Posts Tagged ‘4-H Fix’

4-H Fix

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

Steering Youth Gee, Haw, and Even Waheesh But Never Back!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Maine 4-H Foundation booth at the Fryeburg Fair

Maine 4-H Foundation booth at the Fryeburg Fair.

When you staff a 4-H Information Booth at a county fair anywhere, the days begin to blur together. I think it was Sunday but it could’ve been Monday or even Tuesday of the 2016 Fryeburg Fair that a fellow wearing a maroon and white Texas A&M ball cap approached the Maine 4-H Foundation booth and asked me with his full-blown, deep Texas Southern drawl, “Why do I never see 4-H Working Steer projects anywhere else but here in New England, and why especially so much here in Maine? Where did it come from?”

Seems this Texan visits New England each fall, stopping first at the Big E (Eastern States Exposition) in Massachusetts and then comes up to Maine for the Fryeburg Fair. He said he especially enjoys watching the 4-H Members working their teams of oxen at both fairs and wondered why he doesn’t see this very much anywhere else.

You know, he’s right. All six New England States each have at least one 4-H Working Steer Club (Connecticut and Rhode Island share a club) and New York State recently began looking at establishing a club there. But, except for a scattering of project members here or there elsewhere, that seems to be about it. However, here in New England there are approximately 10 clubs total with four of those here in Maine. Maine 4-H presently has around 30 young people working a team of working steers as a 4-H project.

That Texan asked good questions! New England is known for many things and one of them is indeed the 4-H Working Steer project! But why?

Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor, Maine

Well, here’s Paul but where’s the Ox?

I’m sure someone knows for sure why working steer is so prevalent in New England. Folks I’ve talked to with some knowledge about things like this tell me that my assumption is probably pretty close to being right. By the way, my assumption (based on Paul Bunyan and the big blue ox stories) is that the answer comes from the fact that oxen were used to great benefit by the logging industry to drag the harvested trees out of the woods, back in the day, that is, making Working Steer teams quite usual and necessary for a great many people in Maine and New England, a huge part of the way of life here. In fact, according to Maine 4-H alum Heidi Thuotte-Palmer, unofficially Maine’s 4‑H Working Steer guru but officially the UMaine 4-H State Activities Coordinator, working steers helped create much of Maine’s history and heritage, even explaining why many of the roads are laid out as they are in Maine towns! She said that those big traffic circles, often called rotaries, sometimes called roundabouts (or other names I won’t go into), found at many intersections of the older towns, are there as the result of the need for the large turning area required by the ox teams pulling those long ship masts!

So it wasn’t long before some smart 4-H educator saw the benefit of teaching the techniques of managing a team of oxen to our young people as a 4-H Project. In the animal science world, this 4-H project is almost a holistic thing! It covers animal anatomy both inside and out (what makes a good ox vs. a bad one), breeds (for the same reason!), nutrition (what to feed it and when), biology, generics, health, medicine (keeping it healthy but knowing when it is sick AND how to make it better). The 4‑H’ers need to know about things like Ringworm (which, by the way, isn’t a worm, but a fungus) and foot rot and bloat and external parasites like ticks and lice and internal parasites like Roundworms and Tapeworms (both of which ARE worms); not to forget Coccidiosis (don’t ask. It has to do with poop and it’s yucky)! Now we haven’t even begun to talk about bacteria and viruses yet! Anyway, the 4-H’ers need to know about all this steer stuff and we haven’t even gotten to the WORKING part of the project yet, managing the animals’ behavior (also called training them!).

4-H'er with team of oxenHeidi told me, “The 4-H Working Steer project is all of it times two plus three! It’s all of the animal science stuff times two (to cover the two animals in the team) plus three (the member training the ox team how to work together)! It takes a lot of work, time, and effort to be successful. It means being responsible and caring. You even need to be a psychologist! You need to understand the psychology of the animal; why does it do what it does so you can be successful getting it to do what you want it to do!”

Of course, the next question is: In what state was that smart 4-H educator located? Maine obviously claims that honor. So does New Hampshire. In the 4-H Working Steer world, such a duality seems to happen a lot! Here in Maine itself, it seems two counties each think one of their 4-H Clubs was the first Working Steer 4-H Club in Maine! Franklin County has their Franklin County Working Steer 4-H Club and Cumberland County has their Brass Knobs Working Steer 4-H Club, both clubs, apparently, beginning in 1963. Even within the Brass Knobs 4-H Club, you will find this duality. Mark Winslow and Heidi, as 4-H volunteers, worked together in 1983 to keep the club active after the original club leader stepped aside.

Well, why shouldn’t duality be the working steer model? The 4-H Working Steer project is all about TEAMS!

Even Heidi’s first exposure to 4-H was as one of two! She was eight years old in 1971 when she joined the Brass Knobs Working Steer 4-H Club, one of only two girls; the first girls to join the approximately 10 boys already in the club. She remained a member of the club until she “graduated” out of 4-H 10 years later only to return to the club two years later as one of its leaders.

Mark and Heidi also teamed up to build up the Working Steer youth program at the Big E. Open to all youth interested in working steer teams, the participation is mostly, if not all, 4-H’ers. Heidi became the Big E Working Steer Superintendent in 2012.

To know her today, as a 4-H professional, Big-E Superintendent, and all of her other many roles, both official and unofficial, you’d never know that, “I used to be so shy you couldn’t get me out of the corner!” I asked her, “So what changed?” She answered with a number and a letter, “4-H!” Then she added, “All the things you do in 4-H. Working the animals, showing them, giving presentations, being an officer in a club; it brings you out of your shell.”

If you know Heidi, it’s hard to imagine Heidi ever being IN a shell! And listening to the stories she tells of being a 4-H Volunteer and of her professional State 4-H Activities role, makes you realize just how important what we do in 4-H as adults, paid or volunteer, really is. Her stories tell of people who identify their 4-H years as the reason they have the successes they have in their lives today and many of those people identify her, Heidi, as being the one who helped them realize that difference. “When you get invited to kids’ weddings, you know you’ve made a difference,” she exclaims. A number of people credit Heidi as the reason they even stayed in 4-H — and she has the letters to prove it! However, perhaps the one person that means the most to Heidi that identified 4-H as the reason she is what she is today is, of course, her own daughter, Katie.

Heidi and Katie.

Heidi and Katie.

Katie Thuotte Holland is now a Registered Nurse (RN) living in Fort Kent and working at Cary Medical Center in Caribou, Maine. This 2013 UM Fort Kent graduate (BS Nursing) told her mom that 4-H was the reason she chose to be a nurse. Her 4-H projects were all about caring for her animals (“In 10 years as a 4-H Member, she never once missed on taking care of her animals,” proud Heidi told me) but Heidi said 4-H taught Katie to care about people!

My bet is that by now you’re wondering if, or when, I’m going to get around to explaining those strange words in the title of this post. Once you know them, you’ll understand the title. Those from the working steer world already understand it because they know that these are commands used to get the ox team to move in the directions you want it to go. You see, if you want the team to turn left you say “HAW!” Saying “GEE” tells them to turn right. “Waheesh” is another way of saying “Giddyup” meaning get going, and the command to back up is simply “Back.”

So in 4-H, we try to steer the 4-H Members in the right direction for a positive future; Gee, Haw, or just “Waheesh”; but, like Heidi will tell you, when it comes to kids, “Back” is never part of the equation!

As for this post, let’s just say “whoa,” the command for stop.

On July 14 the 4-H Fix is all about Community Service. It makes the line in the 4-H Pledge “my Hands to larger service” come ALIVE!

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum! The Raise Your Hand contest ends on June 30, so if you haven’t voted already, do so today!

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Where Are They Now? — Betsy Carroll

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

When I want to help folks understand what 4-H is, I often will tell my “Betsy Story.” It is one of my favorite stories to tell. The “Betsy” in the story, by the way, is Maine 4-H Alum Betsy A. Carroll Anastasoff.

Betsy Carroll seated on rocks in front of a light house

Star of the “Betsy Story”

Now the name may be familiar to you because I first introduced you to Betsy, and her brother Aaron, in October last year through the blog post “The Great Hay Relief of 1994.” The “Betsy Story” came a bit later. It happened in 1997. BTW, I have THREE favorite stories about her brother Aaron (the latest one occurring in 2016 when he introduced me to his almost-teenaged son!), but those will have to wait for another blog post. For now, here’s the “Betsy Story” and a little bit more.

On June 28-30, 1997, UMaine 4-H held its fourth annual State 4-H Teen Conference. This annual conference, held on the University of Maine Orono campus into the 2000s, was a program planned and implemented by a State 4-H Teen Council of which Betsy Carroll was a charter member and, in 1996, served as its President. At the end of the 1996 conference, Betsy, as usual, made it her job to send thank yous to the guest speakers.

Rep. Baldacci speaking during the 1995 State 4-H Teen Conference

Rep. Baldacci speaking during the 1995 State 4-H Teen Conference.

One of those speakers was John Baldacci, at that time the U.S. Representative from Maine’s Second District. A strong supporter of Maine 4-H, he always agreed to meet with 4‑H’ers when they visited his Washington D.C. office. However, he also made a point to come and speak to the teens attending the State 4-H Teen Conference in Orono! His 1996 visit was the second in a row, which, to all of us was a BIG deal! In all, he accepted the Teen Council’s invitation four times (1995, 1996, 1997 AND 1998), which to all of us was an even BIGGER deal!

Handwritten note, saying," Sincerely, Betsy. P.S. I believe the only one left is Balacci -- And we should do something special?"On August 7, 1996, in a follow-up note, Betsy reported that all thank yous had been sent regarding that year’s conference except Baldacci’s. Because of his on-going support for 4-H “…we should do something special” for him, she said.

Discussed at the next Teen Council meeting, it was decided to make him an honorary Maine 4-H Member. With proper administrative approvals, the Teen Council invited Rep. Baldacci to return as a speaker for the 1997 conference and to receive this honor.

Rep. Baldacci receives his honorary plaque

Rep. Baldacci, 1997’s newest Honorary 4-H Member.

Eighteen-year-old Past-President Betsy was tasked with introducing Rep. Baldacci to the 1997 conference attendees. Conference Assemblies were held in the largest room in D.P. Corbett Hall. Set-up as an amphitheater, this semi-circular room’s seats look down upon a raised stage in the room’s front. So there we sat, approximately 75 teens from across Maine, the Council Officers, me, and John Baldacci in the front row, as Betsy walked across the stage to the podium to make her introduction. After the usual greetings and some brief remarks about bestowing honorary Maine 4-H Membership upon Rep. Baldacci, she said, “Oh, Rep. Baldacci, one last thing I want you to know before we begin. I want to tell you about the Maine 4-H Staff, like Ron and the others who run 4-H.” Baldacci looked over at me and smiled. A little embarrassed I smiled as well and wondered just what Betsy was up to, hoping whatever it was, it was good, because this was “off-script”!

Of course, why wouldn’t it be good? She knew what was a stake and even though Baldacci was a supporter of 4-H, things could quickly change if the wrong messages were sent. Both Baldacci and I knew that, too, as we leaned forward in our seats.

Just as sweetly and calmly as anything she began, “Mr. Baldacci, I want you to know that these 4-H people (now pointing at me); they are all liars.” And then she paused for dramatic effect.

The effect was dramatic.

It took a moment for her words to soak in. I asked myself, “Did she just say ‘liars’?” Baldacci must have been experiencing the same confusion because he sat there looking at Betsy for a moment and then, ever so slowly he turned to look at me with the perfect example of puzzlement etched on his face. I have no idea what was etched on mine!

While reminiscing with Betsy about this incident recently, we came to “the pause moment.” After a bit of mutual laughter, this High School Student Counselor, looking at it from her new perspective, grew serious and told me, “Having students present to an audience now as a counselor, I can’t even IMAGINE the heart attack you were having! That was BRUTAL! And yet, AWESOME! Now that you reminded me, I do remember the LONG pause and thinking ‘Oh Crap. I hope this is okay!’”

Finally, Betsy started speaking again. “Yes, liars!” she repeated. “When I joined 4-H, I thought I was going to learn about stuff like raising beef steers! That’s what they told me! They told me I was going to learn about beef steers or photography or sewing or cooking or one of the many other things you can do in 4‑H. Oh, I did learn those things but what they were REALLY teaching me, what they were secretly teaching me, was record keeping and public speaking and leadership and citizenship and all of those things you need to know to be successful in life! They didn’t tell me they were going to be teaching me all that stuff! They LIED and told me I’d be learning about beef steers and photography!”

I began to breathe again.

