From seed to sugar, Chatham-Kent 4-H celebrates the Sugarbeet!

By Stephanie Campbell

Chatham-Kent’s Sugarbeet Production Club sure knows a thing or two about a “Sweet” 4-H Club! From seed to sugar, this club learns about the process of growing sugarbeets, diseases their crop might encounter, preparing a sugarbeet sample, cooking with sugar, and more! Rob and Maureen McKerrall took it upon themselves to reintroduce the Sugarbeet Club to Chatham-Kent following its initial start in 1930 as the “Better Sugar Beet Club” where boys learned how to grow better sugar beets.

A trip to the Michigan Sugar Company processing plant in Croswell, Michigan to see the process of how beets are transformed into sugar, has been a highlight of this club! Members will wrap up their year by participating in the Highgate Fair by submitting a sugarbeet sample, consisting of three (3) hand picked “prized” beets! To compete, members dig the beets out of the ground, they are washed, clipped and mounted on a coat hanger for presentation at the fair.

The local sugarbeet seed sales representatives: the Dover sugarbeet piling station, agronomists and Michigan Sugar Company have assisted in the development of this club in the Chatham-Kent area. The Chatham-Kent Sugarbeet Club is the only Canadian Club to participate in Michigan Sugar Company’s Youth Project.

Whether these members are returning to their farms to push the sugar content of their beets, increase poundage or cook new recipes with sugar, this club has brought them together to celebrate a locally grown product that we all enjoy!

4-H for Life!

Mel and Shirley Chamberlain are the lucky grand prize winners of the 4-H Ontario Dream Dinner Lottery (LOTTERY LICENSE #M644571 LICENSEE: ONTARIO 4-H COUNCIL). When I interviewed Mel about winning the grand prize I also learned about his interesting 4-H history including his career and how he met his wife, Shirley. Shirley also joined the conversation and took a couple minutes to add a few details to their tale. Read their story below, as they go from square dancing to world-travelling.

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Mel and Shirley grew up in Peterborough County and were both 4-H Members from the time they were 12 until they turned 20, however, at the time they weren’t familiar with each other. “I believe that we were only ever in one Club together, a Grain Club in 1960,” Mel explains. “We met, but we didn’t really know each other, there is even a group photo of the Club from 1960 and we’re both in it,” adds Shirley. Mel and Shirley also both became 4-H Leaders. Shirley certainly had her hands full running up to five 4-H Clubs at once, including Veterinary Clubs, Bread Clubs, Life Skills Clubs and Horse Clubs.

After they left the local 4-H program, Mel and Shirley both moved out of the Peterborough area. Mel finished school and started working for the Ministry of Ontario Agriculture and Food in Wellington County, a career he says was jump-started by his 4-H involvement as a kid. “Essentially I was the 4-H Co-ordinator. Part of my job required working closely along side 4-H Leaders, so I guess you could say I was never too far from the program,” Mel explains. “With [Mel] being such a big part of 4-H, and me running so many Clubs, it’s really amazing that we hadn’t crossed paths at some point or another,” says Shirley. Mel and Shirley both met their spouses, married, and settled down, each having three children of their own; all six of them would later become 4-H Members as well. Years later, after both of their respective spouses had passed away, Mel and Shirley met once again while square dancing. “We decided to be square-dancing partners,” Shirley explains, “and we still square dance together today.”  Mel and Shirley have been married for two years and live in the quiet community of Markdale, Ontario.

There is no doubt in my mind that 4-H is the most important activity I have ever done, it has directed my career and my life

Both retired from their 4-H involvement, Mel and Shirley are still avid supporters of the program. “We still attend the 4-H shows that go on at the local fairs, and we like to make donation here and there,” Mel explains. In fact, one of the ways that Mel and Shirley donate to 4-H is by buying a Dream Dinner Lottery ticket, a donation they have made since the lottery first started. Lucky for them, this year Mel and Shirly were the grand prize winners claiming the prize of “Dinner for Two Anywhere In the World”.

Mel and Shirley Chamberlain
Mel and Shirley Chamberlain of Markdale, Ontario

When Mel looks back on his 4-H history, he remembers many, many good times. “4-H played such a big part in my life,” he explains. “There is no doubt in my mind that 4-H is the most important activity I have ever done, it has directed my career and my life.”

While Mel and Shirley both like to travel throughout the year, they have not yet decided where in the world they wish to celebrate winning the grand prize and have their “Dream Dinner”. With all of their hard work, support and contributions to the 4-H community in the past, these two are both very deserving recipients of the prize. Congratulations Mel and Shirley, and all the best in the future!
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Share Your 4-H Story4-H Ontario’s Alumni program is funded through a Promotional Partnership with Hyland Seeds, including the position of 4-H Ontario’s Coordinator, Alumni Services. Hyland Seeds is passionate about agriculture and believes in supporting the people who are deeply rooted in the agricultural industry; dedication to 4-H is proof of this commitment. Thank you Hyland Seeds!