The Ambassador Beat : Mel Karpenko

Without 4-H, it’s a dream. With 4-H, it’s an experience.  

By: Mel Karpenko

I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and MY WORLD.  

Who would have guessed that what seems to many as a small-town club for farm kids, would offer youth the chance to travel 8,513km out of their comfort zone? For me, it was an incredible opportunity I was fortunate to experience through 4-H.

Imagine – You fill out the application and dream of being selected for a life changing experience. All you can do is answer the questions to the best of your ability, hit send and cross your fingers and toes.  

Skip ahead and you receive a confirmation that you have been offered the chance to interview for the 4-H Canada Going Global Exchanges program! Suddenly this is becoming very real. You are aware that there is tough competition for this opportunity and that many of the applicants are just as deserving of the position. So, you prepare and make sure to do your best. 

Suddenly, it’s the end of March, you’ve just arrived home from school and you receive an email from 4-H Canada! You hold your breath as you click on the email and you re-read each word making sure you understand it correctly. After a moment it sinks in, all your preparation has paid off. You did it, you have been selected to travel to Argentina! 

The day finally arrives to board the plane and start your adventure. (Don’t forget to check the weather before you pack! Just because it’s south doesn’t mean it’s always hot!)  When you get off the plane and are welcomed by open arms, warm houses and grateful hearts. All that’s left to do is enjoy and absorb the experience.  

Being in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar language leads to strong relationships being built very quickly. Anyone who has been a part of a 4-H opportunity knows that relationships developed through 4-H are unlike any other.   

There are many opportunities available to 4-H’ers through both 4-H Ontario and 4-H Canada. Each opportunity offers new experiences to learn, grow and build relationships. Sometimes the hardest part is submitting the application.  

The Farmer-Florist. How this 4-H Farmpreneur turned her passion into a reality

By Laura Goulding

“Our mission is more flowers for more people more often,” says Amber Swidersky, Farmer-Florist and owner of Petals Flower Co. Petals Flower Co. is a full-service flower shop located on a small farm in Melancthon, ON. Born of a passion for flowers, Petals Flower Co. has a one-acre flower field with over a hundred varieties and colours of flowers, along with a flower shop in the garage on Amber’s family beef and sheep farm.

“There are so many awesome things about Petals, I think my favourite is that every day is learning,” says Amber. Amber began growing and selling flowers at the Shelburne Farmers Market in 2015 and in 2017 the opportunity emerged to take on flowers every day. Petals Flower Co. has four part-time staff who help in all areas of the business from delivery, flower field management, designing and much more.

In addition, Petals Flower Co. also offers a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program and hosts on-farm workshops. The CSA program provides flower lovers with the chance to fill their homes with fresh local flowers all spring and summer long. “Every Friday you show up and there is a bouquet with your name on it,” says Amber. For those interested in learning how to make their own creations, Amber hosts on-farm workshops throughout the year ranging from field to vase, Easter centre piece workshops, winter outdoor arrangements and wreaths and many more.  

“I always knew I wanted to be on a farm,” says Amber. “When I was young, I took some 4-H projects that were related to etiquette and crafting and took a break from 4-H. Then in my first year of University at Guelph I ended up showing a heifer at College Royal and decided to rejoin 4-H. I joined the South Simcoe Beef Club and it was there that I met my husband. I couldn’t get my heifer broke and the 4-H leader sent him down to help me with my heifer. Now both our children participate in 4-H, everything from paintball club, sheep club, marketing club and the beef club.”

When asked about the impact 4-H has had on her as a farmpreneur, Amber said, “Every day I learn to do by doing. It’s a huge take home for me and something I practice every day here at Petals.”

 

4-H gave me a passion for learning and growing. Here’s how I’m paying it forward

By Megan Pollock

One of the things that initially drew me to apply at Zeitspace was their passion for learning and growing.

This is not surprising as I have spent the last 19 years involved in another program with the same values, 4-H. I got so much out of my 10 years as a 4-H member that when I eventually graduated from the program, I immediately began leading my own clubs. This past fall I had the opportunity to bring 4-H to Zeitspace by leading a 4-H Computer Club with two other people, Todd Radigan and Tayler Black, at the Zeitspace office.

So, what is 4-H anyway? For over a century, the 4-H program has been empowering youth in Waterloo Region to learn new skills and become leaders in their community. Offering clubs such as Dairy and Beef, where youth learn to take care of cattle, and Field Crops, introducing youth to the science and skills required to develop profitable crops, 4-H has typically been associated with agriculture and rural living.