Baldacci flopped back in his seat and, obviously relieved, began to laugh along with everyone else in the audience. Except me. I don’t remember laughing. I remember hoping the blood would soon return to my brain.

And that was Betsy. When she had a point to make, she made it, and she made it in such a way that you remembered it! I bet if you asked him about this today, Baldacci would still remember it, but also remember that 4-H isn’t about the projects the members take, but about the life skills the members learn.

It is her sincerity that makes you remember her. She cares about people and she cares about causes, SINCERELY. In a 1995 thank you note to the University President, Fred Hutchinson, for giving opening remarks at the 1995 State 4-H Teen Conference, she added (to my boss’s boss’s boss, the University PRESIDENT), “Ron Drum is an instrumental part in the success that 4-H experiences today. His encouragement and positive attitude make working with Extension a pleasure.” Apparently not wanting to leave anyone out, she then added, “John Rebar (then State 4-H Leader and my boss) and Vaughn Holyoke (then John’s boss and Director of Extension) are also very helpful and cooperative.” It would have been funny had it not been so darn sincere!

And that attitude, sincerely caring about the people around her, and letting them know that, carries right into today. Today Betsy is a high school guidance counselor for Gorham High School. In an article that appeared in the Gorham Times (v21, #6) about opportunities available for female students traditionally seen as only for male students, she is quoted saying, “Girls in high school are kind of shy about doing something that isn’t your traditional thing. They need to know they don’t have to fit that mold. There is potential beyond your appearance; if you are passionate about a trade you should go after that.” She goes on to say one shouldn’t worry about others’ opinions.

She not only says stuff like that, she lives stuff like that.

After 4-H, I attended St. Joseph’s College and majored in English. I graduated from college and on July 1, 2000, married my high school sweetheart, Alex Anastasoff. I was hired as an English teacher, which I did for 14 years, and we purchased an apartment building and renovated the building as we were living in it. Note to self: never renovate while living in the space. We went on to purchase more apartment buildings, opened a landscaping company, Lawn Enforcement, which we sold a couple of years ago. Currently, we own and operate a laundromat, own several apartment buildings which we rent, and most recently we have opened a brewery in South Portland named Fore River Brewing. Oh, and through all of this I completed a 63 credit Master’s Degree in School Counseling and am raising two boys, Peter (13) and Nicholas (9). Busy!

And of course, as we’ve seen above, she not only achieved the Master’s Degree but has put it to good use, presently meeting the needs of students as the 10th grade counselor at Gorham High School.

It was because of her brother, Aaron, that she first got involved in 4-H. “I joined 4-H because I could see how many cool experiences my older brother, Aaron, was getting involved in and I did not want to miss out,” she told me. Usually, young people join 4-H when they are 8 or 9, sometimes even younger. Betsy joined the York County 4-H Beef Club in 1992 when she was 13 and just starting High School!

Initially, my 4-H project was photography; I wanted to become club photographer, but I later became more involved in the citizenship aspect of 4-H. I also became a member of the Maine State 4-H Teen Council and planned the Maine Teen Conference on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono. This was by far one of the greatest learning experiences of my teenage years. The collaboration with a variety of stakeholders: fellow 4-H members, skilled professionals with connections to 4-H and public leaders taught me a great deal about how to capitalize on individual strengths to best achieve a shared goal.

Betsy presenting at the 1995 Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation Annual Meeting.

Betsy presenting at the 1995 Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation Annual Meeting.

Although relatively new to 4-H, Betsy rose quickly. This was a talented girl! We (Maine 4-H) sent her to Citizenship Washington Focus in 1994 — just two years after she joined 4-H! She came to the first State 4-H Teen Conference in 1994, liked it so much that, on her own, came to the evaluation meeting and asked to be part of the 1995 Conference planning team making her a Teen Council Charter Member. In 1995 (October 15, to be exact) the State 4-H Teen Council elected her as their 1996 Council President — unanimously! That year, 1995, I wrote, “Betsy is intelligent, creative, and kind. Her intelligence, strong character, and great ability will fill in where her experience is lacking.” I can now say, looking back, “I wasn’t kidding!”

President Betsy Carroll “surfs” the web during the 1996 S4-HTConf.

President Betsy Carroll “surfs” the web during the 1996 S4-HTConf.

In 1996 we asked her to represent Maine 4-H at TWO national events. First, we designated her to be a delegate to National 4-H Conference, in my opinion, the highest honor a 4-H Member can receive. Then we topped that by asking her to represent Maine’s 4-H members at the 1996 Extension Lay Leaders Leadership Conference held in Washington, D.C. The Lay Leaders conference was an annual national event during the 90s. It brought together teams of 4-H Volunteers from various states and provided them with opportunities to network and share ideas with each other while attending leadership development workshops. As part of the conference, these teams also visited members of their Congressional Delegations on Capitol Hill educating them on Extension and briefing them on current Extension activities.

Remember, in 1996, Betsy was just 17.

Of those two national experiences in 1996 she once said, “How many people my age get to do things like that?” The answer, of course, is “very few.” However, there are very few like Betsy. She served as secretary of her school’s student council. She was captain of her swim team. She was a journalist for the school newspaper. She was selected as the state science fair winner for her plant biology entry. She was a member of the Academic Decathlon Team. She was not only a member of the National Honor Society (NHS), but served as a member of the Society Selection Review Committee! Come to think of it, she was also a member of the State 4-H Awards Selection Committee (the group that identified Maine’s delegates for out-of-state trips) after she “graduated” from 4-H, that is.

You know, she missed being selected for the NHS the first time up. Although she fit all of the criteria for membership 100%, at her school NHS membership applications were voted on by a faculty panel. Apparently, she lost that vote. Who in their right mind would have voted against this girl? That it happened, however, caused enough of a stir that they took a second look and, after considering “outside community service” (which I assume means her 4-H activities) they reversed the decision and admitted her.

However, it didn’t end there, not with someone of Betsy’s caliber! “I thought it was very unfair, especially since I met all the qualifications for it,” she said. And if it was unfair, she was going to do something about it. So through her leadership as a member of the Student Council, she got the process changed. The new process added a five-member board that reviewed the faculty votes to ensure no one deserving slipped through again.

Oh, also, she graduated 16th out of a high school class of 165. That kind of makes you wonder what those other 15 were like but than she did take several college-level classes in her senior year, like Advanced Placement English and Statistical Math. Not making excuses but classes like those might have opened the door a tad for a few of the other 15 to squeak past, maybe, not saying that’s what happened.

I’ve been accused of using a bit too much hyperbole at times. I admit it. I get enthusiastic about teens, like Betsy, and sometimes get extreme. But if that is true in this case, her high school Principal, Jim Stephenson, suffered from the same problem. He once referred to Betsy as “a model student whom other students should follow.” He also said, “She is a bright, mature student. She’s a real leader who will do very well at whatever she does. I have no doubts of Betsy’s success at college.” He could have added, “or anything else.” I did.

But what else would you expect of someone who, at age 17, said, “My goal is to know exactly what I want, because once I know what it is, I’m positive that I can get it.” I think that falls under the category of “driven.”

At age 17 she also was quoted saying, “…I love 4-H so much, because it makes me feel so good to help people.” Then she added this thought, which always, by the way, makes me smile when I read it, “To me, it sounds like a greedy reason, but it’s the truth.” Greedy? To want to feel good about helping people? Well, I get her point but how many people, at any age, would ever turn the thing around in such a manner as that? Unselfishly humble to a fault!

Betsy recently told me that 4-H had a big impact on her life.

I think 4-H really helped me to stretch myself to become more of a leader. While I was active in school activities, there was a big world outside the walls of school. I learned how to bring people together to work toward a common goal and many other important skills such as public speaking and advocating for myself and my community. I believe I am a stronger and more resilient person today because of my 4-H experiences.

And of 4-H itself, she recently told me (and remember, this is a professional guidance counselor speaking, who really SHOULD know):

4-H is a great opportunity for kids and teenagers to really get involved in something meaningful to them. The hands-on learning experiences encourage developmental growth and maturity. This is a win-win situation because kids are having fun and learning essential skills to be a responsible citizen and community member. Although our society has changed a lot since I was a kid, the fundamental skills that my 4-H background encouraged are the same skills kids need today.

I happen to agree with her.

One last thing. President Hutchinson responded to that thank you letter Betsy wrote back in 1995 thanking him for speaking at the State 4-H Teen Conference. After thanking her for the opportunity to speak and saying a few kind words suggesting he agreed with her analysis of the quality of his staff, he added, “I’m sure that the opportunity to work with young people such as yourself is one of the major reasons that Mr. Drum remains positive and enthusiastic about his work.”

That suggestion would be a true statement even yet today. It was CERTAINLY true in the 1990s while I had the pleasure to be working with, and learning from, Betsy Carroll.

On June 23 we say to the 4-H Fix, “Waheesh! And be quick about it! We can’t wait to hear the story about Maine 4-H alum, Heidi Thuotte-Palmer and the 4-H Working Steer project!”

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum! The Raise Your Hand contest ends on June 30, so if you haven’t voted already, do so today!

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Hazel Goodwin

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

What do you say to someone who has given a lifetime of service to 4-H? It’s a bit of a puzzle, actually. The usual things we say to folks to let them know we appreciate what they’ve done, just don’t seem to fill the need in this case; don’t go far enough, cover enough ground. You see, this is no typical situation; nothing typical about it at all. We toss around the term “lifetime” as if it had little meaning but in this case, “lifetime” actually means “LIFETIME”!

This year Hazel begins her 63rd year volunteering for 4-H! That’s as long as some people live! Sixty-three years. That’s longer than I’ve been alive and I go back some, myself! I mean, I go back to Sputnik!

Who does anything, except perhaps live, for 63 years!?

Hazel Goodwin, for one.

Hazel has been rendering volunteer service, quietly and calmly and in the best of all traditions, as Leader, or Assistant Leader, of the Four Leaf Clover 4-H Club of Shapleigh, Maine since 1954 — the very same 4-H club she’d joined as a member back in 1931; the very same 4-H Club that may be Maine’s longest continually operating 4-H Club (it organized in 1918)!

4-Leaf Clover Club 4-Hers with club banner

But then, why shouldn’t Hazel serve 4-H for a lifetime? It was through 4-H that Hazel found her footing in life and it was the FOUR LEAF CLOVER 4-H CLUB that helped give her that footing! Nine-year-old Hazel went to a Four Leaf Clover 4-H Club meeting in 1931, fell in love, and never left!

Actually, while going to the 4-H club meetings, she fell in love TWICE! Once with 4-H and then a few years later, once with a fellow Four Leaf Clover 4-H Club member named Roland Goodwin.

Newlyweds Roland and Hazel GoodwinRoland’s older brother, Carlton, had just become the club leader when Hazel joined in 1931. He, too, started as a member of the club before volunteering to serve it as the leader. In fact, in 1928, while he was still a member but also serving as the club’s Assistant Leader, Carlton was selected as York County’s Outstanding 4-H Club Member of the Year. But it was his brother, Roland, who got Hazel.

They were married Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945.

They’ve been together ever since.

Hazel was a 4-H Member for 11 years, 1931-1942. Tough years, those. The Great Depression was in full swing when she joined 4-H in 1931 and World War II was in full swing when her membership ended in 1942. Things were a tad better in 1954 when, because her children had joined 4-H — of course the Four Leaf Clover 4-H Club — she decided to give back a bit to 4-H what 4-H had given her, by becoming a 4-H Volunteer. Usually, when a volunteer’s children leave 4-H, the volunteer does too. Hazel enjoyed 4-H so much she stuck with it. In 1961, the club’s primary leader, Violet Eagle, passed away. The club naturally turned to Hazel for leadership.

It still does. The present leader, Else-Maria Cook, a 4-H Volunteer Hazel first recruited in 1973 and who became primary leader of the club in 1992, says she often seeks advice and input from Hazel about the club.

Roland, Else-Maria Cook, and Hazel

Roland, Else-Maria Cook, and Hazel. Photo by Sally Farrell.

So what is it about this club and the program called 4-H that Hazel likes so much? She says it is the chance to be a part of, and help, the community! According to Sally Farrell, her 4-H Agent,

Hazel has been adamant that club members serve the community. The Four Leaf Clover Club cleans the town hall and fire station, plants flowers around the town, and serves the meals for the town meetings. As a result of the club’s commitment to the town of Shapleigh, the town gives each resident child who is a member of 4-H a small yearly stipend. Hazel is also committed that the children not only learn about state and national history but makes it a priority to take members on field trips to local historic sites.

