"I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
When I was growing up in Furnace Village, agriculture was still very much a daily way of life. Clover Valley Farm was running daily on Poquanticut Avenue, Sam Wright had his dairy herd at the Five Corners, and Galloway Farm on Bay Road was as active as ever. There were other farms as well. I was lucky to have an old-time farmer as a backyard neighbor, Ted Harlow.
The Harlow property on South Street backed up to our property on Foundry Street. As kids we soon discovered that there, just over a low stone wall, there were chickens, sheep, pigs and an occasional goat to be found. A vegetable garden was an added bonus.Ted and his wife Ruth were both 4-H leaders. Their son David was active in 4-H for many years. As I spent some time at the Harlow farm, I began to take more of an interest in farming. My father and mother had a vegetable garden that I helped out with and even planted a few crops of my own (potatoes did well, carrots did not!). Soon we branched into a few small animals as well. I had a small chicken coop and about a dozen chickens (yes, I sold eggs to the neighbors) and soon we had a few rabbits. My brothers and I soon joined the 4-H club that Ted ran and learned about raising animals of all types. (Ruth also ran a 4-H club for girls that focused on cooking, sewing, and other home types of activities.) The 4-H program, which is run through extension services in each county, gave me a way to understand and appreciate farmers and all the work that needs to be done to run even a small farm. I learned through 4-H how I was part of a larger system of people who brought food to the nation. But I also learned what it meant to be patriotic. I learned the value of being a good neighbor by helping others without the expectation of reward or recognition, to appreciate hard work and to work hard at whatever I was going to do,and that I had a duty to be a good citizen. 4-H was much more than a club, it really was a great education.
Ted Harlow finally gave up the club in the early 1970's turning the reigns over to Avery Lee Williams, who was farming at his property on Beatty Lane. The teen years caught up with me (as well as a lack of transportation to get to Lee's home in South Easton for meetings) and I eventually gave up 4-H for other endeavors. I still have a fondness for 4-H though. Recently attending the Bolton (Ma.) fair with my wife, I was drawn to the 4-H exhibits and enjoyed speaking with today's youth who are active in their local 4-H clubs. I am glad to see that in the busyness of this sophisticated, high-tech world, there are still dedicated leaders who believe in the values instilled in me by the 4-H program and who work hard to pass those along to a new generation of farmers. 4-H was one of those things that made growing up in Easton special.