JAY - As a child growing up on Rockwell Kent's farm in AuSable Forks, Tami Bushey learned a lot of her values and had a lot of memorable experiences through the local 4-H club. Now she's hoping her kids can one day say the same thing.
4-H is a national youth development organization that focuses on community projects, science and agriculture. It features local clubs throughout the U.S. The club that Bushey belonged to as a child and now leads is called AuSable Echo.
Bushey said the club was started by her grandmother, Gladys Emerson, who lived on and managed the Rockwell Kent property known as Asgaard Farm with her husband, Ulysses "Tink" Emerson. Kent was a famous artist, writer and painter who owned the farm until he died in 1971.
Tami Bushey (photo by Mike Lynch)
Gladys eventually passed on leadership of the club to her daughter, Linda Dubay, who is Bushey's mother. Eventually, the 4-H leadership torch was passed to Bushey. Her 10-year-old twin boys, Conor and Seth, are now members of the club.
"I feel 4-H teaches ... that you look beyond yourself," Bushey said. "You look into your community. And how can you improve it? How can you make it better? How can you give something back? It teaches kids that it's not all about sitting in front of a TV. It's not about playing a video game for hours and hours on end. You can actually go out and do something and create something that I said, 'Hey, I put my personality into this, and I created this and be very proud of what they've done.'"
Bushey is a stay-at-home mom who works as a critical care registered nurse at CVPH Medical Center and a nurse in the operating unit at Eye Care for the Adirondacks, both located in Plattsburgh, on a per diem basis, which means when she has available time.
Bushey said the local 4-H club has changed since she was a child. Many of the projects back then were centered around farm activities and involved livestock, although she did have the opportunity to do some overnight trips to Boston, Washington, D.C. and other places.
Now, she said, the local club in Jay has a membership meeting once a month at the firehouse in AuSable Forks. At the meeting, they organize upcoming projects. There are 11 children in the club, which also requires at least one parent to be actively involved. The children are allowed to pick and choose which activities they want to participate in. Topics vary, but they need to be farm-related, science-related or community-based. Sometimes they work on crafts, such as sewing, or visit farms where they learn about horses. Other times, they focus on rockets or using a GPS. Children don't have to be a part of every project, only the ones they are interested in.
Projects are funded through the 4-H program, with much of the money coming through fundraising efforts, such as raffles. Bushey said that children only have to pay $10 a year to join the AuSable club.
Last year during the children's week-long break in February, the 4-H clubs of Essex and Clinton counties joined together to organize a week-long archery camp.
"It gave them an avenue for something to do rather than sitting home on the couch in front of the TV, playing video games or whatever it may be," she said. "We split the days in half, where half of the day you did archery skills and the other half of the day you were involved in environmental sciences. So they built terrariums. They learned about watersheds. They learned about the effects of climate on our environment. All those different things, they got to experience."
The goal is to bring families together in a constructive manner.
"You're here with your kids to have them be involved in something that is going to be healthy for them," she said.