volunteer

Dr. Larry Pennington: 23 Years of Volunteering to the UConn 4-H Program

Volunteers are the backbone of the UConn 4-H program and are who keep the program vibrant. “Volunteer helps grow true leaders” Dr. Larry Penington of the First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club of Hartford County 4-H has volunteered 23 years of service to this program. An interview was conducted with him and below are his responses… 

Emily Syme: How did you learn about this Extension volunteer program? 

Larry PenningtonDr. Larry Pennington: I have been familiar with the extension program and 4-H dating back to my youth in the early 60’s. I grew up as a 4-Her and at age 8, I even had a grand champion pig at my first county fair in Ohio. I was never lucky enough to pull that off again, but I was so appreciative of the wonderful learning experiences like that as a youngster. I have 4-H to thank for help shaping me ever since and to evolve into the person that I am today. Fast forward to 1998, I was introduced to UConn 4-H and the UConn Extension system for the first time. I had been a small animal practicing veterinarian in Windsor, and was challenged by a friend to start up a veterinary science 4-H club and introduce young people to what my profession had to offer. This was an opportunity to give back to the community after I received so much while growing up. Hence, “The First Town Veterinary Science 4-H Club“ got its start that year. We have flourished every year since; something that’s been one of the most fulfilling things I have accomplished in my life.

ES: What do you do in your role as an Extension volunteer?

LP: As a volunteer, I am all of the following: a leader, a teacher, a coordinator, and best of all, a very proud advisor to many young people. As a volunteer I have put in countless hours with my organization to help it grow and become the educational tool that it is.

ES: Why do you volunteer your time to this Extension program? 

LP: I am often asked that question on why I do it. My emphatic response is always that I do it “for the kids!” Being a parent myself, they really do matter, and being able to guide them and to show them the way, is so gratifying and heartwarming. Just to know that I played a small role in their lives as they grew up, is so comforting and gives me great pride.

ES: How does volunteering with the Extension program benefit you? 

LP: Volunteering through 4-H has allowed me to maintain a connection with young people and to stay relevant. It keeps me young and allows me to be a kid amongst kids, like Peter Pan who never wanted to grow up. At my age, 4-H has been my fountain of youth, where I can make a difference with young people. I hope that their parents see me as a good role model, and in setting a good example of what a warm and caring veterinarian should be.

ES: How do you feel like your volunteer work is making an impact? 

LP: I have always tried to make a positive impact on kid’s lives. I show them through their love for their pets in how to be caring and compassionate to all. We have performed many community service projects over the years and have been impactful to senior citizens in nursing homes through our pets, provided low cost Rabies Vaccination Clinics locally, and partnered with Fidelco  Guide Dogs. What better way to give back to the community!

ES: What is your favorite memory with this Extension program?

LP: My favorite memory in 4-H was our club’s involvement in the Dog Walk in Windsor at an area park. Over a seven year stretch starting 20 years ago and with the help of the surrounding community, our club orchestrated an annual event that brought together many dog lovers. The kids “lived it, ran it and owned it”, and got to see two rescue dogs go into service work with our most famous being, Chance. He was a highly trained Golden Retriever that assisted a local lady that was wheelchair bound. Our club got a lot of wonderful media coverage with the success of our Dog Walk and Chance. More importantly, it’s what the kids took away from that experience.

ES: Do you have any advice for new and current Extension volunteers?

LP: My advice to anyone wishing to volunteer is to follow your heart. Take a leap of faith and get involved with our youth through 4-H. After all, they are our future!

It’s been said that the more we give, the happier we feel. Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can give you a sense of pride and identity, as it has with me.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Interview edited for space and clarity.

Article by Emily Syme

Volunteer Spotlight: Nate McMullin of Hartford County 4-H Camp

Nate McMullinHartford County 4-H Camp, located on 100 acres in Marlborough, Connecticut has been offering camp experience for over 56 years to youth ranging from age 7 to 15. 4-H camp offers various options and sessions throughout the summer months and hosts small team building events in the off season for teenagers. Bring-your-own horse camp is offered where kids can bring their horse for a week. 4-H camp also offers teen counselor positions which is a great opportunity for youth to learn leadership and responsibility. Nate McMullin serves as a board member for Hartford County 4-H Camp. He volunteers his time by serving on various committees and overseeing the hiring of staff, facility maintenance and programming.

