The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Extension clubs offer community, fellowship

 

January 22, 2020



I first saw a flyer advertising the “Roosevelt County Homesteaders Club” more than a year ago, and I was intrigued.

My curiosity heightened when I learned it was a group of mostly young women with a commitment to exploring the skills our grandparents and great-grandparents relied upon: gardening, food preservation, raising chickens, and so on.

I finally found a chance to sit in on one of their monthly gatherings last week. It was pure joy.

Meredith Eaton is president of the group and one of its founders.

A native of Massachusetts, Eaton was close to her grandparents in Nebraska and went to college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

It’s a “land grant” college, just as New Mexico State University is here. That concept dates all the way back to the Civil War when some federal lands were set aside to support institutions of higher education emphasizing subjects like agriculture, engineering, and science.

The idea of the Cooperative Extension Service evolved from there, and many of us are familiar with the extension homemakers clubs that have dotted our nation for decades.

Not Eaton, however.

“I had never even heard of an extension club until moving to Portales,” she said.

During college, Eaton landed an internship at a feedlot in Colorado and eventually graduated with degrees in animal science and grazing livestock systems.

She was hired by the Cargill feedlot in Bovina, working first as the feed manager and later as the mill manager.

“After living in the area for a few years I met my husband, Michael,” Eaton said. “We got married and I moved to Portales to live with him in his pecan orchard.”

The Eatons now have three children, ages 2, 4, and 6, and also run cows on a ranch in Elida.

Meredith Eaton also runs a professional sewing studio out of Clovis where she quilts for the public and teaches sewing classes.

For someone who had never heard of extension clubs, get this: Not only did she help found the Roosevelt County Homesteaders Club in May 2018, she also serves as president of the Extension Homemakers County Council, and is vice president of the Friendship Extension Club.

Eaton, who is 33, said she was 28 when she joined the extension world.

“The Homesteaders Club came to be as I attended functions with other women my age who had an interest in the revival of the ‘homesteading’ movement,” she said. “Many of us had moms that had to work as times changed and so we missed out on practical homemaking skills that so many take for granted.”

Eaton contacted the Roosevelt County Extension office about starting a new club and found immediate support.

“I called up my other ‘go-getter’ friends and they called their friends,” she said. “We had a fantastic attendance at that first meeting and haven’t slowed down since.”

There are currently 19 members in the Homesteaders Club. They meet at 9:30 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month in the McAlister Room at the Jake Lopez building on the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds.

The room buzzes with small children happily playing and animated conversations happening in every direction.

Since the Homesteaders began meeting, they have had hands-on programs on weaving, paper-making, and pressure canning. They’ve taken field trips to a local vineyard and the Clovis Livestock Auction. Last summer, they spent a day visiting thriving vegetable gardens in the Portales area.

They’ve cooked, they’ve sewed, they’ve learned how to raise bees and chickens, they’ve discussed books, they’ve tied chile ristras.

Last week, they tried their hand at “tatting,” a vintage handcraft that uses a shuttle and string to create a durable decorative lace.

But over and above all they learn together is the fellowship, Eaton said.

She describes her fellow Homesteaders as “sisters offering a comforting hug after a hard day … friends supporting each other with food and fellowship after a surgery … an enthusiastic group volunteering to help teach sewing to the 4-H kids in the county.”

Five years into her extension journey, Eaton is a devoted cheerleader for the program.

“I really think if people knew what we did, every seat would be filled,” she said. “Extension clubs are all different so I would encourage people to explore many of the groups to find a fit that is right for them.”

If you’d like to learn more, call the Roosevelt Extension Office at 575-356-4417, the Curry County Extension Office at 575-763-6505, or Eaton at 978-846-0193.

Betty Williamson failed at tatting but made new friends. Reach her at:

[email protected]

 
 

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