Kaitlyn and Morgan Spettle, daughters of Randy and Susie, grew up with their mother, aunt, grandmother and great grandmother, including dads and uncles, as club leaders in the Busy Needles. Huron County 4-H families have long been dedicated supporters of the yearly Junior Fair and all its related activities.
"I grew up in 4-H from the year I was born, 1999. I was a month old in March when the meetings for the year began," Kaitlyn said. "I went to every meeting with my mom. They always called me 'Rosebud' because I wasn't old enough to be a Clover Bud. I think I've only missed one or two meetings in my whole life."
Her younger sisters, Morgan and Brenna Grace, continue that tradition of getting what you might call an early start.
Originally in the early days of 4-H, clubs like the Busy Needles offered mainly cooking, canning or sewing projects for girls. Boys' clubs began with livestock and crop production or woodworking. You joined at age 10-plus. Now Clover Bud members include both boys and girls and start at kindergarten age. Regular membership begins after three years.
But, how does a kindergartener choose a first project as a 4-H Clover Bud? Parents help members decide using booklets listing all the choices. Small animals, gardening, sewing, photography are just a few from a long list to interest beginners. You don't have to live on a farm either to belong to 4-H. Anyone in the county is welcome to join.
By third grade regular members can choose from more than 200 projects. Raising livestock still offers plenty of scope, as does cooking and gardening. There are livestock judging classes, home decorating and design, quilting, scrapbooking, floriculture, conservation of natural resources, veterinary science, leadership, power equipment, electricity and metalworking — so many county junior fair exhibits from so many dedicated youngsters. It testifies to their hard work and dedication put into keeping records, doing demonstrations and attending meetings with the possibility to win Best of Show' or placement ribbons, even to show at the Ohio State Fair.
Morgan Spettle always knew she wanted to sew. "I was not much on livestock because I wanted big livestock. If you are little it is kind of hard to handle. I was not very tall." She really enjoyed doing sewing projects each year, but added sheep as she got taller. "It was frustrating," Morgan said. "I was short and couldn't lean over and set their legs to handle them for show. After three years Kaitlyn introduced me to dairy feeders. She helped me out. So did my parents. I had one calf. No more sheep."
This year one project of Morgan's is making a top and capri pants. The Spandex material complicated the work. "It didn't sew well on my machine. I was very frustrated about that." Despite the difficulty she worked up to the last minute and finished the day of judging.
Her livestock projects are two "Back to the Farm" feeder calves and two market hogs. "With animals you keep a record book from the time you get the animal until the day of the fair. It lists the kind of food, how much fed, the pen size. You set goals such as 'I want to win showmanship with market class (type of animal).' You try to wash and walk your animals often to keep them in shape and train them for show by positioning their legs. Lots of times when I wash them my friends are here so they (the animals) are getting socialized, too," Morgan says with the hog prod in her hand.
Morgan has been a councilor at Camp Conger for two years after six as a camper. "My family was a big influence in my club work because so many members were club leaders. 4-H gave me life skills and brought time management."
Big sister Kaitlyn took two market lambs her first non-Clover Bud year. She has done showmanship since she was nine. "Grandpa showed lambs, so I wanted to keep his tradition alive, even though I'm allergic to them." Since then she has changed from her first work with sheep. She is finishing up her last year in 4-H with five projects — market hogs, "Back to the Farm" dairy calves, beef feeder calf, vet science and money management. Plus she is running for Junior Fair Queen.
Although she was a first year pre-veterinary student at Wooster College she drove home to be at all meetings. This summer she has a job as well as those five projects. She has enjoyed working with the hogs which were about two months old when they were boughten. She has been getting lots of hands-on experience through OSU, learning how to process piglets, for example. That includes how to clip the needle teeth they are born with. "It doesn't hurt them if you do it young and helps prevent their injuring each other." She learned how to snare hogs properly, how to examine them, and to give shots.
She wants to work as a large animal veterinary. It's an eleven year program but she plans to return to Huron County. "There is a need for 4-H kids to have a clinic for them."
If chosen as Junior Fair Queen, Kaitlyn intends "to start a new program, to visit schools to encourage youngsters to join 4-H, to take new projects such as alpacas and lamas, to inform them what they do (in 4-H), to have a workshop to provide them a chance to see what projects are available. Kids don't take 4-H because they think it's all just animals."
She likens her hard work on all projects to "any championship game — you get one shot each fair year." Joining a 4-H club combines great possibilities with great expectations.