Nate’s love for camp started when he spent many summers as a camper, counselor and then staff member since 1986. He joined the Camp Board in 2011. His love for camp is the reason he volunteers his time to the program. Nate brings a unique perspective to the board since he attended camp in his youth, served in a leadership role as a staff member, and is a parent of camp age kids.  He enjoys being able to see his work be put into motion and what is happening with camp behind the scenes. Nate feels that serving as a volunteer on the board allows him to make an impact and keep camp strong, especially through COVID. He reflects, “I am proud of the work the board has done to have camp reopen for 2021.”

Board members volunteer their time to make camp a better place and serve on various committees. Nate served on the communications and security committee and helped bring Wi-Fi to camp; it previously had no broadband internet and relied on a very expensive mobile hotspot. He used his skills in business technology to create a stable communications network that allowed for camp to have additional security cameras and cover the main buildings of camp with stable internet connection. He is currently working on extending the internet service to cover more acres of camp and all buildings.

COVID offered a challenge to 4-H camp which in a normal year hosts 163 campers every session for 8 weeks throughout the summer. Nate set up an online course system where parents could still register kids for camp for summer 2020. Kids attended online Zoom sessions (similar to what students use in the classroom) along with other digital content that was coordinated by camp staff. Although it didn’t replace the in-person fun campers have every summer, it was still a success. Nate would like to explore more options like this in the future for off-season to keep kids connected with the camp experience all year long. 

Nate is able to contribute his expertise and time to help camp grow and give back. One of his favorite memories of being a volunteer is visiting the camp staff and dining at camp. His experiences have come full circle since he remembers being a camper when the board visited. This time at camp gives him a first hand view of camp at the moment.  When asked if he has any advice for new Extension volunteers, he says to contribute your time if possible there are so many opportunities to do so and every little bit helps!

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Kenton

people standing at a table talking
Steve Kenton, center, in the blue jacket, discusses CLIR at a UConn event in 2015.

UConn Extension’s Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Volunteers work to put together interesting speakers for various sessions through the year. One of these volunteers is CLIR President, Dr. Steve Kenton. With the help of the CLIR Council, a volunteer board, Dr. Kenton directs and oversees the CLIR program.

Dr. Kenton is a 1964 UConn alumnus in the Department of Mathematics and has led a busy life. He went on to graduate school and then became a Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Eastern Connecticut State University where he also served as the Head of the Mathematics Department until he retired in 2008. He spent two years as a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Nigeria and had various sabbaticals in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and Thailand. Dr. Kenton enjoys learning new things throughout his life. He always stayed connected with UConn, serving as a self-defense instructor for the Women’s Center, becoming involved in the CLIR program, and most recently, working with the Alumni Center arranging a 50th reunion for the Allen House Alumni. 

Steve first learned about CLIR through colleagues who were members of this Extension program. He started participating in CLIR workshops right after he retired in 2008.  He has now served as the President of the program for the past eight years! Some of his duties include recruiting speakers for the workshops. This might sound like a daunting task but Steve has great volunteers on the CLIR Council who help him with most of the work. Every season there is an impressive line-up of highly educated speakers who cover a wide variety of interesting topics. Each year CLIR offers 3 sessions (Winter, Spring, and Fall) that consist of around 25 single and a few multi-week classes. He can also always rely on the UConn Extension staff to help make a successful program. The most popular classes of CLIR participants are topics on history and political science. Steve volunteers his time because he likes supporting  a community of like minded lifelong learners like himself. He remarks, “As one ages, it is increasingly important to interact socially, and to be of service.”

