Newport 4-H club still strong and active after 95 years

Ella Lentz Headshot.jpg

by Ella Lentz
The Newport 4-H Club traces its roots back to the Brooklyn Heifer Club, which was formed in 1924 and was one of the first active 4-H clubs in Hants County, Nova Scotia. Our club officially became known as the Newport 4-H Club in 1953 through the guidance of Nova Scotia’s agriculture department and club leaders Lawrence and Graham Greenough. It offered Holstein, Ayrshire, and later, beef projects to members.

In 1955, our club’s first achievement day was held on J. Earl Greenough’s farm, where it continued to be hosted until 2013 when our membership grew too large. Achievement day then moved to the Hants County Exhibition grounds.

This year marks the 95th anniversary of the Newport 4-H Club. We continue to be a strong and active club in Hants County with 41 members, 13 Cloverbuds, and 17 volunteer leaders. The club offers 18 projects, some of which include dairy, beef, sheep, woodworking, crafts, and building blocks.

The club is currently led by general leader Michele O’Brien and meets in the basement of the Newport United Church. Our club executive includes president Anna Engler, vice-president Laura McNeil, secretary Rosemary McNeil, and treasurer Peyton Rehberg. Members are busy prepping for the 2019 achievement day on July 18.

Though our achievement day has moved, the Greenough family continues to provide support, and Lawrence’s grandchildren still lead the dairy project, providing our members with 4-H calves and the skills to be successful. Our club has been fortunate over the years to have the support of many local farmers who are able to provide project animals to our members, giving them the opportunity to show livestock even when they don’t have farms themselves.

Eric and Stacy Sullivan of Shady Pastures Farm lead the sheep project and lend out lambs from their flock. This year, we have many Cloverbuds in the sheep project, and our senior members have become quite skilled at holding their own lambs in one arm and catching runaways with the other.

Kylie Weatherbee and Deanna Whitehead lead the beef project. Calves are borrowed from their family’s farm, Spruce Lane Farm, as well as from Knowles Bros Charolais. The McNeil family has been leading the rabbit project for a number of years, and alumni Mary Grace McNeil is the current rabbit leader. Judy Zwicker was a goat leader in our club for many years and received a friends of Hants County 4-H award for her dedication to the club and county.

Our club also has strong life skills leadership, including woodworking leaders Joe O’Brien and Reiley King, photography (and light horse) leader of 14 years Vanessa Lentz, and crafts leader Suzanne Partridge, to name a few. In 2012, our sewing leader of 30 years Bev Harvey was awarded a certificate of appreciation for her many years of leadership.

Club members participate in activities outside of their project work. In the past few years, we’ve gone mud sliding together, run bottle drives, and volunteered at the community Easter egg hunt. Our members participate passionately on the county tug of war team, and attend clinics and events such as 4-H Weekend, Fluff ’n’ Buff, the county skating party, the EastGen Atlantic Showcase, and more.

We are competitive within the county, and members from our club consistently earn their way to the provincial level with their project work and other competitions such as public speaking. This year, our club received a Farm Credit Canada 4-H Club Fund grant and used it to host a beef and sheep clipping and fitting clinic for members in the club and county. There was a great turnout and the remaining funds were used to purchase club show supplies for Newport beef and sheep members.

Woodsmen is also a popular activity in our club and is coached by Jacob Greenough. Those who are new to our woodsmen team generally learn quite quickly that the team runs on the infamous “4-H time” and practice rarely starts on schedule. It’s also a club tradition to have a hot dog and marshmallow roast at the last practice before competition. If we get lucky, someone will bring s’mores supplies as well. Many of our members have been successful in being chosen for the county all-star team that competes at the provincial 4-H Weekend in May. This year, Brianna Partridge and Acacia Harvey were both chosen.

Often, 4-H is referred to as a family. The Newport 4-H club is no exception. It’s common for our members to quickly become leaders after hitting the age of 21, giving back the same leadership and skills that they received as members. This is how we’ve carried on for 95 years and it’s how we will continue for many years to come.

(Ella Lentz is a member in her final year with the Newport 4-H Club, and is a 4-H Canada Youth Advisory Committee representative for Nova Scotia. She’s participated in 4-H for 14 years and is currently involved in the light horse, beef, sheep, and dairy projects. Ella is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture where she’s taking a bachelor of science (honours) in agriculture, majoring in plant science, and minoring in animal agriculture. She is a member of the Dal AC woodsmen and judging teams and was previously chair of the Maritime Intercollegiate Judging Competition.)