Fund raising is another way the club gets involved. “One of the ways the club raises funds for York County 4-H is by having members and parents work at the Acton Fair 4-H food booth. Hazel has been volunteering at the food booth since 1954,” reported Sally. An example of the club helping their town comes from 2013 when, during Shapleigh Community Day, the club sold lemonade and raffle tickets for a quilt and other gifts raising $150.

While describing what Hazel means to the York County 4-H Program, Farrell said,

Hazel’s impact on the youth cannot be measured. Not just the 4-H members, but their families, as well! It is what makes her such a great 4-H Volunteer. She has truly touched many generations of families over the years and now is helping great-great grandchildren of her original members. Her club is a great example of letting the youth choose their own projects based on their own interests. The children drive the projects, not the leaders. Under Hazel’s guidance, leaders are committed to helping the children find materials and support for their projects. Hazel has welcomed families into the club so a true community environment is on display during meetings. Older youth are encouraged to mentor younger youth in the club. What she also has are the babies and toddlers hanging out at the meetings with the parents so by the time these children are old enough to join as cloverbuds [4-H Members ages 5-8], they have a great understanding of 4-H and it is a natural path to 4-H membership.

If you ask Hazel why she’s been involved for so many years, what she gets out of it, why she keeps doing this thing called 4-H, she’ll tell you that she “just enjoys being with the kids”! Sally has suggested, “There should be a ‘Gettin’ It Done, No Drama Mama’ award for people like Hazel who just volunteer because they like kids!” But clearly it is more than that. This is a person who loves kids, cares about them, and wants to help them get their footing in life, much as she got hers, from 4-H.

It isn’t because she enjoys being with them as much as it is what she sees IN them and that she can do FOR them! Sally tells us

Hazel makes sure that all youth are welcome regardless of disability. She currently has three members that are autistic. All members are offered the opportunity to participate in all activities and no one is left out. When people call the Extension office to enroll their child in a club, Hazel can be counted on to take on the more challenging youth. Hazel’s club has a policy of taking any child regardless of disability. And it is one of the largest clubs in York County, always with more than 20 members.

However, after all this, we are still left with the same question we began with: What do you say to someone who has, so far, at least, given 63 of her 95 years of life volunteering for 4-H?

There isn’t much that can be said, I guess, except, perhaps, thank you.

Hazel Goodwin

Photo by Sally Farrell.

Thank you, Hazel. Very much.

However, there IS something besides “thank you” you can say to Hazel next time you see her: “Congratulations!” Why? Because Hazel was recently named the 2017 Maine 4-H Salute to Excellence Outstanding Volunteer Achievement Award honoree, the highest honor bestowed upon 4-H Volunteers by the University of Maine 4-H Program! Not only that, but due to receiving this honor, Hazel becomes Maine’s nominee for the 2018 National 4-H Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award. After 63 years of service, it still doesn’t seem to be enough but it was the best we could do.

Do you know someone who has made a difference in 4-H? Write and tell me about them and you may get them into a 4-H FIX!

BTW, we believe Hazel is our oldest Maine 4-H Alum! If you know different, tell us about them and get THEM into a 4-H FIX!

On June 9, visit the 4-H Fix for our third “Where are they now” offering, this one bringing us up to date on Maine 4-H alum Betsy Carroll.

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum!

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, May 12th, 2017

Where Are They Now? — Sarah Stoodley

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Sarah Stoodley in a dance pose

Sarah Stoodley. Photo by Travis Curry (traviscurry.com).

I’ve often heard it said that you must keep on your toes if you are to be successful. I’ve also heard it said that extremely successful people keep us on our toes! I suppose both could be true. I KNOW both are true when speaking of Maine 4-H Alum Sarah Pickering Stoodley, RD, LN.

I’ve been a youth development professional as long as Sarah has been alive. You might say we both started, one way or another, in 1979. That was the year Sarah’s mom brought her home from the hospital to their farm in Unity and that was the year, on the day after I received my Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State, that I began my professional career (my first job was as a Citizenship Washington Focus Program Assistant at National 4‑H Council in Washington, D.C.).

In the 38 years since, I’ve met, worked with, and gotten to know — well I don’t even know how many young people. Let’s just say “lots.” When you do what I do, you begin to detect a certain something in certain people that sets them apart somehow, marks the person for success. One might call it an “IT Factor”! I’m not sure what that “it” is but, as they say, I know it when I see it.

And I saw it in Sarah Stoodley. What is interesting about this story, however, is not only what I saw in Sarah, but what I FAILED to see in Sarah as well! I’ll explain what that was in just a bit.

Sarah Stoodley

Sarah Stoodley, Maine delegate to National 4-H Conference, 1997.

I’m not actually certain any longer when, or how, I first met Sarah. She might remember but I’d be surprised if she did. Our paths may have crossed at a state 4-H event such as 4-H Visual Presentations or perhaps it was when she was showing 4‑H Goats at a fair or was a member of Maine’s Eastern States Exposition 4-H Goat Team. Certainly I met her before she interviewed to be a member of the 1995 Maine delegation to National 4-H Congress. I’m sure I would have met her before she became Waldo County’s representative on the State 4-H Teen Council. Sarah served on the State 4-H Teen Council 1995 and 1996 and then, because she represented Maine at National 4-H Conference in 1997, was appointed for another two years, 1997 and 1998, serving on the Council as a State 4-H Ambassador.

Whenever it was we first met, I’m glad we did!

Sarah joined 4-H in 1985. She was six years old when she joined the Country Kids 4-H Club of Unity. She was interested in all sorts of things but settled on horses and photography as her 4-H projects her first two years. She quickly moved to raising and showing 4-H Goats for her primary project in 1987 and stuck with Goats for the rest of her 4-H career. It even became newsworthy!

In fact, readers of the Waldo Independent, in the November 7, 1996 edition, saw a photo of Sarah hugging one of her goats! The December 22, 1996 edition of the Central Maine Newspapers, in the Maine People section, included another goat-hugging photo of Sarah! Obviously, Sarah enjoyed her goats! However, somehow, goats led Sarah to dogs and 4-H Dogs became a highlight, in addition to those goats, right up until she “graduated” from 4-H in 1998 and even unto today.

Sarah Stoodley's 3 dogs

Ria, Peri, and Jubilee

In a recent message, Sarah told me, “I have three dogs that I show in various sports. Jubilee is the highest pointed French Bulldog in NAFA flyball (with over 20K points and her ONYX title). And Peri is running in the highest level of AKC agility and working on her championship title. Ria, the whippet mix, suffered a terrible leg fracture last year and is working on rehabbing it to be strong enough to play some sports again.”

In this, as in most everything she tackles, Sarah exceled, even making a bit of a “stir” in 2008 in the show dog community. Apparently one doesn’t usually do active type events when showing French Bulldogs of which Jubilee is one. Yet, here is a video of Sarah and Jubilee performing during a show in 2008 when she made that “stir” I mentioned. According to the Bullmarket FrogDog Blog of August 11, 2008,

You have to have owned and trained French Bulldogs to realize just how unusual this is, and why it created such a stir in Frenchie circles. The dogs we love are a lot of things — funny, goofy and cute — but agile and athletic isn’t usually up there when they’re being described. It would take a special kind of person to decide to dance with a French Bulldog, and that’s just what Sarah is.

Let me repeat that, “It would take a special kind of person…and that’s just what Sarah is.

I agree. In a reference I wrote for her in 1998 I was asked to describe Sarah in three words. I chose: intelligent, creative, and exciting. Then I went on to say, “She has the ability, personality, energy, and experience. She is the full package. I have never recommended a person for a position as highly as I recommend Sarah to you.”

A “special kind of person” for sure!

But what this blog author may not have known was that Sarah could probably dance beautifully with ANYTHING! Keeping on her toes seems to be second nature for Sarah. She was dancing as a member of the Robinson Ballet Company (RBC) in Bangor long before she met me! By age 17, she was teaching dance to children and adults at several studios in the region. The Bangor Daily News, as part of an article about her that ran in December of 1996, included a photo of Sarah teaching ballet at the Thomas School of Dance in Bangor. The photo caption read, “Sarah Stoodley raises goats, makes herb and spice-scented goat’s milk soap, and spends six days a week in the dance studio.” To read the article and see the photo go to: “Selling the New 4-H” (page 27).

In fact, that Waldo Independent article I mentioned, in addition to the goat-hugging shot, also included a photo of Sarah with some of that “herb and spice-scented goat’s milk soap.” Why soap? According to Sarah, “My sister (Gillian) and I had a booth for one day at the Common Ground Fair. We took 450 bars and we sold out.” She also sold the soap at craft fairs and the Unity Co-op. Sarah referred to the soap sales as “a tremendous success.”

When talking about this “herb and spice-scented goat’s milk soap” recently, Sarah added, “You know, Mom is actually still making it!” (“Mom” being long time Maine 4-H Volunteer Judy Stoodley). I greatly enjoyed working with Judy when I was here in the ’90s. She was one of the prime movers behind the addition of the 4-H Dog commodity to the Maine 4-H Animal Science Committees and the addition of a 4-H dog show at the Eastern States Exposition! So that’s where Sarah’s dog interest comes from. That makes sense.

And, about that dance thing. Around the time she joined 4‑H, she started dancing. The above mentioned Waldo Independent article says that as of 1996 she’d been dancing for 10 years, eight of those included the Robinson Ballet’s annual performances of “The Nutcracker Suite.” The article quotes Sarah saying, “I started out doing the children’s parts when I was nine. I’ve worked my way up through the ranks. Last year (1995) and this year (1996) I’ve been the Snow Queen.” She also performed the role of the Arabian soloist. And during the 1998 Maine 4-H Teen Conference Sarah taught the conference attendees a few steps with her workshop called “Everybody Dance Now!”

4-H "Are you into it?" ad campaignBy now you are probably wondering why there were so many articles about Sarah in the newspapers of 1996. It was because she was selected out of 80 applicants from across the country that fall to be one of fifteen 4‑H’ers to be a member of National 4-H Council’s “Youth Voices and Action Design Team.” Those fifteen young people met with national marketing executives in New York City and, working with National 4-H Council and USDA 4-H National Headquarters staff, contributed ideas and direction to what became the “4-H, Are you into it?” ad campaign. That campaign was a highly successful 4-H ad campaign in 1997 and 1998. According to the National 4-H History Preservation website, that campaign “ranked in the top five of all Ad Council campaigns in 1998, earning $64.1 million in estimated donated media placement.” All that from a team of 4-H’ers, one of whom, being Sarah. Sarah described it as, “That’s what I want the ads to show, that 4-H gives you a chance to do a lot of things.”

And then she “graduated” out of 4-H — out of 4-H and into a National 4-H Council Marketing Internship! She spent a year living in Warren Hall at the National 4-H Center and working with Christie Phillips, Council’s Marketing Vice President at the time. Although marketing seemed to be a possible direction for Sarah’s future, what with publicizing the state 4-H Teen Conference, selling her 4-H soap, and helping to create an extraordinarily successful national marketing campaign, dance was never out of the picture. “I actually started dancing for Doug Yeuell (director of Jazzdanz, DC) when I was here for my National 4‑H Council Marketing internship,” explained Sarah.

That’s Douglas Yeuell, as in Executive/Artistic Director for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. THAT Doug Yeuell. “He was the reason I came back to this area (in 2002),” she added.

In 2002 she found herself living in Silver Spring, MD, again dancing and teaching dance. “I taught at the Joy of Motion Dance Center in Bethesda, MD and danced in Jazzdanz, DC and CrossCurrents Dance Company.

“I danced and taught professionally until about 7 years ago,” she told me, “then decided to go to school for nutrition.” A change from dance to nutrition intrigued me so I asked Sarah why she made such a change. And that is when I learned about the piece of Sarah that I had missed. In all that I outwardly saw in Sarah, inwardly she was, beginning as a teen, secretly struggling — literally fighting for her life. As a teenaged dancer, Sarah became very conscious of her body and body image, so much so that she developed an eating disorder. From her teenage years through her twenties she waged a battle with herself that; had she lost the fight, we would have lost her. Her fight continues yet today.

It developed when I was a teenager and had enough negative life impact by my mid-20s that I chose to seek treatment. My preoccupation with food and weight, and controlling what and how I ate, was impacting my life in a huge way. I’ve been through two rounds of treatment and recovery, one in the early 2000s and again around 2010. There is debate in eating disorders whether you are in recovery or are recovered and I think it can go either way. I feel very stable and “recovered” most days, but work hard to stay aware of my needs as things can change day to day.

So she turned from Dance to Nutrition.