Steve is making an impact by ensuring the CLIR Council runs smoothly and positions themselves within the overall mission of UConn Extension. With his help CLIR is financially stable. His favorite impression is when the speakers happily realize the CLIR audience are not just passive listeners–rather, they eagerly interact with the presenter.  Steve can’t pinpoint a favorite speaker he has listened to through CLIR since they are all excellent but one of his most memorable classes was when Rebecca Lobo, a beloved UConn Basketball alumna, spoke to the largest audience in attendance of over 75 people (pre-pandemic). When asked if he has any advice for Extension volunteers, Steve said “Take pride in being of service to your community of interest.” It’s important to go into volunteering having a goal so you can enhance your group’s role. He also mentions that, “With the critical continuing support of the UConn Extension staff and volunteers from among our membership, CLIR has a bright future as part of the Extension family.”

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Learn more about our volunteer programs at s.uconn.edu/volunteers.

Article by Emily Syme

Carol LeBlanc: 50-Years of Service to the UConn 4-H Program

4-H cloverA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Since 1970, Carol LeBlanc has been a UConn 4-H Volunteer with the Snoopy’s Pal 4-H Dog Club, located in Suffield.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Carol for her 50 years of service on Saturday, November 7th, with a socially distanced presentation in front of the 4-H Club followed by a county-wide virtual recognition ceremony on Sunday, November 8th.

She is deeply committed to implementing the motto of 4-H which is to “Make the Best Better”.  Carol continues to adapt her club programming to accommodate all youth, to provide new opportunities for youth to learn and develop their dog skills and self-confidence, as well as to ensure that youth are maximizing and enjoying their 4-H experiences.

“Carol is dedicated to the providing opportunities for 4-H youth to expand their knowledge of dog training and management” says Jennifer Cushman, UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “Carol’s leadership extends beyond the county level to various New England 4-H Programs. She has also served as an adult Advisor to the county 4-H Fair Officers who plan and implement the annual 4-H Fair and as a member of the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Committee.”

“Carol, on behalf of the numerous 4-H youth who have been able to learn from you, their parents and your fellow volunteers, congratulations on your 50 years of service, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Jack and Mavis Collins: 90-Years of Combined Service to the UConn 4-H Program

Jack and Mavis CollinsA volunteer is defined as someone that donates their time to participate in a cause or program. UConn 4-H is the Extension youth development program and has thousands of volunteers across Connecticut that help us provide programming to over 18,000 youth, annually. Jack and Mavis Collins of Enfield have been volunteering with the UConn 4-H program for a combined 90-years.

The Hartford County 4-H program recognized Jack for his 55 years of service and Mavis for 35 years of service on Sunday, November 8th with a socially distanced presentation at the Collins’ Powder Hill Dairy Farm followed by a county-wide virtual ceremony.

Jack was a member of the Merry Moo-ers 4-H club as a youth and started volunteering while he was an animal science student in the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Mavis grew up on a dairy farm in England and came to the United States with the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) Program. Both volunteered while their four children were 4-H members and have continued serving the program.

The true impact of the 90-years of volunteerism that Jack and Mavis have given to 4-H is in the youth that have benefitted from their dedicated service. All are welcomed into the Collins family and 4-H is part of their lives. They have served as teachers, role models, and mentors. Jack and Mavis share their love of animals and help youth grow into the best versions of themselves.

“The volunteer resumes of Jack and Mavis Collins go far beyond their service as club leaders to the Merry Moo-ers 4-H Club and the Powder Hill 4-H Equestrian Club,” says Jennifer Cushman, the UConn Extension 4-H Educator in Hartford County. “They have volunteered with the Fair Association, at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm, 4-H Camp, and the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE). Their contributions to the dairy cattle program area have made the best better for thousands of 4-H youth dairy project members.”

“You’ve been an inspiration to both 4-Hers and leaders alike, and an inspiration to generations of 4-Hers,” says Jennifer Syme, a 4-H alumna, parent, and volunteer. “We’re so grateful for you and your service.”

