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Jolly Ranchers 4-H. | Submitted.

4-H still going strong in a high-tech world

Many kids today are consumed by iPads, fancy phones and being “plugged in”. But for 4-H members, it’s all about getting back to basics.

“Kids in 4-H specialize in interests such as photography, robotic science, animals, agriculture, and sewing,” said Kathy Naples of the Middlesex County 4-H group. “They are learning life skills while doing something they love.”

Naples is part of the Jolly Ranchers, a small 4-H club in Middlesex County, with members from Durham, Berlin, Branford and Guilford. Naples leads the group alongside her mother Ruth and her sister Melynda, who owns Deerfield Farm, in Durham, where the club meets and keeps their animals.

“4-H is a wonderful program for the bones of it. All our kids get to experience field trips, work hands on and have access to all 4-H has to offer,” Naples said.

The Jolly Ranchers have 12 members ranging in age from 7 to19 years old and this 4-H group focus is on animals, primarily dairy cattle, as well as leadership, community service and citizenship. Only 25 percent of the kids own their own animals, the remaining kids lease an animal from the farm, but interest in 4-H still remains steady.

“They join because they have a friend in 4-H or have been to the fairs and seen our groups or they just really like animals,” Naples said. “4-H gives them an up-close experience at what is involved in caring for an animal including feeding, cleaning, herd management, and vet care.”

While the group consists of a wide range of ages, Naples says they all work together and each gets a hands-on education, no matter what the age.

“The Jolly Ranchers meet the first Sunday of every month. To learn more about a 4-H or to find a group go to

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