by Sue Ann Rybak
This is part two of the article about local kids who are members of a 4-H Club, normally thought to be only for young people from rural areas or farms:
Monica Sohler, the 4-H sheep leader, said often when kids first come to the farm they are timid, especially with the larger animals, but as they work with the animals they become more confident and sure of themselves. “We have children who come into the sheep club, including my son Thomas, who are very timid when they first join, and within a year they turn into another child,” she said. “Thomas used to be afraid of dirt. He used to wash his hands all the time. It’s really great to see kids come out of their shell. One of the things that impressed me at the farm show was watching Thomas patiently standing there and helping them shear the sheep.”
Sohler, 54, said that in school and most extracurricular activities such as Girl Scouts and sports, kids are grouped according to their age and academic level. “They tend to go in packs of the same age, and you don’t have that here,” she said. “The kids here all work together … You don’t gain confidence by being told you’re a good person. You gain confidence by accomplishing something.”
Sohler, the 4-H club sheep leader, said all five of her children have participated in the 4-H Club from the time they were 8 years old until they were 18. She attributes a large portion of her children’s success to 4-H. “Both my older kids have master’s degrees,” she said. “One of my daughters studied science because she wanted to become a large animal veterinarian. She ended up going into bioarchaeology. I think my kids wouldn’t have done as well if they hadn’t learned certain skills in 4-H, and that’s why I keep coming back and lose all my Saturdays to the farm.”
Sheep club members have shown a variety of sheep including Dorsets, Suffolks, Cheviot and Southdowns. Through contests members have been awarded a Dorset, Southdown and most recently a Corriedale ewe lamb. Sohler said livestock clubs are a major commitment for both members and parents because the projects are longterm, and shows involve travel.
“Parental help is needed at the weekly farm meetings and at the community events where we take animals,” she said. “These include petting zoos, cow chip bingos and live nativities.” Unfortunately, the parent organization for 4-H does not receive funding from the city or the school district.
“The school district allows the Manatawna-Saul and Fox Chase 4-H Clubs to exist as their present locations,” said Moser, who grew up on a farm in Somerset County.
He said the club’s major source of funding comes from petting zoos and other community-sponsored events. Moser said he was fortunate to take possession of a donated truck and trailer when the club first started. “I made major modifications on the truck in order to use it for livestock transportation,” he said. “I believe funding for agriculture is very important for Pennsylvania because agriculture is the state’s largest industry, and we must preserve Ag and farmland and promote all aspects of Ag in urban areas as well.”
In order to join the club, applicants must be between 8 and18 years old. The cost to join 4-H for the year is only $50. When asked why he thinks kids should join a 4-H Club, Moser replied, “4-H helps to create active and engaged citizens. The 4-H pledge is: ‘I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.’ I think that says it all. We use our whole being to work towards a better world, locally and on a grander scale. This is the ideal we can apply to all aspects and stages of our lives.”
For more information about the Manatawna-Saul 4-H Club, email Rebecca Dhondt at email@example.com or call Scott Moser at 215-971-5425.