“Jack and Mavis, on behalf of the past and present Hartford County 4-H member, their parents, your fellow volunteers across the county, the state, and across New England, congratulations on reaching this milestone in your 4-H volunteer careers, and thank you,” Cushman says.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Stephen Gustafson Names Northeast 4-H Volunteer of the Year

Steve Gustafson playing soccerCongratulations to Stephen Gustafson, Tolland County 4-H Volunteer, who has been selected by National 4-H Council to receive the Northeast Volunteer of the Year award for 2020. Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club. The Paca Pals are an alpaca club. The club meets at the Round Hill alpaca farm monthly. At the meetings the youth conduct a business meeting, learn about alpaca care and showmanship, and plan their yearly calendar. Their calendar is youth driven and is for activities, competitions and community outreach. Steve empowers the club members to take on meaningful leadership roles in the club and their community. He works equally well with youth members and adult stakeholders. Steve looks for opportunities beyond the farm where the youth can learn and grow.

Off the alpaca farm, Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agriculture Center (TAC) 4-H Children’s Garden. The garden was established in 2002 and has been maintained by the 4-H club program for many years. A neighbor on the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) Greenhouse and vocational program. The CLCC greenhouse sits right next to the 4-H Children’s garden. The work of CLCC, to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together, is a wonderful match with the work of 4-H. The garden and greenhouse being neighbors has enabled the CLCC farmers to work outside in the garden in the summer with the 4-H program. Steve has been instrumental in fostering this partnership. He is able to coordinate between the two groups because of his volunteer work with both. The 4-H youth and CLCC farmers are both learning valuable vocation and life skills. The UConn 4-H Program is honored to announce this well-deserved recognition for Steve.

Litchfield County 4-H Helps Distribute Milk to Families in Need

4-H cloverBackground Facts:

  • Because 30% of the fluid milk gets sold to restaurants, schools and institutions that are now closed, there is a huge surplus of fluid milk on the market now that cannot be further processed into more shelf stable products like dried milk and butter fast enough.
  • The price of milk for the farmers have dropped from $19.00 per hundred pounds to $13.00 per hundred pounds because of this.
  • Hundreds of dairy farms across the country are now forced to dump their milk because the dairy plants have such a surplus they have no room at the plants to store and process the milk because of the drop off in demand due to the closures.
  • Some farms have no choice but to dump the milk that is in their bulk tanks that cannot be picked up by the processing plants in time, because they have to make room for the next milking of their cows.
  • Meanwhile, food pantries are in desperate need of more food to help provide nourishment for the increasing number of food insecure people, due to the pandemic and more people losing their jobs.

DFA, who owns Guida milk, has graciously agreed to donate three pallets of half gallons of whole milk to the Community Kitchen of Torrington, Inc. and the Litchfield County 4-H members and volunteers are distributing the milk to over 20 food pantries throughout Litchfield County on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Litchfield Locker has generously agreed to donate their truck and time to deliver the donated milk from Guida’s processing plant in New Britain to the parking lot of the Litchfield Community Center where it will be offloaded into waiting vehicles owned by 4-H member families. Those vehicles will each then drive directly to their designated food pantry and safely deliver the milk to be handed out to those families in need. At the end of this effort, they will have moved 1,440 half gallons of fresh milk from the surplus inventory into the kitchens of families in need.

Litchfield County 4-H, the youth development component of UConn Extension, had already chosen their 2020 theme for the year, which is Operation Community Impact, with an emphasis on food insecurity in January. By arranging and carrying out this activity, 4-H members are able to see firsthand how important the community service efforts of 4-H is in order to can make a difference in the lives of others. They hope to secure more donations of milk and other dairy products so we can continue this effort over the next few weeks as long as it is needed. Bill Davenport, Litchfield County 4-H UConn Extension Educator, who grew up on a dairy farm in Litchfield and owns dairy cows in his brother’s herd in Ancram, New York, came up with the idea after learning about the milk surplus and some farms having to dump their milk because of the pandemic. He organized this effort from securing the donation to assembling the volunteer drivers to the food pantries, but also credits the following individuals without whose help this effort would not be possible: Guida Milk and DFA for their generous donation of the milk; Litchfield Locker and Processing for donating the use of their truck and driver to transport the milk; Lisa Hagemen of the Community Kitchen of Torrington, Inc., and Kathy Minck of Food Rescue, for helping connect with the local food pantries and assembling the list of the milk orders; the Litchfield Community Center for allowing us to use their parking lot for distribution, and the Litchfield County UConn 4-H members, parents and volunteers who continually rise to the challenge of community service and helping others in need.

