Beef & Dairy News
By SEAN CLOUGHERTY
LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — The leaders of the Mt. Airy 4-H Dairy Club in Hunterdon County already know they have the oldest continuous 4-H dairy club in New Jersey.
As planning mounts for a 90th anniversary celebration of the club this November, the leaders were curious if they have the oldest such club in the nation.
Months ahead of the Nov. 30 anniversary date, and the date of the celebration this year, club leader Betty Jane Hunt sent out inquiries to various news outlets, asking for any help in finding out if there is an older club out there.
“It's the only way we're going to do this,” Hunt said, adding that National 4-H Headquarters doesn’t have records of when clubs were started and she’d have to send inquiries out to individual states.
She said she’s since learned that the Kent Clover Calf Club in Kent County, Md., was started one year earlier.
The Kent County Club started as a dairy club, but is now a general 4-H club where members carry a variety of 4-H projects.
The Mt. Airy 4-H Club started in 1923 with about eight members gathered around an old well in West Amwell Townshop.
Hunt said membership has fluctuated over the years with as many as 40 members to as few as five. There are currently 35 club members.
Club members from over the decades have gone on to be dairy princesses, presidents of the Hunterdon County Board of Agriculture and the Hunterdon County Fair, and take in other successful endeavors, many actively promoting the dairy industry.
One of them is Breanna Fulper who joined the club when she was 9 years old. At that time there were only four other members but she said it was still a great club.
“I loved the camaraderie and just being with kids who liked what I like,” Fulper said. “I really have a passion for promoting the dairy industry and agriculture in general. 4-H gives you an opportunity to put yourself out there and tell people who have no idea what agriculture is about.”
Now as a leader in the club, Fulper sees the same impacts from 4-H on current club members as it had on her.
“I can see these kids becoming leaders,” she said. “We’re just continually teaching the kids leadership roles. I think they’re realizing it’s important.”
Hunt herself started with the club as a member in 1952 and continued through the 1960s.
She married another former club member, Larry Hunt, who later became a club leader.
“When he passed away, I took over,” Betty Jane said.
Larry’s father was one of the club’s first members and the Hunts’ four children were all club members and now Betty Jane said her grandson John is showing cattle in the club, making four generations of the family involvement.
While dairies in Hunterdon County have dwindled over the years from several dozen to now six, the club remains strong, the leaders said, with the remaining dairy farms leasing animals to club members who do not have the means to keep the animal on their own.
Hunt added that over the years, the club has gotten a lot of support from the county’s Extension agents and dedicated leaders.
“There’s been a lot of pride in the club through the years,” Hunt said.
When Fulper joined the club, Larry Hunt was the club leader and Betty Jane took over when Fulper was in high school.
“If Betty Jane hadn’t continued on there would be no 4-H club,” Fulper said. “Without the local dairies, there would be no club.”
Hunt said details for the anniversary party are just starting to come together.
It will take the form of a typical birthday party, she said, with a meal, desserts and plenty of memories shared from members, both old and new.