong work ethic combined with compassion for others can help you become a better leader by teaching how to care for others before yourself, and how to stay focused on your goals. I firmly believe that I was ready for the rigor of law school because 4-H equipped me with the skills to handle tough challenges.

  • Sara Phillips, 4-H Alumnus

The 4-H Hunterdon Hoppers

The 4-H Hunterdon Hoppers is a group centered on the proper care and showing of rabbits, as well as public speaking and community service projects. You can join Hunterdon Hoppers once you are in 4th grade, and our group’s age range is from Grades 4th-13th. We meet on the second Monday of every month at 7:00 p.m. And you don’t have to have a bunny to join Hunterdon Hoppers! 

The Hunterdon Hoppers club offers so many activities that you can participate in. Everyone in the group does a public speaking presentation throughout the 4-H year. We also participate in community service projects. One of these projects is hosting a family at Thanksgiving. We buy the food and bake pies for them. At Easter we make baskets which are donated to a local organization, and during the holidays we carol at Hunterdon Care Center. Plus so much more! But of course, one of our favorite activities is our 4-H fair in August. The club works together to set up our tent with cages and educational posters. During the fair we take care of the rabbits and educate the public on general care of rabbits. With or without a rabbit, the Hunterdon Hoppers has many activities that everyone can participate in and learn from, and allows everyone in the group the opportunity to learn and grow, and simply have fun!

  • Lindsay Chudy. Hunterdon Hoppers Member

Enrollment For New Members Underway

Hunterdon County 4-H Clubs are accepting new members for the 2021 4-H Program year.  For information on the clubs contact Sherrie Peterson at Rutgers Cooperative Extension Hunterdon County (908) 788-1341 or see http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/rutgers/4H.htm