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There's a new 4-H club in town

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Last October, the Northern Stars 4-H club was founded in the southern part of Cass County bordering Crow Wing County. Since then, membership has already grown.

The founding members once belonged to the Cass County Hooves, Paws and Claws (HP&C) 4-H club from the Pine River area, but dwindling numbers of clubs, increased club sizes and the large distances covered by HP&C prompted members Terri Foster and Amy Schultz-Stahnke to consider separating from the group.

“Because Cass County is so large, we have struggled to keep really active 4-H clubs, I think because of the distance,” Foster said. “We were part of the Hooves, Paws and Claws, which is a great, really, really active club, and they have some really active and dedicated families. But serving this area right here (near Pequot Lakes) for people who are in Cass County and want to be part of the Cass County program will allow them to not travel so far.”

In addition, Foster and Schultz-Stahnke were both inspired by their own mothers, founders of the club “Friendly Farmers” and lifelong 4-H contributors. Because of her mother’s dedication to the group, Foster had always dreamed of leading a 4-H club, and now she has the chance.

In the beginning, the group consisted of only about three families. In only a few months that number has increased threefold. Of the nine families now in the Northern Stars 4-H club, there are approximately 15 members, some of whom had never before been members of a 4-H club. Some were attracted because of the club’s size, neither too big, nor too small. Katherine Hulke’s family was once part of the Sparkling Waters 4-H club, also out of Pine River.

“We needed a change to get more involved with the 4-H group. That club was kind of dwindling, but we needed to find a different group and this seemed like a good fit for us,” Hulke said. “This one was newly started and I knew these ladies had broken off from Hooves, Paws and Claws and I know that that group is quite big, so we didn’t necessarily want to be part of such a big group. I kind of like the smaller groups.”

“I think the more clubs you have the more opportunity you have to serve the community and county, and the more opportunities for the youth when you have smaller sized clubs. We have a lot of officers,” Foster said. “Now, more of our youth will be able to have those positions and will also be able to serve the community and county with those projects.”

Today, the club has a wide variety of members ranging from Foster’s son, Nicholas, who is 4, all the way to their oldest member, 10th-grader Karl Satterlund. Satterlund, a student at Pequot Lakes, had a difficult time attending Hooves, Paws and Claws 4-H club meetings because of distance and participation in other extracurricular activities.

“I was an independent, which means I don’t usually have time to go to meetings at times, but I did spend a lot of time with their 4-H group,” Satterlund said. “These times are a little easier for us. It isn’t on a Monday night, it is on a Sunday afternoon when I usually don’t have anything to do. I feel like I can participate a little more. I can be a little more of a model for the younger kids.”

“We have a lot of pre-kindergarten cloverbuds right now. My son, Nicholas, who is 4, would be too young to be an official cloverbud, but in our club we’re trying to do some crafts in each meeting to keep those younger kids involved and they can show those things as an open class project at the fair,” Foster said. “It is a complete family thing.”

The group has already taken part in fundraising fruit sales and the Nisswa Winter Jubilee snow sculpture contest, where it won first place in the youth division. During their March meeting, members began rehearsing for the club’s 2013 Share the Fun skit. Share the Fun is an opportunity for Minnesota 4-H clubs to perform a dance, play, musical or other act in a contest within their own counties. Those who are chosen within each county have the opportunity to perform their act at the Minnesota State Fair.

The Northern Stars’ performance this year will be “Follow the Clover Leaf Road,” a play designed to demonstrate the many varied skills that can be explored by members of a 4-H club.

The play is themed after “The Wizard of Oz,” but rather than missing courage, brains or heart, characters within the play need help with baking, photography and even mechanical work.

“What we wanted to do was to show that there’s lots of things you can learn and it’s not all about cows and agriculture. So this skit talks about if you have a problem, anything from learning to take photography or really good pictures to sewing to having healthy plants in your house, to milking a cow, that 4-H has a lot of information and projects,” Foster said.

Anyone interested in learning more about 4-H can visit their state or county 4-H website.