Charlie M. Holmes
FLY CREEK —
Robots and lasers and bagpipes — Oh my! 4-H is not just about farm animals these days, which is what more than 200 kids from Otsego and Schoharie county learned Sunday during “Discover 4-H Day” at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown.
“We have 150 different project areas,” 4-H program leader for Schoharie County Eileen McGuire said. “It would be really hard for someone to not find a club they’re interested in.”
There are 29 clubs in Otsego County and another 15 in Schoharie County. There also are after-school 4-H programs offered in Cobleskill and Schoharie. McGuire said that children who participate in the after-school program are eligible to take part in all aspects of 4-H. Both counties welcome the chance to grow and invite anyone who is interested to join a club or form a new one.
“Both boys and girls can be in the same club, so parents don’t have to run around to different clubs,” McGuire said. “There are multiple ages, too, so if a parent has a youth that is 9 and a youth that is 13, they both can be in that same club.”
“4-H is one of the largest youth development organizations in the country,” Patti Zellmer, the 4-H program leader for Otsego county, said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to learn by doing. It’s very hands-on. It’s a way for kids to excel in a way that they might not do in a more formal setting.”
The 4-H year begins Oct.1, but new members can join a club all the way up to May 1.
Those youth who already belong to a club should fill out their re-enrollment form by Jan 1. As long as those deadlines are met ,club members are eligible for all the competitions that are available to 4-H’ers.
Chase Thomas, Chris Lentner and Dylan Davidson are three 4-H’ers who not only know about competing in 4-H, they know how to win. The three are a part of a 4-H group in Oneonta called the Robokronos. This year, the Robokronos walked away with the “Rookie All–Star Award” at the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) World Championship held in St. Louis. Sunday they demonstrated the team’s winning robot to the delight of the crowd.
Thomas, Lentner and Davidson weren’t the only 4-H’ers displaying what their club had to offer. Zellmer said there were 200 RSVPs of workers.
4-H leader Danta Bolin had brought some of the “Lord of the Reins” members to Cooperstown from Edmeston to talk about their club. “Lord of the Reins” puts an emphasis on horses, but they also are involved in all the typical 4-H activities.
“We have kids and calves and goats and chickens and ducks and lots of home craft sewing,” Bolin said.
The club also competes at the Otsego County Fair and participates in the 4-H horse camp.
“It’s in the spring, usually in June,” Bolin explained. “It’s a training camp where children bring their horses. 4-H leaders and horse people are there to help them get their horses ready to show.”
Not everyone participating in “Discover 4-H Day” was representing a club.
“There isn’t really a dog club,” Teresa Powers said. “I’m just representing the dog program. The kids come from different clubs to do agility and obedience.”
Powers’ program is based in Hartwick, but she says there are other dog programs that 4-H’ers can participate in if Hartwick is too far from their home.
Another program offered to all 4-H clubs is New York Shooting Sports. Sunday New York Shooting Sports had a tent set up at The Farmers’ Museum that allowed kids to shoot a laser gun at a movie screen where a computer program would display skeet shooting discs at random intervals.
Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), which runs the 4-H programs, has suffered some funding cuts in recent years.
“I just get really nervous when I see what’s happening at the county level funding wise,” 4-H committee member Doug Geertgens said.
Cornell Cooperative Extension executive director Don Smyers says that funding comes from federal, state and local monies.
“It takes all three pots of money to make our organization work,” Smyers said. “The county appropriation is kind of the keystone dollars to hold the organization together.”
Even though CCE receives money from the government, Smyers says residents can help make sure the programs stay around.
“They could certainly make contributions. They could become a volunteer,” Smyers pointed out.
“The third thing would be to let their county reps know the value of Cooperative Extension for their families.”
“As long as I’m here, 4-H isn’t going away because I believe in kids,” Geertgens stated.
To find out how to join or form a club or offer assistance to 4-H call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension. In Otsego County, contact Patti Zellmer at 547-2536 ext. 225. Schoharie County residents can reach Eileen McGuire at