But more recently, Waterloo 4-H has been expanding their clubs to include skills and activities that are of broader interest, such as pizza-making, and ultimate sports. With three large cities in the centre of their region, Waterloo 4-H is especially driven to include youth from the cities in their programs and provide more programming in the downtown areas, while maintaining the programs agriculture roots.

The Waterloo 4-H Computer Club was able to do exactly that, with over half of their members living in non-rural areas, and hosting the meetings right in uptown Waterloo at the Zeitspace office. One of the benefits of having the meetings at Zeitspace was that none of the parents had to travel very far. The meetings were central and easy to access for youth living in Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge.

The first three meetings of Computer Club introduced HTML, CSS, Javascript, and general programming logic through teaching and activities.

“I’ve always wanted to learn programming so this was a great opportunity to do that,” says Rebecca, one of the Computer Club members.

One of the more unique things about the 4-H program is that any given club is open to youth aged nine to 21. This allows the younger members to benefit from the mentoring and leadership of the older members, while the older members benefit from the fun and creativity of the younger members.

“I learned a tonne and I feel like I understand programming more,” says Michaela, one of the club’s senior members.

Meetings followed the 4-H motto of “learn to do by doing.” The fourth, fifth, and sixth meetings gave members a chance to apply what they learned on a project, which they then presented at their achievement meeting at the end of the session.

“It was fun to learn more informally — lots of opportunities to ask questions and try things out and see what works and what doesn’t,” says Rebecca.

Some members preferred learning general programming logic over a specific language and opted to do their projects in Scratch, an online tool developed by MIT.

“I learned a lot in Scratch so now I can teach my brothers and sisters,” says Jaxion, another member of the club.

The club was such a hit, members want more technology-based clubs in Waterloo Region.

The parents agreed that the club was a success and one parent specifically described the benefit of the office: “It’s great to use a technology office because it has plugs, a screen, and wi-fi.”

The great thing about leading STEM 4-H clubs in Waterloo Region is that I am able to bring the things I’ve learned throughout my career to help 4-H members learn new and exciting skills.

Zeitspace is passionate about sharing their knowledge, and educating all ages, so introducing them to the 4-H program has been a great match. This will likely not be the last 4-H club that the Zeitspace office will see.

This post originally appeared on the Zeitspace Blog: 

https://www.zeitspace.com/blog/2019/11/4-h-gave-me-a-passion-for-learning-and-growing-heres-how-im-paying-it-forward/

16-year-old shares enthusiasm for hobby through 4-H

 

Reprinted with permission from Toy Farmer magazine.

By Luaan Dart

Members of the Chatham-Kent 4-H Association Farm Toy Club in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, are “learning by doing,” by creating farm toy dioramas that realistically depict everything from a family farm to a tree farm.

“In 4-H, our motto is ‘Learn to do by doing,’ and I think our club, being such a hands-on club, is a very good example of that,” says 16-year-old Matthew Sterling, the youth leader for the Chatham-Kent 4-H Farm Toy Club. “Our immediate goal in the club is to create the dioramas, but our long-term goal is to share knowledge and enthusiasm for the farm toy hobby.”

The 4-H club was launched in 2005 by Matthew’s parents, Carl and Julie Sterling of Pain Court, Ontario, Canada, and Matthew’s two older brothers, Robert and Brian, who were teenagers at the time.

“In the beginning, it was focused on restoring and customizing 1/16 scale farm toys,” Matthew describes. Three years ago, the club members switched their focus to creating scale dioramas with 1/64 scale farm toys.

Matthew Sterling with the 1/16 scale models in his farm toy collection.

Carl and Julie, along with Rob and his wife, Katrina, serve as adult leaders, with Matthew serving as the youth leader. They are all longtime farm toy collectors, as Carl and Julie started to collect farm toys shortly after they were married in 1984, with a special interest in replicas of tractors used on their farm, according to a Toy Farmer feature story in October 2007. Today, they continue to share their knowledge and interest in the hobby with area youth.

“There’s just a passion for it,” Matthew shares.

Each year, the members of the 4-H club, who, this year, range in age from 10 to 16 years old, create a diorama on a 3- by 3-foot board.

“Most of the work gets done during club meetings, but they do have to do some of the work as well on their own,” Matthew says. “Basically, we’re trying to share the knowledge that we have with others. That way, they can learn at the club and if they want to go home and apply it and make even larger, scale dioramas, they can do that.”

Once the dioramas are completed, club members display their work as part of the achievement program at the Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale, held in January. This year, eight members were involved in creating and exhibiting dioramas.

