NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — In the heat of July, 2019, the Somerset County 4-H Alpaca Club met at Swallow Hill Farm to train with their alpacas. Pat and John Flanagan, the owners of the farm, lend out their land, alpacas, and barn to help the 4-H club learn about and train the farm’s alpacas.
As the club met that day, a growing desire to give back to the farmers that provided so much began to take root. The 4-H members noticed the age and wear of the barn and knew they could rejuvenate it.
Since 4-H members are encouraged to give back to their community, the club decided to revitalize the barn at no cost to the Flanagan’s. The owners gave enthusiastic approval and the club began planning their enormous undertaking.
After raising funds from their volunteer work at the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the club began working together to organize, plan, and execute on their project.
Beginning in September, the 4-H club members, along with club leaders and parent volunteers began the repairs. “I had a great time working with my fellow club members and it was amazing seeing the project come together so quickly. Every time I go to the farm, I’m so proud seeing the final product,” said Eliza Rothenburger, an Alpaca Club member.
Over the course of three weekends, the club was able to complete the project; a final painting was originally planned for April, 2020. “Repairing the barn was fun, educational, and taught me basic building skills while allowing me to work towards a good cause,” said Grace Esposito, another Alpaca Club member.
With a rejuvenated barn, happy farmers, cozy alpacas, and fulfilled 4-H Alpaca Club members, the club knew they had succeeded in giving back to the farmers that have provided so much to them. “It was very dirty, but also very fun,” says Annalise Gaudet, Alpaca Club member.
To get involved in Somerset County 4-H clubs, visit their website at 4histops.org or follow along on social media @SCNJ4H.
–Calvin Embleton, Rutgers Extension, Somerset County