Nutrition was something I picked as a career after my own battle with my eating disorder. The first dietitian I really got to know was the one who helped me put my life together two separate times. Her name is Faye Berger Mitchell and she is an amazing lady and a true inspiration to me. I have been through multiple rounds of ED treatment, including spending months out of work to focus my energy on my health and well-being. I feel like my struggles really allow me to practice nutrition in a compassionate and understanding way.

While Sarah explained the situation to me, that “IT Factor” I had seen in the teenaged Sarah, made its presence known again!

I want to be the food cheerleader and not the food police. Food is something that should be enjoyed and not a battle. I am so thankful to have come through my struggle in one piece and to be able to work in a field that really speaks to me. I have had endless support of family, friends, and professionals, and try to share my story to help people understand that needing help is not something to be ashamed of and not something that diminishes one’s value as a person. Everyone deserves recovery!

She is a good food cheerleader. In one message I kiddingly told her that I had thought of her as I ate some broccoli for dinner and she responded, “Broccoli is great :)!”

Starting at Montgomery Community College and then transferring to the University of Maryland Dietetics program, Sarah earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2011. She then began her internship through the Iowa State University, completing that in June, 2016. In the meantime, either as part of her internship or just to help make ends meet, she gained experience at jobs with Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring; for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program in Wheaton, Maryland; and in various community and clinical settings in her internship. Most recently she was at Frederick Memorial Hospital supervising all aspects of patient services meal service as part of the management team in the kitchen.

Then on Oct 21, 2016 she sent me this note: “I just passed my RD (Registered Dietitian) exam this afternoon so now I can do things beyond study.”

As of December, 2016, holding the title of Registered Dietitian with Unidine, she is serving as a Clinical Dietitian at Sanctuary at Holy Cross, a Rehabilitation and Senior Care facility in Burtonsville, MD.

“I’m still in this area (northern Silver Spring), but often think about moving somewhere less busy; …I do seem to move further and further into the suburbs here. Let’s see, my family is well. My parents are still in Unity. No farm animals any more, but my mom still has dogs. Gillian spent four years teaching English in Japan after college, then came home and got her Master’s in ESL. She’s actually been in this area a few years now and lives just down the street.”

BTW, that’s registered dietitian (with a “T”), as opposed to “dietician” (with a “C”), like I originally typed, before Sarah correctly corrected me. As she put it, “RDs are funny about the C, though that does come up as a viable spelling. The LN equals licensed nutritionist (I’m licensed to practice in the state of MD).”

Ad for dance show "Reflections," Saturday Sep 17And, as previously stated, dance is never far away. “I returned home in September (2016) to dance for RBC in a 40 year anniversary celebration called ‘Reflections.’ I danced with childhood friends, some were best friends who I see often and others were friends I had not seen in 20 years. It was a very special experience.”

Reflecting on her years in 4-H and what they’ve meant to her, she said,

It gave me countless opportunities that helped me pave the way for my future. It also helped me understand that I could accomplish many things if I just worked hard. I was taught responsibility, how hard work could pay off, that keeping records may be extremely tedious but that those tedious records would be useful in many ways. I got to go on trips around the country, and to feel like my voice was valued and that I was special and had something to offer. And I got to see and experience all sides of 4-H. I was one of those typical 4‑H farm kids showing goats and dogs, but I also was successful in projects like dance and quilting. I went on trips all over the country and got to see the inside of a prestigious marketing firm in Manhattan. The depth and breadth of what 4-H has to offer really is amazing.

Then she summed it all up, saying, “4-H allows you to choose your own path, even to forge a path if one does not yet exist. 4-H is a special program.”

What a nice compliment! You know you really must BE special if you are called “special” by a “special kind of person” like Sarah.

Sarah Pickering Stoodley, RD, LN, Dancer, French Bulldog Trainer and Dance Companion, Goat Whisperer, teacher, leader, my friend, Maine 4‑H Alum.

Return to the 4-H Fix on May 26 to read about Hazel Goodwin, a Maine 4-H alum who made so good she just became Maine’s newest 4-H Salute to Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree! It’s a story of a lifetime!

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum!

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Where Are They Now: Kathy Watier

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

As I am able to collect the information, I will, upon occasion, post additions to a series I’m calling “Where are they now?” This post is the first of what I hope will be many such posts and tells the story about Maine 4‑H alum Katherine Watier Ong.

What a way to start! So let’s get started.

Katherine Watier Ong

Katherine Watier Ong

Kathy Watier was, and still is, one of the strongest leaders I know. In 1995, when she was graduating from 4-H at age 19, I wrote:

I believe her strongest talent is her Leadership ability. I call this a “talent” as leadership comes so naturally to her that I believe she is one of the few “born” leaders. Give her a cause and she will strive to carry it as far as it can go. Tell her it can’t be done, and she will work all that much harder to prove otherwise.

Oh, and I wasn’t alone in my evaluation of Kathy! Her County 4-H Agent, Carney McRae, once said, “Kathy is a gifted student and capable of accomplishing any goals or dreams that she has. … Kathy exhibits outstanding leadership skills. She is not afraid to tackle any project.”

Ronald Dolloff, her high school Principal, wrote of her, “She is an outstanding student leader, a thinker, an innovator, an organizer, a doer. … In my twenty-three years as principal, I have found it unusual to have a young person manifest the keen perceptiveness, the ability, and the desire to undertake the ‘impossible.’ Her determination is unmatched. … Once given the green light, she’s off! Great things happen!”

Her high school English teacher, Jean Lawrence, wrote, “Kathy is one of the most ambitious young women I have taught over the past twenty-seven years. She constantly sets goals and moves with dispatch and a methodical approach to achieve them. … She is a very strong leader, a plus for most situations …. She is one of a kind and very special.”

Her high school math teacher, H. Paul Forrest, added, “The staff at Medomak Valley feels that when a woman is finally elected president, it will be Katherine Watier.”

I told you I wasn’t alone in my evaluation! Kathy was a 4-H Member who was fun to work with and got things done. Someone once asked me how I found it possible to put my career so often into the hands of teens! Read on and you’ll see that with teens like Kathy, the odds were in my favor!

I think I first connected with Kathy when she was 17. She interviewed for, and then was chosen to attend, the 1993 National 4-H Conference, a delegation I chaperoned. On the way home from Washington, D.C., she mentioned her desire for a statewide 4-H Teen Conference. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a request. I hadn’t been in Maine “the first time” very long, in fact, before I began to hear about teens wanting to have a state 4-H leadership discovery/learning event, better known as a Teen Conference.

The Maine delegates that attended National 4-H Congress in 1992, the first Maine 4-H delegation I chaperoned, were the first to suggest a state 4-H Teen Conference on the trip home from Chicago and I had only been on the job for a little more than a month at that time! Then I heard it again from the teens that attended the National 4‑H Conference in April 1993, specifically, from Kathy. “We want a Leadership event for teens, where we can sleep overnight, attend workshops, and have a dance and a banquet, and get to know each other,” she told me. She said it was one of her goals for Maine to have such an event. I soon learned, as noted above, that when this individual says something is one of her goals, it will happen!

As it turned out, Kathy was already part of a team in Knox-Lincoln County that had been planning and implementing a teen conference since 1989, which they called “The Mid-Coast 4-H Teen Conference.”

Experience counts! So, the first thing I did was to meet with Kathy to hear more of her thoughts about this idea and to develop a plan for making it happen. Based on that discussion, I promised to get the 4‑H system excited about a state 4-H Teen Conference and she agreed to help find a group of teens to be on the planning committee. It snowballed from there.

Primarily due to, and through her leadership, Maine held the first statewide 4-H Teen Conference that had been held in Maine since 1982 on June 23-26, 1994; the first ever, BTW, to be planned and implemented by a committee of teens. Not only that, but these teens planned it using online meeting technology, which was new to Maine at that time, allowing the committee to bounce its ideas off teens from across Maine, both to build a stronger conference and to build excitement for participation. To my knowledge, it was the first time something like this was ever attempted, especially by teens, in Maine or elsewhere!

After conducting a highly successful conference, the planning committee organized itself into a State 4-H Teen Council, which planned and implemented wonderfully successful, annual conferences into the 2000’s. Since I left Maine in 1999, I’m uncertain how long this program continued but in the five years I worked with it, the teens, following the model established during Kathy’s tenure, included something special each year. During the 1994 conference, for example, and due largely to Kathy’s leadership, the teens held an international meeting about 4-H via a US Aid Satellite connection with representatives from Costa-Rica and Thailand (we wanted Botswana to join the meeting as well, but they were unable to do so due to technical difficulties).

In the “post-Kathy” years, the teens made US Representative John Baldacci, who later served as Governor of Maine, an honorary Maine 4‑H Member; listened to, learned from, performed with, and enjoyed the music and stories offered by Abu the Flute Maker, an African-American artist from Baltimore, Maryland, who uses discarded items, such as bottles, cans and boxes, even bedposts and porch columns, to make musical instruments — the ultimate reuse, recycle lesson; and spread throughout Orono and Bangor to perform community service projects. All this was in addition to sleeping in the dorms, attending learning sessions, having banquets, and holding dances — just like the original concept first proposed by Kathy Watier back in 1993.

Katherine Watier Ong as a young 4-Her

See? She was making bread even back THEN! Bad pun. Sorry.

Kathy joined 4-H in 1983, when she was just 7. Her aunt, and babysitter, organized a 4-H Club that year whose members included, in addition to Kathy, her brother Matt and four cousins. They called their club the Pine Needles 4-H Club of Union, Maine. She was the club secretary that first year and then served as Club President the following year, when she was EIGHT. When asked recently what 4-H projects she took as a 4-H member, she responded, “I had a variety of traditional 4-H projects (sheep, baking, sewing, pigs, chickens, ducks, gardening, woodworking, etc). But when I turned 13 I got involved in different 4-H projects.”

Hmm, she apparently is also a master of understatement.

When she was 13, in 1989, she got involved with the planning and implementation of the Mid-Coast 4-H Teen Conference and stayed with that until we organized the state 4-H Teen Conference in 1994. When she learned that the world was losing its rainforests — thousands of acres of forests being cut down and burned to make land available for cattle farming — she made it a goal to put a stop to it … or, at least, slow it down! And remember what I said about what happens when she says something is a goal!

First, she learned all she could about the rainforests and their plight and then, now armed with this knowledge, started to educate her friends and classmates about the issue and its global consequences. Then at age 16, she started what she refers to as her “4-H project,” a nonprofit called “The Rainforest Challenge.” Through this organization, she educated more young people about the plight of the rainforests and motivated them to take action, to purchase acres of the tropical rainforest through “The Children’s Rainforest” in Costa Rica and the “Rainforest Preservation Fund” in Brazil, to help save the forests.

In fact, it had always been a dream (should I say “goal”?) of hers to travel to Costa-Rica to see the rainforest and, over Valentine’s Day, 2009, she and her brother, Matt, did just that. In fact, he met his future bride, they since married, on that trip.

You would think that with such deep involvement and success in saving our environment someone would have taken notice! Well, actually, they did. Maine 4-H sent her to National 4-H Congress in 1993 as its State Citizenship Winner and of the County 4-H Awards 4-H Members in Knox-Lincoln County can hope to earn, one is called the “Katherine Watier GREEN Award.”

If you are interested in winning the Katherine Watier Green Award, according to the Knox-Lincoln County 4-H Office, in addition to being a 4-H Member, here is the skinny:

Katherine Watier Green Award: This is an individual or group award chosen from project records, 4-H Resume, Portfolio, and 4-H volunteer recommendation. This individual promotes sound environmental practices and serves as a role model to others. Each applicant shall present in their project record or in 4-H story form, how they use the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” practice or other sound environmental practices in their project. This can include photos, drawings, videos, public speaking, etc.

Hmm, I wonder why no one has ever named an award after me!

So, did she leave 4-H behind after “graduating” from 4-H membership? Not likely! In addition to serving on the planning committees for both National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference (not sure about Congress but she was certainly the first Maine teen to serve on the Conference Planning Committee), she made 4-H part of her undergraduate studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts! Knowing that 4-H, nationally, has traditionally struggled with keeping teenagers involved, she researched the problem for her social psychology bachelor’s degree thesis. After being awarded her B.S., another goal reached, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work on a National 4-H Council Internship followed by a yearlong assignment as a member of Council’s staff.

