By Resi Walt
The 4-H program started in the United States in 1901, when one gentleman offered a group of local boys a bag of corn seed and challenged them to grow it and show it at their State Fair. And so the concept of a youth-focused program in agriculture began. The concept spread north, with the first Canadian 4-H club beginning in Manitoba in 1913.
Today, 4-H Canada is one of the most highly respected youth organizations in Canada, with 25,000 members and over 7,000 volunteers.
When you sign up for 4-H, you can join any of the clubs offered by your local organization. There all kinds of different clubs revolving around agriculture, food or the environment, as well as clubs with non-agriculture topics. For example, you could join a club to learn about beef cows, goats, woodworking, outdoor living or plowing.
Fundamental to the 4-H organization is the motto, “Learn To Do By Doing”. Every club you join will be based upon hands-on learning. That’s the beauty of 4-H.
I had grown up watching my older brother and sister showing dairy calves and I loved hanging out with the “big kids” at the shows. My dad was a club leader for many years and he enjoyed organizing fun things for the members to do.
So every summer, on the last Tuesday of the month – for the past 13 years – I have been meeting with my fellow 4-H dairy club members to learn more about dairy farming, the dairy breed, and how to show dairy cows. This past summer was my last year as an eligible member (due to a maximum age requirement of 21), which brought on a wave of nostalgia.
Some of my favourite memories were made while attending 4-H events such as Peterborough Judging Day, Eastern Breeders Inc. 4-H Showcase in Kemptville and the Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
My top accomplishments from my 13 years in the dairy club include placing second in the showmanship class (when the judge is placing you based on your performance in the ring, not your animal) at the EBI 4-H Showcase, a first place finish in the intermediate calf class at the Quinte Championship Show, and of course all the times I beat my brother at showmanship at our annual Achievement Day. In all fairness, he beat me just as many times!
Many of the calves that I showed as my 4-H project have gone on to be valuable cows in the milking herd at my family’s dairy farm.
One of my favourite things about being in 4-H was the chance it gave me to make lifelong friendships. Through 4-H, I was able to meet like-minded people with a passion for agriculture.
I also loved that 4-H was something my whole family could do together. My brothers, sister and I all worked with our calves together every summer and we created a lot of great memories over the years. Our parents were always there for us and enjoyed watching us on show day.
The ability to network has proven to be one of the most valuable skills I developed while in 4-H. Whatever event you may be at, there are endless opportunities to meet people. As a young person, the ability to network will go a long way as we prepare to enter the workforce. Building up a network of people and contacts is already proving to be extremely valuable for me.
Many of the important lessons I learned in 4-H came from competing. There are so many benefits to friendly competition with your peers. When you compete, you learn how to win and lose graciously. You learn that although things may not have gone your way that day, you still put a smile on your face and congratulate your fellow competitors. And on the day that you do win, you understand that hard work truly does pay off.
4-H has been very valuable to me, and I’d like to give back by becoming a leader. The organization is volunteer-driven and there is always a need for more volunteers. Plus, being a leader means I’ll get to stay connected with all of the great people and events.
If you are interested in the 4-H organization, click here http://bit.ly/1ljUbfE
The 4-H pledge:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
my health to better living,
for my club, my community and my country.”