“This past year, we displayed over 50 feet of displays, enjoyed by those attending the toy show,” Matthew says. Each 3×3 diorama includes a similar roadway in the same location, so when each individual board is connected, the road lines up across all the dioramas. The individual sections then become one continuous display, he explains.

The dioramas display a wide range of scenes, based on each of the youth’s perspective. Some of the displays have included replicas of family farms, a tree farm, a gravel yard, tiling in fields and farm equipment dealerships.

“A lot of people like to focus on the family farm where they have lived or do live, and they build a scale replica of that. I have done that in the past,” Matthew says. “It’s whatever the kids want to create. This gives them a chance to do it and learn how to do it.”

Matthew Sterling, 16, recreated a John Deere dealership as a display for the Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale.

Carl Sterling started the Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale in 2002, the same year Matthew was born. The toy show is a family affair, with Carl, Julie and Rob organizing the show, with assistance from Katrina, Brian, his wife, Annemarie, and Matthew. This is the third year the 4-H club members have displayed dioramas at the show.

“It’s going to get bigger every year. The kids will bring back the boards they have done in the past and show them again,” Matthew says.

“The toy show has also gotten bigger every year, and it sparks more interest as we go,” he adds. The next show will be held Jan. 19, 2020, in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.

Some vendors have been at the Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale every year since 2002, and it is one of the largest farm toy shows in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. This year, the show included 180 tables of toys for sale and display, with 50 vendors and 30 other different displays, as well as the 4-H club’s displays.

“The toy show keeps getting bigger every year. That’s exciting for me. I just hope the enthusiasm keeps growing across the community for the hobby,” Matthew says.

The 4-H club’s 50-foot diorama is an important piece of the show’s popularity, too.

“It is kind of funny when some people come up and see it. It’s almost like their eyes pop out. They’re just amazed with what even some of the younger kids can come up with in the club to make it look so real. I personally enjoy the interaction with some of the elders in the community, to see that interest in what we do,” Matthew says.

The 4-H club has another role in the toy show, by assisting with the show and helping to raise money for the nonprofit event.

“All members also help with the toy show, which raises money for the club, the local Junior Farmers Club, whose members also help with the show, and mainly our local food bank, Outreach for Hunger,” Matthew says. Proceeds from the show are donated to the food bank and to the Chatham-Kent 4-H Association Farm Toy Club to help purchase supplies to create more dioramas and to continue to “Learn to do by doing.”

One of the leaders of the Chatham-Kent 4-H Farm Toy Club, Rob Sterling, replicated a natural gas station located at the construction site of a greenhouse.

One of the world’s largest youth organizations, 4-H can be found in more than 70 countries across the globe. The 4-H organization in Canada has more than 24,000 members and 7,600 volunteers. The four H’s represent the organization’s core values:

• Head: managing, thinking

• Heart: relating, caring

• Hands: giving, working

• Health: being, living

 A family of collectors

As part of a family with a passion for farm toys, Matthew’s interest in the hobby began when he was young, as he basically started attending the Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale as a baby.

“It all started when I was really little. I was always playing with the farm toys. It kind of grew as an interest for me. Every time we were at a dealership, I was saying, ‘Hey, can I get a toy?’” he says. “I’ve grown up around it. I’ve kind of expanded a little bit more and I have my own collection now.”

Matthew’s collection of 1/64 and 1/16 farm toys has grown over the years to the point where he is unsure of how many models he now owns.

“I’m a John Deere fan, but I do have some of the other colours, too,” he says. He also has model train dioramas and collects miniature steam engines.

“I have a lot of different toys that I enjoy, but my biggest collection is in the farm toys for sure,” he says. “I have a very large collection.”

The family’s combined collections fill the farm home, Matthew says. “I think it’s sunk a few feet into the ground,” he says with a laugh about the family home brimming with farm toys.

As his older brothers completed dioramas for the farm toy show, Matthew’s own interest in creating displays began.

“At one of the toy shows when I was old enough, I said I want to try setting up on one of those boards,” he says, so he completed a simple display with his own toys when he was about 9 years old.

“Eventually, I set up all their boards and I wanted to expand a little more. That was more of a driver for that to happen,” he says.

Matthew has a particular fascination with creating as many realistic details in a display as possible.

“I enjoy seeing the final product. You put a lot of work into something like that, but it’s fun when you actually see it all put together. I made a diorama that replicates the family farm and I had parked vehicles that looked similar to ours around the buildings. When I took some pictures of it, it just looked so real,” he says.