“I then started (and completed) a graduate program [Master’s Degree] at Georgetown University focused on tech marketing and business.” Did I mention that thing about Kathy being a master of understatement? You see, her Master’s Thesis, and this was LONG before stuff like Google Glass came along, was looking at consumer adoption of wearable computers! Oh, and BTW, this appears to have been the first consumer study ever done of individual interest in wearable computers. She continues:

I did my graduate program while working and transitioned to solely focusing on digital marketing — initially for non-profits here in DC (where I spent 10 years of my career) and then as the VP of Online Strategy and Market Insights at Ketchum — running their digital marketing and analytics practice to service their clients globally. For the last almost two years I’ve been running my own business, Watier Ong Strategies where I provide digital marketing strategy, coaching, and training to clients looking to increase their organic search exposure. Some of my clients have included cancer.gov, rollcall.com, wattagnet.com, Razoo.com, and Motory.com.

Harry and Kathy on their wedding day

Harry and Kathy

Did I mention she got married at some point along the way? No? Well, she did. That happened on August 10, 2012, when she married Harry Ong, who, she says, “Isn’t a slouch either.” Kathy explains,

Harry is a professional clarinetist playing with the President’s Own Marine Band. Its primary mission is to provide music to the White House and the Commandant of the Marine Corp. There were about 150 professional clarinetists who auditioned when he won his spot with the band. You’ll see them providing music for the inauguration or state arrivals.

Did I mention they have children? No? Yup, that too! Katherine and Harry are the proud parents of 2 1/2-year-old future 4-H’er, Abigail, a real cutie for sure!

Oh, the terrible twos. I remember them well. Not mine! My son’s! But I digress.

AND just in February this year, this little family went from three to FOUR! Another little girl, future 4‑H’er Annabelle Veronica, joined the bunch at 10:47 p.m. on February 5th, weighing 6 pounds and 10 ounces!

She’s a little cutie, too!

So when Kathy is NOT working, caring for her family, or reminiscing about 4-H, what keeps her busy? Well, in between pregnancies, she dances! “My ultimate passion is dancing. I started dancing at age 4, and spent years dancing with People to People in Maine,” she says. In DC she hung out at Joy of Motion studios until this latest pregnancy, and some ankle issues, slowed her down. “I hope to get back into it after I get (yet more) physical therapy. Luckily my physical therapist is a former professional dancer, so I’m in good hands.”

I’m afraid my pregnant life, with a toddler, and running a business is quite boring. :-) However, we are taking Abbey to dance lessons (she loves dancing and music — I wonder where she gets that from?) and we take family walks with our 8-year-old mixed Lab Sammy. Most of our free time now is attempting to catch up with our friends and family. We travel somewhat regularly to see our in-laws in Maine and Seattle, and we yearly make a trip to LA to see our “extended family” where the family (and Abbey) gets to experience the joy of Disney and I get my beach time.

BTW, when I used the words “future 4-H’er” a few paragraphs ago, I wasn’t kidding! Kathy promises that when Abbey and Annabelle reach “4-H Age,” 4-H will be one of their “out-of-school-time” activities, for sure! Why? Because Kathy says that she wants Abbey and Annabelle to experience what she experienced!

For her, 4‑H “was critical to my development and granted me travel opportunities and experiences that I would not have had otherwise coming from a rural area.” Furthermore, she says that, “4-H taught me leadership and public speaking skills, organizational skills, how to create a strategic plan, apply for grant funding, pitch the press, package and promote a program — along with basic life skills related to farming and Home Ec, etc.

And then she adds, “I credit 4-H for who I am today.

Which means that 4-H can be VERY proud of itself!

Next month, on May 12, Where are they now? will reintroduce you to Maine 4-H Alum Sarah Stoodley!

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum!

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Were you a 4-H Member? UMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story!

No, this blog post isn’t done, but you are correct that this is how I usually end my 4-H Fix posts! BTW, thanks for knowing that! It means you’ve been reading them all the way through to the end! :-)

So whatsup with that question?

In an effort to be totally transparent, I’ll tell you! Obviously, we want to hear from former 4-H’ers, YOU, our 4‑H ALUMNI.

OK, wait a moment. I don’t know about you but, frankly, this whole business about what version of this word to use and when to use it is, for me at least, a tad overwhelming; confusing to say the least. Is it alum, alums, alumni, alumnae, you say po-TA-to, I’ll say po-TAH-to; yikes, just what IS right? Latin. SMH.

So I looked up “alumni” in the online Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. Here is what I found:

Full Definition of alumnus

plural alumni

1: a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college, or university

2: a person who is a former member, employee, contributor, or inmate

“INMATE”!? Even so, I guess former 4-H’ers fall under #2. Then it goes on to say:

Many people are comfortable using the word alumni to refer to someone who was a student of a particular school. However, others feel quite strongly that this is an error and that the following forms should be used: alumnus (for one male), alumni (for multiple males, or for a mix of males and females), alumna (for one female), and alumnae (for multiple females). The shortened form alum and its plural form alums began to be used in the 19th Century. Initially, alum was widely viewed as highly colloquial or informal, but is increasing in use as a gender-neutral alternative.

Ahhh. “Gender neutral alternative.” I like that. That means I don’t have to remember which version to use, -ni or -na or ‑nae or -nus. Just “alum” or, if there are many, “alums.” Simple. Yes. I like that. Besides, it’s been used since the 19th Century and I had ancestors in the 19th Century and who wants to argue with ANCESTORS? Not ME! Alum(s) it is!

So back to the question at hand. We (4-H) really haven’t done a very good job over the years of keeping track of our (Ready?) ALUMS! — that is, our 4-H members after they left 4‑H. Reality is that a very few, but only a few, states have! But we’ve seen the error of our ways. We want to reconnect with our ALUMS. There is even a national push to reconnect with former 4-H’ers. It started last year with a national web page where you can register as a 4-H Alum and there is even a national spokesperson to encourage you to do so (Former Georgia 4-H Member and now Country Music Icon Jennifer Nettles)

We (UMaine 4-H) do also, well, at least we have the place to register! (Tell Us Your Story!)

And if you were a 4-H Member in a state other than Maine, I bet that state has a place where you can register because they want to hear from you as well!

NOW there is even a NATIONAL CONTEST you can “enter” that will help you identify yourself as a 4-H alum! Here is how it works:

4-H alums from across the nation are being asked to raise their hands to support the next generation of true leaders. Every alum’s raised hand is a vote towards a $20,000 award for the 4-H state with the most alum hands raised. So if Maine gets enough hands raised, Maine 4-H will get the 20 grand!

Want to “Raise Your Hand” for Maine? Here is what to do:

  1. Raise Your Hand: Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to show your pride as a 4-H alum and vote for MAINE!
  1. It’s all about MAINE: Raising your hand is a vote towards a $20,000 award for the state with the most alums’ hands raised, which, in this case, will be MAINE! Second place gets $10,000 and third place gets $5,000.
  1. Pay it Forward: Tweet, post and share your #4HGrown experience or support and tag fellow alums asking them to raise their hands for MAINE (or, in a show of good sportsmanship, for their state if not MAINE :-) ) at 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand.

So why? What’s all the ruckus about?

Well, three things actually. Money is one of them. Truth be told, if you tell us you were once a 4-H member, someone, like me, is probably going to ask you to donate money to help support the 4-H program of today. If you went to the National 4-H Alumni web page noted earlier, you probably noticed a large, orange “flag” in the upper right corner of the page that included one word: DONATE.

screen shot of National 4-H Alumni website

The theory is that someone who falls into the “Alum” category, probably has a job or perhaps has reached the age of retirement, so, the theory continues, has the ability to offer financial support to the program that helped shape his or her life. And, knowing what it has done for you, who wouldn’t want to support it so it (4-H, that is) can do for the young people of today the same as it did for you “back in the day”? Right?

And, BTW, if you want to do that, to donate to UMaine 4-H, here is how: Support UMaine 4-H.

The second reason we are seeking to reconnect is potential growth of the volunteer work-force. Yes, “Hands to Larger Service” lives on past your 4-H Membership years! The 4-H Program exists because so many good people step forward, volunteering to “make the best better.” I’ve often said that of all the elements that are in place that allow us to implement 4-H (4-H Curriculum, County 4-H Staff, State 4-H Staff, National 4-H Staff, etc), there is only one that, if removed, would cause 4-H to cease to be, almost instantly — the Volunteers.

It is how many ALUMS “donate” to the program. Who better than someone who has been through the program to show the members of today “the ropes”? You know what 4-H did for you and how it was done. You care deeply for the children of today and the future they will make. So you ensure that 4-H will be there to help shape that future in a positive way by giving your time and energy to 4-H for the sake of the young people of your community! Thank you.

However, sometimes people don’t volunteer until they are asked, even former 4-H’ers, and we can’t ask you if we don’t know where you are.

Well, that makes two reasons for all the “alum ruckus,” but I said “three.” I believe there is a third one and I believe it is critical to the future of 4-H; if not more so than the others, certainly at least as much. In a word: credibility.

You may have noticed that 4-H gets questioned a lot these days. There are a number of high-quality youth serving programs now in existence so the question is often asked, especially since 4-H receives some of its support from public sources (NIFA, USDA; state and local governments), isn’t 4‑H just a duplication of services?

Well, anyone who has experienced 4-H knows that 4-H is not the same as any of the privately supported youth organizations. The 4-H program is an educational experience provided by each state’s Land-grant University; indeed, often called “your first LGU course!” Research has even shown that 4‑H programs offer the best means through which to teach positive youth development (PYD).

But it is the same old story. You can have all the research that is possible to have but until a person actually sees real life results, it’s all just words. In the early days, Extension needed to create demonstration farms to prove the new, research-based farming methods actually worked so, likewise, 4-H needs to demonstrate that what it says about its ability to teach PYD is true, too!

And how do you do that? Well, it certainly shows in the program’s products: 4-H ALUMS! In an odd way of looking at it, 4-H Alums are 4-H’s demonstration farms!

4-H needs YOU to show the world what 4-H did for you so they can see what 4-H can do for the world! You give 4-H its credibility!

Judy Smith sorts through card catalog

Franklin County Extension’s Judy Smith reviews her collection of 4-H member enrollment cards dating back to the very early days of 4-H in Franklin County.

So we make lists of alums and seek more to add (for a national list of “distinguished” 4-H alums, visit 4-H Distinguished Alumni. Hmm. For some reason they didn’t include me, I see, but it’s still a good list, I guess. :-)

We raise up and honor our alums for the world to see and we tell our alums’ stories like those of Jennifer Nettles or Facebook’s Andrew Bozman or Food Channel’s Anne Burrell or…

And we tell YOUR stories! Some that have appeared in the 4-H Fix already include:

And just WAIT until you see some of the alum stories that will be in future 4-H Fixes!

Our 4-H Alums walked the 4-H path before us and proved themselves to be giants given what they achieved. By putting the spotlight on these giants we can show the world what 4-H can mean in a child’s life and, in turn, the life of our country, world, and future.

We in 4-H today, truly do stand on the shoulders of giants — our alums — YOU! Which brings me, then, to my final question for this post:

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story! And don’t forget! Go to 4-H.org/RaiseYourHand to vote for MAINE and show your pride as a MAINE 4-H alum!

Speaking of putting 4-H Alums in the spotlight, return to The 4-H Fix on April 21 to read about Maine 4-H Alum Katherine Watier Ong, in the first of a new series we are calling “Where are they now?”

Click here to learn how to support UMaine 4-H.

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, March 24th, 2017

The Original Maine 4-H Brownie

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

If I say “Brownie,” what comes to mind? Any of these?

Indeed, here is that recipe!

Cream one-half cup of butter, one cup sugar. Add two squares (one-quarter cake) Baker’s chocolate, melted, two eggs, one-half cup pastry flour and one-half cup chopped walnuts. Spread on baking tins and bake fifteen minutes in a moderate oven.

So, when I said “Brownie” did anyone say “Brownie Schrumpf,” the person of whom one biographer entitled her book: “If Maine had a Queen” and who I am calling the “Original Maine 4-H Brownie”? Visit the Google News archive and go to page 14 to read a Bangor Daily News article about Mildred’s life.

Mildred Greeley Brown “Brownie” Schrumpf

Mildred Greeley Brown “Brownie” Schrumpf

Mildred Greeley Brown, also known as “Brownie,” served as Maine’s fifth Assistant State 4-H Leader from 1925 – 1932.

Here is her picture. It was taken around 1936 making her about 33 years of age at the time.

Note the smile.

I bet she was a very nice person to know. I wish I could have met her.

Born January 24, 1903, in Readfield Depot, a village situated just east of Maranacook Lake in Kennebec County, Brownie seemed to be successful at everything.

Maybe that is why she smiled so much! She graduated from Winthrop High School in 1921 and then went right on to attend classes at the University of Maine. I hope her parents, Fred and Nellie Brown, were there to see her receive her bachelor’s degree in Home Economics in 1925. I’m sure they were. I’m even sure they were more than proud. After all, she was the first in her family to go to college.

