ROSEBURG, Ore. — Peggy and Alton Clark felt very comfortable surrounded by dairy cows and calves at the 2018 Douglas County Fair in early August.
The dairy scene has been part of the couple’s life for many decades. They have been co-leaders of the Umpqua 4-H Dairy Club for 15 years and have been co-superintendents of the dairy division at the county fair since 1982.
Peggy Clark, 75, celebrated her 65th year in dairy and at the fair this year. As a 10-year-old member of the same club — Umpqua 4-H Dairy Club — that she now helps lead, Peggy showed Daisy, a Jersey heifer, at the 1953 fair. Alton Clark has been involved since the couple’s engagement following their 1961 graduation from Oakland High School.
“I think it was just the experience of 4-H that kept me coming back,” said Peggy who was born and raised in the Umpqua area 15 miles northwest of Roseburg. “We milked cows, my dad sold cream to Umpqua Dairy (in Roseburg) so dairy was an obvious choice for me as a project.
“I continued on with it because I enjoyed it so much as a 4-H member,” she added. “When I was too old for 4-H, I didn’t want to be done.”
Peggy said she remembers doing well with her dairy animals at fair during her teenage years. One year, her family brought 13 head — cows, calves and a yearling — to show at the fair.
“I remember being champion dairy showman,” she said.
Delmar Murphy, Peggy’s father, was both the dairy and sheep superintendent at the fair for many years. During Peggy’s college years at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) in Monmouth, she was home during the summer and helped her father with his superintendent duties at the fair.
Peggy graduated from OCE in 1964 and then taught for 34 years in the Sutherlin, Ore., School District. Alton was an insurance adjustor. The couple helped Murphy at the fair for years and became the dairy superintendent when he retired.
The Clarks live in the Umpqua area on a donation land claim that had been secured by earlier family members in 1851. They raise a few dairy animals that are available for kids to care for and to show or for kids who need a last-minute replacement to show because their own animal has come down with some issue.
“Kids learn a lot of responsibility when raising an animal,” Peggy said. “They learn how to handle themselves and their animal. They learn to make good decisions.
“They have to learn to keep records on the animals, track the lineage, keep receipts for feed, the income off calves sold and health records that include vaccinations, any diseases, dehorning…”
“Most of the kids are eager to learn,” Alton said. “They listen when it comes to learning how to take care of an animal.”
Through the years the Umpqua 4-H Dairy Club’s membership has ranged from seven to 16, drawing kids from all over central Douglas County. Peggy and Alton’s three children each had dairy projects during their youth and since then three grandchildren have had animals in the club. Grandson Nic Freeman is the only member of the family to be in the club this year.
The Clarks explained that a couple reasons why kids like dairy animals is because most of the animals don’t go to slaughter when sold and they’re easy to handle and train for show. For many years, decades ago, the 4-H dairy heifers were kept by families and were a milk source.
“It’s good to get kids involved in something and to keep them there,” Alton said. “4-H does that. A heifer project is a two-year project.”
The Clarks have gotten involved and stayed in 4-H themselves. They’ve been happy to welcome some second-generation family members to the dairy club and figure they may stay with it long enough to help lead some third generation members.