This past year, Matthew replicated a farm equipment dealership, also with realistic details.

“That’s part of where the club comes into play. We’re trying to teach the kids how to make trees, buildings, hydro poles, grass, fields, all the parts of it the way we have tried to do it in the past. Then the kids expand on it and say, Why don’t we try this?’ and then it looks really good in the end,” he shares.

The club members often brainstorm ideas for better ways of creating a scene, he says, often using trial-and-error.

“The hardest one was probably trying to figure out snow, realistic snow,” he says. “You have to make a little board separately and try all your different techniques on it and see which one you like the best.”

Matthew enjoys the interaction with the club members, and sharing his own knowledge.

“I’ve always been one to try and help people. That’s just something I enjoy, so it gives me a chance to help someone with the knowledge that I have and try to give them some of the tools that I have under my belt,” he says.

Matthew also caught inspiration to customize farm toy models from his family and interaction with members of the 4-H club.

Matthew Sterling’s customized John Deere 4430, which includes: realistic lights all the way around, wheel weights, steps, hydraulic outlets, painted engine parts, fuel cap, anti-freeze cap, center chrome arrow, and steel painted intake and exhaust pipes. The tractor was painted with genuine John Deere tractor paint.

His favourite customization project was putting more realistic details on a John Deere 4430 tractor, adding more realistic lights and other details, and repainting it.

“It has a lot of things on it that it did not have on it when it came from the toy factory to make it look a lot more realistic,” he says. “To really make it stand out in a group of toys to make it a unique item, we actually used the actual tractor paint. All of the paints that they would use on real tractors, we put on the toys to make them look more realistic.”

The 4-H Farm Toy Club has definitely led Matthew to “Learn to do by doing.”

“With parents being leaders, I was always at the meetings. You know how things kind of grow on you and all of sudden, you’re really excited to do that,” he says. “And it very much grew on me.”

“It’s more of an addiction now more than a hobby,” he says with a laugh.

The 4-H Farm Toy Club attends the 2019 Chatham-Kent Toy Show and Sale. Members are, from left to right in the back row, Everett Pickering, Rebekah Ball, Adam Smith, Kyle Ross, Matthew Sterling, Cole Peckford, from left to right sitting in the front row, Wyatt Ball, Carson Sayers and Ian Masterson-Foster.

The Ambassador Beat: Allison French

Five Reasons Why YOU Should Attend Provincial Opportunities

            Are you on the edge about whether to attend provincial opportunities that are offered through 4-H? Nervous? Scared? Or do not know what to expect? These are all perfectly normal feelings and by the end of this article I hope those nervous vibes have changed into the feelings of excitement for the next provincial opportunity you can attend.

Reason #1 Meeting people from across the province. Once you arrive at either a camp, conference or provincial competition, everyone is in the same boat. It’s like the first day of school again; new faces and new people to get to know. People come from across the province to attend these opportunities giving you the chance to have friends from Windsor to Ottawa and even all the way up to Rainy River. Over the next few days these new people will become part of your 4-H family and more importantly, your friends. Bringing us to reason number two.

Reason # 2 FriendshipsAt these opportunities, you will make new friends and in turn, find friendly faces at other events and programs. The more people you meet at provincial opportunities, the more connections you will make for the future whether it be post-secondary or other provincial events.

Reason #3 Making lifelong memories. With your new 4-H family, you will share experiences that only you can relate to and look back and laugh at. These memories are what make camps, conferences and competitions so special.

Reason #4 Building everyday skills while having fun! At these provincial events you will have the opportunity to build upon your basic skills like teamwork, communication, leadership and goal setting through fun, hands-on activities. By working as a team, you will grow stronger friendships while building your own skills. As well as everyday skills, you will be given the chance to improve your public speaking. Leading us into the number five reason to attend provincial opportunities.

Reason #5 Gain confidence when speaking. Without even realizing it, you will be speaking in front of a small group of people at these opportunities that will give you practice in a positive and encouraging environment.

For all these reasons and more, you should attend all provincial opportunities that are available to you!

Did I mention that there is always great food there?