Out of college and then right back onto campus for her brand new job, Assistant State Club (I like saying “4-H” instead) Leader, a job she did for the next seven years. The State 4-H Office announced her appointment in the newsletter Echoes from Clubdom (v8, #3, Sept 1925) saying:

A change in the personnel of the Club Department has just recently been announced by Dr. Leon S. Merrill, Director of Extension Work in Maine. Mrs. Arra S. Mixter, for three years Assistant State Club Leader, has resigned, her resignation taking effect October 15. Miss Mildred Greely (sic) Brown, of Readfield Depot has been appointed assistant state club leader and is already on the job attending county contests this month.

Now remember, this passage came from a newsletter issued in September 1925 and it says she’s out there already working but her predecessor won’t be leaving until October 15! Anyway, according to the article, Mixter found a new job as the Home Economics Director for a “publicity utility company in New Jersey.” I think that’s a typo — perhaps should have been “public.” Makes more sense. Anyway, we hope she enjoyed her new position no matter what kind of utility it was!

As for Miss Brown, Echoes continues:

Miss Brown is welcomed to the organization as an old friend and former club member. She is a graduate of the University of Maine in the class of 1925. She studied home economics. While in school she established an outstanding scholastic record besides taking part in various campus activities. She was a member of the Chi Omega sorority, the rifle club, president of the Home Economics Club and house president at the Practice House her last year. She is a graduate of Winthrop High school where she was prominent in dramatics and was one of the five highest honor students in studies.

See? I told you she was successful at everything! Maybe that IS why she was smiling! By the way, for more info on Chi Omega, visit the Chi Omega website. Also by the way, “Practice House” was located in the Orono campus building known as The Maples. The Maples also served for a time as the location of the State 4-H Office. A description of UMaine’s Practice House in 1920 can be found in the American Home Economics Association’s The Journal of Home Economics, Volume 12, 1920, pp310-312.

Speaking of successful, growing up, Brownie was a successful 4-H Member. She belonged to the Readfield Girls 4-H Canning Club. She was so successful, in fact, that, according to Shibles’s welcome, she twice earned the title of Kennebec County 4‑H Canning Champion, won third place at the State Contest, and third place at “the annual seed show one year.” “This background fits her admirably for her present work of teaching the boys and girls the very things she used to do when a youngster herself,” he added.

In fact, it was because of 4-H that she decided to even GO to college! Because she won the county 4-H contest she earned the opportunity to attend the State 4-H Contest, which was held each year on the UMaine Orono Campus. It was that trip that persuaded her, and her father, that she should continue her education and do so at UMaine.

1927 Maine 4-H Camp held at the Eastern States Exposition

1927 Maine 4-H Camp held at the Eastern States Exposition

I’m still thinking about that smile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of Brownie in which she is not smiling! You know, smiling wasn’t a thing to do in photos back in the 1920s. But she did. Here is a photo of some of the delegates to the 1927 Maine 4-H Camp held at the Eastern States Exposition (ESE). I won’t point out which one is Brownie. I’ll just say “look for the smile.”

By the way, that large guy sitting beside her, wearing the bow tie, is State 4-H Leader Lester Shibles. Count the smiles in the photo. Correct. One.

Here she is with the 1928 Maine delegation to Camp Vail, a camp that was also held at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield (as far as I can tell, Camp Vail was not the same as Maine 4-H Camp). This is a photo I took of a photo that is part of the 4-H Exhibit in the Page Farm and Home Museum here on campus. I apologize for the glare — on the photo, not the faces. I’ll talk more about this exhibit and the museum a bit later in this post but for now just look for our smiling friend (hint: front row, forth from the left). As I said, I wished I had met her. She seems so positive and her positive attitude seems to be catchy. Note the woman to Shibles’s right. She seems to be smiling too!

 

1928 Maine delegation to Camp Vail

1928 Maine delegation to Camp Vail

 

Just to prove the point that Brownie was always smiling, here is a photo of Brownie and some of the delegation that attended the Maine 4-H Camp at ESE in 1929.

1929 delegation to Maine 4-H Camp at ESE

1929 Maine 4-H Camp delegation at ESE

Did you find her? I told you that attitude was catchy! Finding her is a little harder this time since there is at least one other smile, maybe even three or four (although the one to Brownie’s left could be called a smirk — probably didn’t like having to wear that “uniform”). Brownie is again sitting to the left of Lester Shibles, and, in case you are interested, the guy sitting to the right of Shibles, according to the list included on the back of the photo, is the seemingly joyless KC Lovejoy, the Waldo County 4-H Agent who would be appointed State 4-H Leader in 1935.

In 1932, one year shy of her 30th birthday, Brownie married a fellow named William E. Schrumpf, an economist working for the University of Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, which meant one of them would have to quit their job and I guess she was “it”! Apparently, one couldn’t be a university employee and be married to a university employee at the same time back in those days.

For Brownie, it seems, life mostly revolved around food, which is a bit like mine except whereas she taught about it, how to make it, and how to safely preserve it, I just eat it. In the forward to her cookbook Memories from Brownie’s Kitchen she wrote:

I started my “cooking career” at ten years of age, using a recipe my mother learned when she was a child. Our measuring cup was a coffee cup without a handle. The food on our farm was home-grown or picked in the wild, cooked on a wood stove and served to a hungry table of seven to eleven at each meal. During summer vacations from college I cooked for a woman and her granddaughter at their summer cottage. The menus and recipes were far different from the food on the farm — a learning experience! Cooking has always been an interesting and exciting way of life. I’ve enjoyed working with youngsters decorating cookies and making pies, and love to teach cooking classes.

In the 1940s, as a member of the USDA Extension Service, she taught foods and food preservation classes part-time at the University of Maine — notably one course being on camp cookery taught to UMaine forestry students — and traveled about the state giving food-related demonstrations. On August 31, 1951, at age 48, she began her weekly food column for the Bangor Daily News called “Brownie’s Kitchen.”

“This is your column” it began because, she said, it would be a bit of the readers’ ideas and a bit of hers. Each week she’d reminisce about days gone by or offer advice for days yet to come, always followed by three to five or so recipes.

Her January 2, 1980 column (page 29) began:

The holidays are nearly over and 1980 is the beginning of a new decade. It will be a time of tailoring the food purchases to the food budget.

Not a scrap of food should be wasted. Leftover cooked meats and vegetables, with the addition of seasonings, will make a meat pie or a soup. Even hash becomes a special dish! Stew meat will stretch the meat budget, although stew meat has become a higher priced food, and less tender cuts may be marinated to soften the fibers. It is a game the homemaker will play to “make do” with the food budget money.

One of the recipes she included in this column was her Shrimp and Broccoli Casserole. She said it was “a party-like meal.” It included, besides shrimp and broccoli, a can of celery soup, sharp cheese, buttered crumbs, and a few other things. Sounds tasty!

For her December 2, 1970 column (page 20) she wrote about a visit she’d made to a high school Home Economics Class and included their recipes. This one started with a question.

Do you remember the very first meal you cooked and company came to dinner? Members of the sophomore class at Easton High School served their first meal to company in the Home Economics course and it couldn’t have tasted better! The main dish of meat-za pie was accompanied with baked Aroostook potatoes, buttered carrots, and tossed salad. A chewy bar was served for dessert. Milk, tea and coffee were also served. You may like to try their recipe for meat-za pie.

MEAT-ZA PIE, if I’m reading the recipe correctly, was a meatloaf-like base covered by a tomato and mushroom sauce with cheese spread over the top, baked in the oven. Sounds pretty good! I might have just figured out what I’m having for dinner tonight!

And for dessert, MAGIC COOKIE BARS!

This chewy bar is made with sweetened condensed milk with coconut and walnuts as ingredients. These are good bars to include in the laundry case that goes back, filled with freshly laundered clothes, to the student at college or boarding school.

Better wrap those things up good in plastic or, if you have my luck, you’ll have Magic Cookie LAUNDRY! Anyway, these sound pretty good too — corn flakes, butter, sugar, chocolate, walnuts, and coconut, all mixed together with sweetened condensed milk and baked. Not sounding too bad at all!

Covers of cookbooks "Flavor of Maine" and "Memories from Brownie's Kitch"Anyway, let’s get back to Brownie. In addition to her newspaper column, she wrote two cookbooks, The Flavor of Maine (1976) and, as mentioned above, Memories from Brownie’s Kitchen (1989), both of which I’m sure could be found in many of your better bookstores and libraries. I found both available online. Just Google the title. I also found them both in Fogler Library here on campus! See?

Speaking of her kitchen, however, if you want to visit it, just stop by the Page Farm and Home Museum on the UMaine campus. She donated many of the items to be found in their “Brownie’s Kitchen” exhibit, a replica of a 20th Century farmhouse kitchen.

“Brownie’s Kitchen” exhibit, a replica of a 20th Century farmhouse kitchen, Page Farm Museum, Orono, ME

4-H exhibit at the Page Farm Museum, Orono, MEAlso nearby in that same area is a 4-H Exhibit. Stop by, learn, and enjoy!

Throughout her life, Brownie promoted good food, good food practices, and good foods native to Maine and Maine-grown whenever possible. If a person had a question about how something should be cooked, or if something was safe to eat, or how to make do with the wrong ingredients, it was Brownie Schrumpf that they would call; and call her they did, her telephone ringing almost constantly! She always took the call and always tried to find an answer to their questions, probably always with a smile!

She was a Bangor State Fair judge and a judge for the national Pillsbury Bake-Off. She was the Maine Food Products Promoter for the Maine Department of Agriculture at the Eastern States Exposition throughout the ’50s and ’60s. She was the “food expert” in a TV series called “A Time to Live” during the ’70s and ’80s. I don’t know if that’s when our own Angela Martin, who sits in the office next to mine in Corbett Hall, saw her, but when I showed Angela a picture of Brownie, she said, “Oh, I used to see her on TV!”

Brownie was even the one who first promoted the idea I mentioned at the start of this post, that the chocolate brownie was invented in Bangor (which led to the untrue story that she, HERSELF, invented the brownie and gave it its name. She didn’t invent it, didn’t give it its name, didn’t get hers from it, nor did she ever claim any of that to be the case. People and their talk. Go figure.).

She may not have had the honor of inventing the brownie but she did receive honors such as UMaine’s Black Bear Award (1957); Maine Press, Radio, and TV Women’s Woman of the Year Award (1968); Orono-Old Town Kiwanis Service Recognition Award (1976); and the Maine American Association of University Women [AAUW] Achievement Citation (1989). In 1974 she was awarded the UMO General Alumni Association Award, the highest award the group bestows and in the 44 years in which they had been giving this award up to that point, she was one of only five women to receive it.

Then, in 1997, Brownie Schrumpf was inducted into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame.

Mildred Greeley Brown “Brownie” Schrumpf, who stood only 4’ 11” tall in stature but stood as a giant in the hearts of Mainers everywhere, having lived 98 years of life, a life full of service to others, passed away in Orono on March 2, 2001. Kalil Ayoob, Bangor Daily News City Editor at the time, said of Brownie, “She loved people and responded to everyone. She was a regular person.”

And to think, this all started in Kennebec County, on the shores of Maranacook Lake, as a member of the Readfield Girls 4-H Canning Club.

Did you have a favorite 4-H Recipe or food related 4-H experience? Tell us all about it and get yourself into a 4-H Fix!

On April 7 the next 4-H Fix post will tell us how we are all “Standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story!

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, March 10th, 2017

March is Women’s History Month!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

The year 1997 is not a year I like to remember.

That was a year when I lost a good friend.

She was only 54 years old when she died.

It was a terrible loss.

She was a beautiful, talented, intelligent woman whom everyone loved. In the all-too-brief seven years she led the Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation, she turned it from a relatively successful 4-H foundation into a professional fundraising machine for Maine 4-H. Any Maine 4-H Member who participated in any state, regional, or national 4-H experience, and many local and county one’s as well, in the 1990s benefited from the work of Evelyn Trotzky, Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation Executive Director, 1990-1997.

UMaine President Fred Hutchinson and PTS 4-H Foundation President Scott Johnson listen as Evelyn Trotzky makes a comment during the 1996 Foundation Annual Meeting.

UMaine President Fred Hutchinson and PTS 4-H Foundation President Scott Johnson listen as Evelyn Trotzky makes a comment during the 1996 Foundation Annual Meeting.

