7/19/2014 7:00 AM
By Sue Bowman Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
What a difference 80 years makes. Back in 1934, the U.S. was feeling the pinch of the Great Depression and the average person was having a hard time making ends meet. Things like food preparation pointers, proper sanitation and more productive animal husbandry techniques took on a new sense of urgency. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Bucks County was a predominantly rural area dotted with farms — and one of the latest things at that time was the formation of a 4-H club in the tiny village of Danboro, Pa. The club met at members’ farms to learn the latest advancements in farming and rural living.
While not much is known about those earliest days of 4-H being brought to Bucks County by the Cooperative Extension Service, one thing is certain — the Danboro 4-H Club has gone on to survive and thrive, enabling it to become the oldest 4-H club in the county. Ruth Peters, a member of the Plumsteadville Grange, was a leader of the Danboro 4-H Club during the 1960s, when they had 40 to 50 members and met at the Danboro Community Center. Peters recalled that the co-ed club included a few more boys than girls at that time and, since almost all of them came from dairy farms, dairy projects were the order of the day for all members. The boys in the club also favored corn projects, as well as projects about tractor repair and tractor safety. Gardening, sewing, cooking and canning projects were the most popular ones with the female club members. Oftentimes the sewing and cooking clubs met in the girls’ homes to use their sewing and kitchen facilities.
Peters remembers being in charge of a display for the Danboro 4-H Club to take to the nearby Middletown Grange Fair. The club made a large four-leaf clover, the 4-H logo, out of chicken wire and stuffed the holes with green tissue paper. The Danboro 4-H’ers took home first prize for their efforts.
Fast forward to 2014 and many things have changed — not the least of which is the landscape around Danboro. Once a tiny dot on the map, Danboro is now part of the busy suburban area encompassing nearby Doylestown, Pa. The dairy farms prevalent in the middle part of the 20th century have largely been replaced with housing developments and shopping plazas, and with these changes have come predictable adjustments in the 4-H club.
According to Linda Ochoco, a club leader since 1999, these days the 20-member Danboro 4-H Club meets at the Plumsteadville Grange building. The days of males dominating the club roster are gone, as the present membership includes 18 girls and 2 boys.
“We try to keep getting more boys,” Ochoco said.
Another major shift is that dairy projects have gone the way of the former dairy farms that now sprout houses and malls. The Danboro 4-H is now a “community club,” which has grown to encompass a wide variety of interests.
While 4-H’ers can still be part of dairy, goat, sheep, rabbits and horse clubs, over half of the Danboro 4-H club’s current members now take sewing and textile projects, in which they learn skills such as knitting and participate in the practical “stitch-by-stitch” basic sewing skills course. Other club projects focus on interests ranging from hiking and biking to rocketry, embryology and veterinary science.
This diverse club speaks to what leader Linda Ochoco calls the secret to its 80 years of staying power.
“4-H changes with the members’ interests, but keeps with the traditions,” said Ochoco, who is a third-generation 4-H’er and whose college-age daughter, Gabrielle, has herself recently graduated from Danboro 4-H Club member to Danboro 4-H club leader.
Danboro 4-H Club will celebrate its heritage in a display about its 80-year history that will be exhibited at the 2014 Middletown Grange Fair to be held Aug. 14-18. As further evidence of the club’s influence beyond its immediate sphere, the current Middletown Grange Fair queen is Danboro member Madison Ochoco. Likewise Bucks County’s dairy princess is Sandra Krone, also a Danboro 4-H’er.
Ruth Peters and Linda Ochoco recently got to discuss their respective Danboro 4-H Club experiences when they met at a dinner sponsored by the Plumsteadville Grange. Though many things have changed over the years, these two 4-H leaders representing the past and the present agree that 4-H has remained relevant to the times, which should help assure another 80 or more years for this historic 4-H club.