“Because of my extensive background and continued involvement with the dairy industry, I know firsthand how hard all farmers work to produce food for the rest of us,” says Bill Davenport. “When I heard about dumping milk because of the supply issue due to the school and restaurant closures, I decided we need to try to get some of this milk in the hands of families who are food insecure. It makes no sense that we are dumping milk while there are people who desperately need food. So I decided to involve our amazing 4-H youth and parents to help connect the dots since the distribution of the milk is where the system is falling apart and need help. I hope that our actions will increase awareness of the issue and encourage others to help do the same across Connecticut and the region so that we can help move more milk out of the surplus and into the refrigerators of people who desperately need it.”

“DFA Northeast farm families are pleased to donate milk processed at our Guida’s facility to provide nutritious dairy for family tables across Connecticut,” says Jennifer Huson of Dairy Farmers of America.

 

About Dairy Farmers of America

Dairy Farmers of America is a national, farmer-owned dairy cooperative focusing on quality, innovation and the future of family dairies. While supporting and serving more than 13,000 family farmers, DFA works with some of the world’s largest food companies to develop ingredients that satisfy their customers’ cravings while staying committed to social responsibility and ethical farming. For more information, please visit dfamilk.com.

About Guida’s Dairy

Since 1886, Guida’s Dairy has been providing high-quality dairy products to consumers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Northern New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and eastern New York. In 2012, the company became a part of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national, farmer-owned cooperative, based in Kansas City, Kan. Guida’s Dairy offers an extensive line of products, including fluid milk, cream, ice cream mixes, fruit drinks, orange juice and a variety of other dairy products. For more information about Guida’s Dairy and our products, visit guidas.com.

About UConn 4H

4-H is a national program with six million youth participating in various project areas who learn life skills, supervised by over 500,000 volunteer leaders. Litchfield County has 26 active 4-H clubs with over 400 active members in those clubs. Project areas include but are not limited to beef cattle, canine, crafts, dairy cattle, dairy goats, equine, community nutrition, food safety, food preparation skills, horticulture, mechanics, oxen, poultry, robotics, sewing, sheep, small animals, STEM, and swine.

The 4-H program is organized into four program areas including Agriculture, Civic Engagement, Healthy Living and STEM. These themes all overlap throughout the 4-H experience, with emphasis placed on creating well-rounded individuals. 4-H is the youth development program offered through the UConn Extension system. The purpose of UConn as Connecticut’s land grant university is to provide the citizens of Connecticut with educational opportunities through teaching, research and extension programming. For more information about 4-H and how to join, please contact Bill Davenport, Litchfield County Extension 4-H Educator, at william.davenport@uconn.edu or at 860-626-6854.

Volunteer with Us

volunteers collect CT Trail Census data in 2017 on a multi-use trail
Volunteers collect data in 2017. Photo: Aaron Burris

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many use this as a day of service. Extension values the service our volunteers contribute. In 2019, they volunteered 207,887 hours across all programs, valued at $5.3 million to our communities.

Volunteers contribute knowledge and experience to Extension, and expand our capacity to deliver programs in every municipality and town of Connecticut. UConn Extension volunteers are from a range of sectors including robotics, information technology, project management, and agriculture. 

Marlene Mayes, a volunteer with the Master Gardener program since 2004,

working in garden
Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey and a Master Gardener volunteer work in Burgdorf. Photo: Chris Defrancesco.

coordinates the Foodshare Garden at the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. Each summer, the garden has over 600 community volunteers, who grow 4,000 pounds of vegetables donated to Foodshare. “Everything is research-based, the greenhouse and garden are about teaching and getting people to grow in their own backyard,” Mayes states. 

We have volunteer opportunities for UConn students, and citizens throughout the state in several of our programs. Join us as a UConn Extension volunteer.