What a joy she was to work with. You never knew what she was about to do next! One day, in the middle of a meeting, Evelyn stood up and announced, “Let’s go and get some Chinese food!” Then she looked at me and in her slightly New York accent asked, “Whatdayasay?” It was only mid-morning, a tad early for lunch, and we still had a great deal to do but who could argue with Evelyn? Of course, I said yes! So we just left our papers on the table, jumped into her car, and off we went to her favorite Chinese restaurant, arriving almost as they opened for the day!

My memory isn’t good enough to recall what I ordered that day but I’ll never forget what she ordered — Hot and Sour Soup — the big bowl — extra spicy!

There she sat, a look of ecstasy on her face, as she ate her soup with tears streaming done her cheeks! “I love this soup!” she said between each spoonful after spicy spoonful. It was typical Evelyn! It’s how she did her job; how she lived her life — at high speed, to the fullest, engaging all of her senses! Everything she had she put into everything she did.

And what she did was amazing! She studied at the University of Geneva, received her BA from Wheaton College, studied at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, and then earned her Master’s degree in French at the University of Maine. She was a staff member of the United Nations Visitor’s Service in New York City, served as director of public relations and development at St Joseph Hospital in Bangor, and as director of community relations and development at the Kennebec Valley Mental Health Center, before taking on fund development for Maine 4-H. In her “spare” time she fulfilled her gubernatorial appointments as chair of the Maine Children’s Trust and as a member of the Maine Commission on Community Service. Of course, we can’t forget to mention her service on the board of directors of the Penobscot Valley United Way or the Jewish Community Council or being a member of the Bangor Junior League or of her church, Beth Abraham Synagogue.

Getting Evelyn to stop doing something, or even to slow down, was not an easy thing to do. Perhaps that is why, when she told us she was sick, we didn’t believe her. It just wasn’t possible. Perhaps that is why, in November of 1997 when she died, it came as such a shock — one that is still a shock today.

On July 23, 2016, I went to visit my friend. It took me a bit of walking and searching; it helps to look in the right cemetery. I was looking in the Beth Israel and she is in the Beth Abraham, but I finally found her in the far back corner of the Beth Abraham Cemetery. If you stand at the Korean War Memorial in Bangor’s Mt. Hope Cemetery and look across Mt. Hope Avenue, you’ll see an unpaved road. Follow that road and it will take you right to Evelyn. Her marker is a simple white marble stone. In fact, it reminded me of Evelyn — elegant, straightforward, and all class.

Evelyn Trotzky's grave marker

In one of her updates to the Maine Extension System, sent a few months into her illness, after describing some of the consequences of chemotherapy (“…many of you will see me, scarves, turbans, and all [no big deal], …I look pretty much the same, perhaps a little thinner, but with no less spirit and determination.”) she added this thought:

It’s about stopping to smell the roses. You and I and most working folks spend lots of time planning for tomorrow, that’s the way progress occurs. But I promise you from my vantage point that you can get just as big a high appreciating each morning sunrise, watching the crocus blossoms poke through the snow, and listening to the birds chirp as you walk along the Kenduskeag River. There is something to be said about living in the moment.

And she was just ONE of the amazing women Maine 4-H has benefited from through the years!

I suppose Ava Chadbourne might be the first woman Maine 4-H benefitted from. On January 23, 1914, she organized the first 4-H Club for girls in Maine — Macwahoc, ME, that is, a town in Aroostook County. You can read a bit about her on the National 4-H History Map. Zoom in on Maine until the Maine icons appear. Click on the push pin in Aroostook County. There you will find a few links you can then follow. One will tell you about Chadbourne Hall on the UMaine Orono campus. It was named after Ava Chadbourne!

In 1914, the first state 4-H program leader, F. Harold Bickford, after one year of service, resigned. He must have been pretty good though because TWO people replaced him! Ralph P. Mitchell was named State Leader of Agricultural Boys’ Club Work and Marie W. Gurdy was named State Leader of Agricultural Girls’ Club Work. Marie must have been pretty good, too! She actually started working a few months PRIOR to her official appointment date!

Marie Wilhelmina Gurdy was born in Rockland on Christmas Day, December 25, 1890, to Harry and Julia Gurdy. She was interested in, and found employment, teaching young women the home sciences. She held a bachelor’s degree but I am uncertain of the subject or the institution although I suspect Home Economics and the University of Maine. She held her 4-H position from 1914-1916. She probably would have stayed longer but on March 1, 1916, she married Brooklyn, NY resident Wilson B. Keene, getting married not in NY but in Maine. She died in February of 1971 having reached the age of 80.

Emily Morse

Emily Morse

Our next woman of note is Emily Morse, who, in 1914, was a ten-year-old 4‑H Member from Cherryfield, Maine. Cherryfield was so named because of all the wild cherries that lined the Narraguagus River upon which the Washington County town is located. Today the town is better known as “the Blueberry Capital of the World”! I wonder what happened to the cherries! Anyway, Emily is noteworthy because she was named the first state 4‑H champion during the first State 4-H Contest. It was held on the UMaine Orono campus December 21 – 23, 1914. This is a picture of Emily from 1916.

Actually, Emily was designated the 1914 4-H Gardening and Canning State Winner. From an earlier blog post we know she canned blueberries. I wonder if she canned cherries! Anyway, they didn’t start calling them “champions” until 1915 but it’s okay; in 1916 she beat out the 1915 Champion, Aroostook County’s Crystal Waddell of Mapleton, so earned the title back and this time could OFFICIALLY use the name “Champion”! In fact, she did it again in 1917 as well! Now that’s a champion!

In the early days of 4-H, when Emily was a member, 4-H was the responsibility of the County Agricultural Agents. That all changed in 1928 when the University of Maine employed five people to focus just on 4‑H in their respective counties. THREE of the first five Maine 4-H Agents were women: Effie Jones, Kennebec, Evelyn Plummer, Oxford, and Martha Corinne Merrill, Penobscot. Earle T. Blodgett, York, and KC Lovejoy, Waldo, rounded out the five.

Last October you read about Gladys Conant in the 4-H Fix. Gladys served Maine 4-H as a 4-H Volunteer for 68 of her 97 years, right up to the day she died in 2005. She was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame the first year it opened, 2002. That in itself, is an honor she well deserved.

Karen Hatch Gagne

Karen Hatch Gagne

Back in 1947, 4-H Agents across the country created an organization they called the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA). In 2015, 3,738 4-H Agents were members of this association, including me. Of course, an organization needs leaders so they created officers for it, one being President. Each year those few thousand members go the polls and vote for the one 4‑H Agent among them that the members think should lead NAE4-HA into the next year. In 2008, that 4-H Agent was Karen Hatch Gagne, the only 4-H Agent from Maine to be so honored. Karen began as a Kennebec County 4-H Agent in 1976. When you are good at what you do, folks take notice. It only took a year for the folks in Berkshire County, Massachusetts to notice just how good Karen was and to steal her away in 1977! So she was “away” for a few years making 4-H happen in the Berkshires and a few more getting her Master’s Degree at Virginia Tech. Then in 1981, Karen came home to her old job in her old county, retiring in 2015 but not before serving, in 2008, as the only Maine 4-H Agent to be elected to the post of NAE4-HA President.

And, speaking of leaders, so far FIVE individuals who’ve given statewide educational program leadership to Maine 4-H have been women. Margaret F. Stevens, Aunt Margaret to the 4‑H’ers of Maine, was the first of those five. Born in Rockport in 1911, Margaret Stevens’s career brought her to the State 4-H Staff in 1951 as the Assistant State 4-H Leader. When KC Lovejoy retired in 1963, the program turned to Aunt Margaret. She led 4-H for the next twelve years, retiring in the bicentennial year of 1976. She was 97 years old when she passed away in May of 2007.

Maine 4-H’ers had to wait until 1989 for the next female 4-H Program Leader, Thea Cloutier. Thea served as State 4-H Program Administrator until 1994. Cathy Elliott is next in line serving 1998-2002. Shirley Hager succeeded her, 2002-2007, and Lisa Phelps, our present State 4-H Program Administrator, succeeded her.

Which brings us back to the Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation, or, as it is known now, the Maine 4-H Foundation. Who is the present Executive Director? Another woman, Susan Jennings. Susan had been the extremely successful 4-H Educator in Oxford County, serving since 1988, until, in 2013, she jumped into the role of Maine 4-H Foundation Executive Director. Susan has proven to be one of the best 4-H fundraisers Maine has known. Evelyn would have been proud. If you see Susan, say hello but don’t be surprised if she asks you for money; as I said in a previous blog post, that’s what you do when the words “Resource Development” appear in your title!

Was there a special woman who made a difference in your 4-H history? If so, write or email me about her. Include permission for me to use your comments and you may find yourself in a future “4-H Fix”!

Come back to The 4-H Fix in two weeks to enjoy an Original Maine 4-H Brownie, and I’m not referring to a chocolate, cake-like dessert!

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story!

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, February 24th, 2017

She Set the Bar High!

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

In the photographs we have of her, she looks to be rather small, perhaps only 5 feet tall, if that. But what she lacked in stature she made up for in energy, enthusiasm, and leadership. She was the first Maine 4‑H’er to be named a statewide winner or “champion.” In fact, she earned top placing three of the first four years of 4-H Club work in Maine, setting the bar pretty high for those who would follow!

Emily Morse

Emily Morse

Emily Estella Morse was born on February 12, 1904, in Cherryfield, Maine, a Washington County town situated on the Narragaugas River. She was the only child of Winfield George and Alta Dehlia Morse. Her father is listed as a farmer on her birth record but later found employment in the lumber industry. His occupation is listed as “lumbering” in “Mills and Woods” on the 1910 census and as “Cook” in “Camp” on the 1920 census.

Emily was ten years old in 1914 when 4-H Clubs (Boys’ and Girls’ Agricultural Clubs in those days) were just getting started in Maine. Records no longer exist (or, at least have not yet resurfaced) for what month the Cherryfield club Emily joined was formed, but their first year must have been successful.

It was especially so for Emily. She was invited to represent her club at the first State Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Contest held December 21-23, 1914, on the UMaine Orono campus. This event was the beginning of her successes for not only did she attend, but it was during this event she was named the state’s first winner in Gardening and Canning — Maine’s first state champion even though that term was not yet used.

4-H’ers who attended the first State Contest in December 1914.

This is a photo of the 4-H’ers who attended the first State Contest in December 1914. That’s Emily in the light colored coat with the two big black buttons, standing in the front row.

Crystal Waddell

Crystal Waddell

In 1915, she was chosen to attend the State Contest again. This time they began to use the title “champion” for the winners but, even though Emily was awarded a score of 100 on her 10 exhibited jars of fruits and vegetables (worth 20% of the score) and her story was deemed to be the best submitted (worth 20%), the title of Gardening and Canning Champion went to Aroostook County’s 12-year-old Crystal Waddell of Mapleton.

One of the selling points for involvement in early club work was that money could be made through the project work. Crystal reported a 1915 profit of $39.03 (worth 30%) on her 10th-acre of beets after covering her expenses, including 20 cents an hour for her own labor. “Production” was the final 30% of the score. Of her project, Crystal wrote:

If I don’t succeed
In making my beets beat,
I’ve had the fun of trying
With good profits for a treat.

group photo of the 4-H’ers who attended the 1915 Contest

Here is a group photo of the 4-H’ers who attended the 1915 Contest. I’m not sure which one is Crystal, but once again, Emily is in the front row, wearing what looks to be the same coat, but now with a neck wrap!

Undaunted, even by poetry, twelve-year-old Emily worked hard through 1916 and was, once again, invited to attend the state contest that December, for a third year in a row. For the second year in a row, her story was deemed to be the best submitted and this time, as noted on page 5 of the December 30, 1916 edition of the Bar Harbor Times, she was designated as the State Canning Champion joining her fellow champions of 1916: Alma Davis, Machias, Poultry; Dorothy Shackford, Ellsworth, Pig Raising; Milfred Blackstone, Perham, Potato Raising; and Hilda Sullivan, Orono, Gardening.

Emily MorseHer award-winning essay about her work through the summer and fall of 1916 was published on page 1 of the Extension Newsletter No. 30, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs series no. 11, January 1917. I’ve included it just as it appeared in the Extension Newsletter, but be careful reading it. I don’t know how it will affect you, but it made me hungry!

One other note: in the story Emily says she canned “a total of 20 different kinds of vegetables, 18 kinds of fruit, 1 kind of fish and 1 kind of poultry.” However, when I count the vegetables and fruit listed, I count 16 vegetables and 9 fruit. Since this was determined to be the best story, either I’m not reading this correctly or something is wrong. I can’t believe such a discrepancy would not have been noticed, leading me to think there must be another explanation. My source for the story is the Extension Newsletter, not the original story. I wonder if a line or two was missed when the story was retyped from the original into the newsletter! At any rate, here is her story, as it appeared in the newsletter.

