It’s a family affair

Hugo family embraces 4-H

For Byron and Helen Anderson, 4-H and family go together.

Back row, from left: Helen Anderson, Vince Anderson, Byron Anderson, thomas Gadbois, Lisa Gadbois. Front row: Mucca the heifer, Rachael Anderson, Maria Anderson, Rebecca Anderson, and Andrew Gadbois.

From their farm in Hugo, where they raised five kids, they also help other families raise theirs—through 4-H.

Byron is the leader of the Town of May 4-H club, the oldest and largest club in Washington County.

“I’ve been leader in the Town of May 4-H club for 38 or 39 years,” Byron said.  “Plus 13 years as a 4-H member before that.”

Byron counts four generations in 4-H:  his mother, who was born in 1915, belonged in the 1920s, then Byron, then his five kids, then grandkids.  That’s almost as long as there has been a 4-H program, he said, since 4-H was started in 1902.

The club meets in the Scandia Community Center now, but for years used the old town hall in May Township.  “We had to get there early to start a fire,” he said.  Helen invited the club to their house for Christmas and other special events.

The Town of May 4-H club started in 1927, 85 years ago.  There are 94 kids.  “We’re considered a livestock club,” Byron said, “but a lot of the new members are not in livestock.”

Byron is retired from 3M, where he worked shifts in the abrasives division.  When he wasn’t at his job, he worked on the farm.  “There were times I was tired,” he said.  “Then I’d go to that meeting, and the kids would give me so much energy.”

“It’s a good program,” he concluded.

Now three of Byron and Helen’s kids live near them in Hugo.  Another son lives in Stillwater.

Their daughter, Lisa Gadbois, lives around the corner with her husband Joe, daughter Maggie, and sons Thomas and Andrew.  Mark and Joni Anderson, with sons Alex and Jake, live next door.  And on the other side are Craig and Kris Anderson, with daughters Rachael, Maria and Rebecca.  Steve and Carrie, with their sons Kelvin and Vince, live in Stillwater.

All the kids are 4-H kids.

“When you come to 4-H, you come as a family,” Lisa said.  “The parents stay; everybody helps out.  It’s an opportunity to do things you’re not doing in school and sports:  animals, sewing, wood shop, engine mechanics.  You learn hand skills.  You do it as a family,” she said.

In high school, the family said, the FFA program “feeds off 4-H.”  Byron and Helen’s granddaughter Rachael Anderson is FFA president at Forest Lake High School and also president of the regional FFA.  She hopes to study ag education in college.

Their grandson Vince Anderson is FFA president in Stillwater and treasurer of the county 4-H Federation.  His brother Kelvin is at North Dakota State University in Fargo, studying ag business.

The Andersons list leadership skills, responsibility, speaking abilities, and work ethic among the assets of being in 4-H.  “Being in 4-H and FFA has made me so much more outgoing,” Rachael said.

The Anderson farm is set up for livestock.  But they point out that you don’t have to live on a farm to take advantage of 4-H.  You can lease a cow and a heifer.  You can even lease a llama.  It costs $1, plus you need a ride to get to the animal.  It’s only $45 to join 4-H, and you can apply for a scholarship if you need one.

Rachael with heifer Mucca (it’s Italian for “cow”). Mucca, about 1½ years old, was shown last year by Maria as a weaned calf. She’s been to the state fair as a prospect calf and to Beef Expo, a beef show held at the state fair.

“You can be as involved as you want,” Rachael said.  “Not everybody has to take four steers to the fair.”

“But the more you do, the more you get out of it,” Helen added.  “And then move on to state,” Byron finished the thought.

Daughter Lisa said 4-H parents are willing to step up and work.  “These people have priorities beyond themselves,” she said.  “The lawn may not be mowed, the house may not be perfect,” but they find time to volunteer.

Helen has been on the history committee since 1972.  “Everybody passed away but me,” she said.  This year her granddaughter Maria is helping Helen with the history of the county fair.  (See the display at the Washington County Fair in Building A, south end.)

Lisa, Kris and Joni also volunteer.  Lisa leads the Ambassador program for grades 7 through 12.

Grandson Andrew Gadbois listed demonstrations he has given:  how to make a birdhouse, how to play golf, how to put an ad on Craig’s list, how to show a pig.  He started demonstrations while in Clover Buds.

His brother Thomas Gadbois has given demonstrations on how to make a terrarium and how to polish rocks.  He has done wood shop demonstrations and made a crystal set radio.  “All we got was the Spanish channel,” he said.  At the fair Thomas is showing two pigs in the market barrows class.

This year Grandson Vince Anderson will be showing beef cattle and hogs.  Vince won the Premier Showmanship contest at last year’s fair.

“If you won in your species, you show other people’s animals,” he explained.  Each contestant answers judge’s questions about each species.  The winner gets a green canvas 4-H chair.  This year’s Premier Showmanship contest will be held between the 4-H buildings on Sunday afternoon.

Vince said training calves to lead takes 8 to 10 months’ work, 6 to 10 hours per week, with more time in the summer.  Calves are broke to lead the summer before they are shown.  Training a calf to show is much easier if the mother is trained, the family members agreed.

Rebecca Anderson, age 9, is in her first year.  Fun parts of the county fair, Rebecca said, include showing pigs and working at Houle’s taking orders.

Rebecca has sewn a skirt and a quilt, and for food review last winter she made rolls with broccoli, chicken, cheese.  She was judged on nutrition and presentation.