Katie Adkins – 4-H Volunteer Spotlight

Katie Adkins in front of Plymouth Meats signTalking to Katie Adkins you get a sense that anything in life is possible. That with a little hard work and enthusiasm you can accomplish anything. And that’s exactly what she has done. Katie is the owner of Plymouth Meats in Terryville, CT, a full service USDA inspected facility from harvesting to packaging all done under one roof. Her bright smile and infectious laugh make it seem like being a wife, mother, 4-H club leader and business owner is all part of a day’s work. The hard work ethic and drive to succeed came at a young age as Katie had to rise at 4:30/5:00 am to take care of the animals on her family’s farm. Her father jokes that when Katie was little they had 4-6 beef cows. But as Katie grew the herd grew as well to over 80 cows.

Katie grew up on Blue Moon Farm in Harwinton where her family raises Hereford beef cattle along with pigs, lambs, poultry, rabbits and goats. They process and sell meat from their own cattle. Plymouth Meats is the retail store for their farm products. They also do live animal sales. Both Katie and her parents are members of the New England Hereford Association. Her father is the President. As Hereford breeders, they also focus on genetics and perform embryo transfers as well. Katie joined the 4-H program at the age of 12 and was a member of the Litchfield County 4-H Beef Club, where she served in several officer positions, did public speaking and showed her cattle at the local fairs and the Big E. She is now in her fifth year as the leader of the same club. In taking over leadership of the club, she explains that they started out with only a few youth but have grown to 12 youth currently. She lost a lot of the older youth who aged out of the club. Their parents had beef cows and grew up on family farms. The current crop of youth are younger and only three of them have project animals. The rest are there because they also love the animals and want to come to the fair and help with the projects.

Katie has them come to her farm occasionally for meetings to get hands-on experience. Some of the kids who have multiple animals will share them come fair time so everyone in the club gets to have show experience.

Katie attended Wamogo High School and then went to Delaware Valley University in Pennsylvania where she majored in large Katie Adkins as a UConn 4-H member showing a Hereford at the Big Eanimal science and Ag Business. She finished college in 3 ½ years and landed a good job cutting meat at a small store. She decided to forego additional schooling for a career harvesting and processing meat with the goal of starting her own business. In 2011 she started the permitting process for her business which had to be approved by the town. Finding a building was the next step along with the remodeling process which took an additional 2 ½ years. In October 2017 Plymouth Meats was officially up and running. Katie explains that she was only doing custom processing at the time. It was January of 2018 when the 7,000 square foot building was completed and in March of that same year she came under inspection so that the business could do harvesting and processing.

Plymouth meats also offers seasonal deer processing and buys in some other products for weekly specials which Katie promotes strictly through social media. She also goes to the Collinsville Farmer’s Market.

Katie states that the leadership and people skills learned through 4-H provided a good foundation to help her with her business. The life-long friendships established through 4-H have also been wonderful in a lot of ways. Some of these friends are now customers and people she helps out with their 4-H clubs.

A lot of her 4-H members are realizing that 4-H provides great leadership experiences. Watching older club members help younger members is a really nice thing to see. Katie explains that 4-H teaches kids responsibility especially when it comes to the care of their animals. She states that 4-H kids seem to have a better work ethic and do well working as a team. These are all skills Katie learned as a child and uses every day running her business.

Article by Nancy Wilhelm

We Want You to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

Erinn Hines
Erinn Hines with two 4-H members.

Do you enjoy working with children? Want to share your time and talents with young people in the community? Like to have fun, learn new skills and make a difference? Then being a 4-H volunteer is for you!

4-H volunteers play a significant role in helping youth to reach their potential. As a volunteer, you will help youth in your group learn leadership, citizenship and life skills through projects and activities. If you have a hobby or interest you would like to share with young people such as photography, leadership, animals, plants, fishing, drama, community service, computers and technology, woodworking, fashion design, arts and crafts, rocketry and more, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.

Start volunteering today by going to https://bit.ly/2Oj4TkU