I began my work in canning on June 30th. On that day I picked and canned five quarts of wild strawberries, and sold the same for $1.75. A few days later I canned nine quarts of cultivated strawberries for my mother. All through the summer she went around on crutches while recovering from an operation on her foot. My father was away from home every day and the canning fell to me. This may look to be quite a task for a little girl, but I am proud to tell you that I canned 227 quarts of fruits, meats, and vegetables. Here is a list of the vegetables I have canned this summer: 13 quarts of beets, 54 quarts of beans, 23 quarts of peas, 10 quarts of carrots, 7 ½ quarts of corn, 3 ½ quarts of beet greens, 7 quarts of sour pickles, 9 quarts of sweet pickles, 4 quarts of tomato pickles, 3 quarts of pumpkin, 3 quarts of squash, 1 quart of cabbage, 1 quart of red peppers, 1 quart of cauliflower, and 4 quarts of potatoes.

Besides these I have several quarts of fruits that I must tell you about. I canned and sold five quarts of wild strawberries which I mentioned at the beginning of my story. I have nine quarts of raspberries which I picked and canned with these same little fingers, and 20 quarts of blueberries. Some people say they do not like blueberries in the winter, but I think they make just as good a pie as they do when picked fresh in the summer. I have 3 quarts of Wealthy apples and 4 quarts of Highland cranberries, 3 quarts of peaches, 2 quarts of pineapple, and 8 quarts of crabapples. I also have trout, chicken, turnip greens, and beet greens. This makes a total of 20 different kinds of vegetables, 18 kinds of fruit, 1 kind of fish and 1 kind of poultry.

People say to me, “What kind of jars do you use?” Here is a list of the jars that I used this season: the Queen, the Lightening, the E.Z. Atlas, the Imperial, the Safety Valve, the Sure Seal, the Mason, and the Economy.

This makes eight different kinds of jars, and my choice among them is the Economy jar.

Last year I took some of my canned fruits and vegetables to the fair and won second prize of $3.00 on them. This year our local leader thought the club ought to show some of its work in canning on the fair grounds. I being the President went around among the members and told each one to get some jars ready. When the day of opening came we went to the grounds with our collection of preserves, but we had a hard time finding a table to use for our exhibit. After a long search we found one that was very large, and we arranged our things as pretty as we could. Then the fun commenced. Someone would come along, pick up the jars, turn them upside down and all ways, set them down with a bang and say, “Well, these little girls do fine work.” Then they would turn to someone else and say, “Do you suppose these children do this work?” And the answer would be, “No, I don’t.” This made us feel pretty bad, but after a little while four or five other ladies would come along. I expected to hear the same remark, but this time it was, “Say, look here. This work is done by the Girls’ Agriculture Club. I think this club work is fine for the boys and girls. New clubs are being formed all through the states, they say, and they are doing wonderful work.” This sounded good to me, and I stepped up close to the lady who spoke the encouraging words. The difference in these two ladies makes me think of a motto I have been told many times, “If you cannot say a word that encourages, do not say a word that discourages.”

This is all I have to say about my work this season. I wish all the club members another prosperous season and hope to meet you all again next year doing the club work.

Spoken like a true champion! As the Newsletter said, “…Emily is surely the princess of all canners.” She proved this again by winning again in 1917, now reaching state-wide fame. The Daily Kennebec Journal, January 16, 1918 edition, reported (although with a few errors either on their part or provided to them; Emily’s middle initial was “E”, Her father’s name was Winfield [although he may have been using “Winslow” at this time; being listed as such in the 1910 census], and although 1917 is the third time she was designated as state winner or “Champion” it was not consecutive [1914, 1916, 1917].):

Miss Emily B. Morse, the 13-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Winslow Morse of Cherryfield, again won the Boys and Girls Agricultural and Canning Clubs contest, this being the third consecutive year in which she has carried off this honor. Miss Morse attended the State Meeting of Clubs at Orono in December and read an interesting paper on her season’s work. Miss Morse won several prizes in the Washington County contests for 1917.

The “Princess of all Canners,” now 14, missed being designated as “Champion” during the December 1918 State Contest, that honor going to Penobscot County’s Marion Griffin of Levant. Too bad, too. This time Emily canned “over 600 pints” (over 300 quarts) according to Extension Newsletter #68, Boys and Girls Clubs Series #25, January 1919. Although she would have been eligible to continue with 4-H membership another four years, through 1922, it is uncertain if she did so based on records discovered so far.

On January 29, 1924, Emily married Mark J. Murdock, a Canadian by birth who was seven when he arrived in the United States in 1909, and the couple moved to Portland, Maine. They had three children: Martin W. born 1925, Richard S. born 1926, and Charles E. born 1929. The 1940 census finds the family living in Boston, MA, Mark listed as a welder and Emily as a housewife with one year of college education. Mark was 76 when he died in 1978 and Emily died July 12, 1986 in Woburn, MA at age 82. They are both buried in Calvary Cemetery in South Portland.

Newspaper and other records searches return very few additional details of Emily’s life after her marriage. From what little that has been found, we may assume she experienced both the happy and sad times that come with births, weddings, job changes, illnesses, and deaths; the life occurrences that we all experience; a life much like the life any of us might lead.

However, for five years, as she moved from childhood into her teenage years, Emily served as a noted role model, continuously working to make her best better. We are left to wonder what those five years of Girls’ Canning Club membership and successes meant to Emily; how they impacted her life, if at all; did they make a difference? I suppose we’ll never know for sure but what we do know is that her Girls’ Club efforts and achievements made a difference in the life of Maine 4-H! Her achievements boosted the Club Work of Maine when it was still in its infancy, when it truly needed boosting, by being a shining example of the “wonderful work” the club members could achieve. She was a role model then and she remains one today! She made a difference then and continues to make a difference today.

Hers was a 4-H Membership that truly set the bar high right from the start!

How are you making a difference in the life of 4-H? Drop me a line and let me know. With your permission, your comments may end up in a future 4-H Fix!

March is Women’s History Month so return to The 4-H Fix on March 10 to read about women who had an impact on Maine 4-H.

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story!

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.

4-H Fix

Friday, February 10th, 2017

JoJo Thoreau

By Ron Drum, Statewide 4-H Program Professional/Associate Director 4-H Resource Development

Maine is known for her famous authors: Stephen King, Annie Proulx, David McCullough, JoJo Thoreau.

What!? Never heard of JoJo Thoreau? Why, she is Maine’s newest recipient of a Western Writers Association Spur Award, one of the most prestigious awards in American literature! JoJo Thoreau won the 2016 Best Western Storyteller Spur for her illustrated children’s book entitled Buckaroo Bobby Sue. Others who’ve won Spurs in 2016 include prolific writer Joe R. Lansdale (Best Western Historical Novel) and Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles (Best Western Biography).

Cover of the book Buckaroo Bobbie Sue written by JoJo Thoreau, illustrated by Kristina Zack Young

JoJo Thoreau, a Waldo County native, has been writing for years. This nationally known author has spoken about the importance of reading to more than 7,000 Maine students and adults in schools, libraries, and during book signings. She has also given presentations in Massachusetts; during the Western Writers Association conference providing a book reading for children and speaking on the importance of supporting literacy; on a panel of writers at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and during a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

When she is relaxing at home, you’ll often find Boots and Trigger, JoJo Thoreau’s two feline friends, relaxing with her.

Lydia Schofield showing dairy cows as a 4-HerStill can’t place her? Maybe you know her better as Lydia Schofield, a member of the Little Beaver’s 4-H Club of Waldo County who shows Dairy Cows.

Cover of the book Bendy-Wendy by JoJo Thoreau, illustrated by Kristina Z. YoungShe’s the Lydia Schofield who, as JoJo Thoreau, wrote and published her first book in 2014, Bendy-Wendy, when she was NINE, before she was an award-winning author, like she is now, at age eleven!

And by the way, being eleven makes her the youngest recipient of a Spur!

Ever.

Here she is in Cheyenne, WY, in June, accepting her prestigious award and being congratulated by John T. Wayne, author and grandson of the movie star John Wayne, who was thrilled when he learned that she knew who his grandfather was!

Lydia Schofield accepting her prestigious award and being congratulated by John T. Wayne

So just how does an eleven-year-old write a book, get it published, meet John T. Wayne and other celebrities, AND win an award? According to Tiffany, Lydia’s mom, “Her independent 4-H writing project helped her with the learning tools needed to write and publish Bendy-Wendy.” And it just goes to show, practice really does make perfect since it was her second book that received the Spur.

“I used to get really upset when I thought I was bad at something because it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. Then through my 4-H Cloverbud group, I learned about Benjamin Franklin and how many times his experiments failed, but he kept on trying until he got it right,” Lydia explained. “I’m glad that he never gave up on his invention ideas! I’m also glad that I didn’t give up on my writing because now my book, Buckaroo Bobby Sue, has won a national award.” And what role did 4-H play in all of this? “4-H has taught me that it’s totally okay to make mistakes when doing something new because that is how we learn the most from something,” responds Lydia.

There is no question that Lydia is a good writer. But just what is it about writing that draws her to it? According to Lydia, “It makes me feel free like I can go anywhere or do anything right from my own chair.” However, it is the READING part that adds the emphasis. She says, “I learn about other places and people and how difficult situations can make us a stronger person. The possibilities are endless and nothing is impossible when I’m reading a story and feel like I’m in the story with the characters.” And then she adds, “This is a lot like how 4-H makes me feel, too.”

In 4-H, members are asked to use what they learn in 4-H to better their communities. Lydia is no different from other 4-H’ers. According to Tiffany, Lydia wasn’t always a great writer or reader. So now “Lydia’s passion is to let other kids know what she went through, and that it is normal for many kids to feel frustrated, but how it is so important to keep working at it (whatever it is: writing, reading, sports, etc.) because it will eventually get better and then you’ll unlock your true potentials.”

It is a message Lydia wants to make sure as many young people as possible can hear. “No matter how difficult it becomes, don’t give up.” It is a message she has given during programs at numerous schools and libraries, large and small, including a presentation to over 250 Saco students one afternoon.

Tiffany explains that during Lydia’s presentations, she describes “her personal journey of starting out as a struggling reader and writer and how spending time at libraries as well as being involved with her 4-H group encouraged her to keep trying no matter how difficult it felt.” Her programs conclude with the realization that through help from a teacher and by varying the forms of her expression, she was able to overcome her problems.

It is an effective message, too. At the end of one of her presentations at an elementary school, a third-grader raised her hand and told Lydia how she struggled with the same reading and writing issues. Eyes teared for many when that third-grader said she was so glad to know there was hope.

By nature, Lydia is a shy individual. So how is it possible for her to do, and plan to do, so many public presentations? Tiffany explains, “She has truly embraced the 4-H motto of head, heart, hands, and health. Her experiences through 4-H — presenting show animals in front of crowds, public speaking exercises — has catapulted her public speaking skills beyond anything she dreamed possible.”

Ron Drum with Lydia SchofieldSo it all comes back to 4-H and what her mom calls her “writers heart.” “She’s just having fun with a passion that has ultimately transformed her life in wonderful ways and now allows her to inspire other children.”

On August 24, 2016, I got the chance to meet Lydia in person! She was very nice. She even shook my HAND! I was inspired by her, too! I caught up with her in Clinton at her Maine Farm Days “Build a Book” booth, a booth that encouraged her visitors to read and love books by making one of their own!

She was also signing her books and I got her to sign my copies! See?

books signed by JoJo

If she looks tiny in the photos, it’s because she is! However, don’t let that fool you! This kid’s a power house! Once you start talking with her it opens up a whole new world! I was reminded of the song Groucho Marx made famous in the 1939 movie “At the Circus” called “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady”! Not because Lydia has any tattoos, none I’m aware of at least, but because of the song’s last line, “You can learn a lot from Lydia!”

Never heard of JoJo Thoreau?!

You will.

…of Lydia Schofield, too.

And maybe, one day, you’ll even get to shake her hand.

On February 24 the 4-H Fix will travel back in time, 100 years to 1916, to meet another 11-year-old 4-H’er, this one named Emily Morse, Maine’s first State 4-H Champion! Her story is called “She Set the Bar High!”

Were you a 4-H Member?

4-H emblemUMaine 4-H wants to hear your story. Please take a moment to fill out our short form and Tell Us Your Story!

University of Maine Cooperative Extension conducts the state’s most successful out-of-school youth educational program through 4-H, a positive youth development program that has been empowering young people in Maine to reach their full potential since 1913.