 

Sarah Danen the 2019 Recipient of the Maryn Pardy Scholarship

Submitted by Laura Green

At the Southern Area Women’s Institute 105th Convention held in Keystone Complex, Shedden on Oct. 5th, the Maryn Pardy Scholarship for an active 4-H member in Southern Area Women’s Institute area was awarded to Sarah Danen. Sarah is enrolled in the first year of the Agricultural Business programme, University of Guelph. She is a very active 4-H member with Oxford 4-H clubs and has completed over 30 agriculture and life skills projects, attended Provincial camps and participated in one 4-H Canada exchange. She is a graduate from Waterloo Oxford Secondary School. Sarah was the 2018/19 Tavistock Fair Ambassador, is an active member of the Oxford County Junior Farmers, Step dances and works with her family on their dairy farm in the Tavistock area. Making the presentation to Sarah is Southern Area Scholarship chairperson Rie Van Steeg.

The Ambassador Beat: Christie Annett

4-H Helped Me Become Who I Am Today

By Christie Annett

My name is Christie Annett, I am 21 years old from the Lambton 4-H Association. This has been a pretty busy year for me with 4-H; I am a member, youth leader, leader and a 2019 4-H Ambassador. I have been in 4-H since 2007 and after 12 years I have been reflecting on my time as a 4-H’er. I am beginning to realize the impact that it has had on my life.  4-H has not only been a place for me to make friends with similar interests but it has given me the tools I needed to be successful in life.

I credit 4-H with being the place that started me down the path to finding my career in working with horses. I come from a beef and cash crop farming background but have always been far more interested in horses. My mom signed me up for the horse club my first year in 4-H. This was the first time that I touched a horse! It was an extremely memorable year for me, I showed my first horse, watched the RCMP musical ride, and learned something new and exciting every meeting! I won top member and top project that year, along with some other awards. For me, this was the beginning of an unforgettable journey.

After that first year in 4-H I took it further and started riding and competing on my own. I’ve tried out a few different disciplines to see what I liked best like: Western pleasure, dressage, jumping, before I decided that barrel racing and gaming was for me. After graduating from high school, I decided to take riding one step further and completed the University of Guelph’s Performance Horse Handler Program. I now work at Canada’s largest standardbred horse breeding facility. My favourite job is foaling out horses. Bringing an animal into the world is something truly special that I am honoured to have an opportunity to do. At work we keep the horses until they are a year old. During that first year, it is my job to break and train the babies. This was a learning curve for me when I first began because I had never dealt with horses that young and green before. I often wonder what I would be doing in my life now if I was never given the opportunity to find and explore my passion at such a young age.

Last year, I knew I had enough knowledge to resurrect the 4-H Horse Club in Lambton County (the same club started me out on my journey). I wanted to share all of the knowledge and enthusiasm for both 4H and horses, my goal was to help kids explore their interest in horses, and maybe even inspire someone with my story. I also started a club because I know how important 4-H was for me in finding out what I wanted to do with my life and how important it was for me in general. All of the clubs I have completed whether it be life skills or agriculture, have taught me something different about myself. I hope that my club gets kids excited to learn more about horses and find out what horses and the horse industry can do for them. If it’s only a club that they’re in for a year, I hope that they find that they learn something new about themselves and have fun participating.

4-H Ontario Ambassador speaks to hundreds about innovation in the future of ag

By Laura Goulding

Congratulations to 4-H Ontario Ambassador Michaella Snyder who was selected as one of the 2019 youth speakers at the Growmark Annual Meeting and Agribusiness Symposium in Chicago this August. At the “Ideas Grow Here” themed annual meeting, Michaella spoke to approximately 800 people about her experience with innovation in agriculture and the innovations she feel will move agriculture into the future.

“This was an amazing learning opportunity and I am so thankful that I was able to go and represent 4-H Ontario at such a large event,” says Michaella. She spoke about improvements that her and her family had made to the maple syrup production on their farm that improved their yield and decreased the physical labour associated with production.

To prepare for this event, Michaella worked with Growmark and a speech coach which she described as an amazing opportunity all on its own. Michaella also gave credit to the 4-H Ontario Ambassador program for helping her grow her confidence in public speaking since this past March. “I was surprised to find that before I spoke in Chicago I was not as scared as I thought I would be. I was nervous but I was also equally as excited about speaking. This was due to the wonderful support and resources that I got from Growmark and the support and experience that I had from 4-H,” says Michaella. “A huge thanks to Janice Johnson and Growmark for giving me this amazing opportunity.”

From left to right: Nic Webber, Michaella Snyder, Janice Johnson, John Johnson

While in Chicago, not only did Michaella have the opportunity to listen to guest speakers at the event and see the impact Growmark and FS has in agriculture, but she also had the chance to explore the city. Along with two other delegates from Ontario, Michaella went on an architectural tour on the river, saw the city from a ferris wheel on the pier, visited the Willis tower all the way up to the Skydeck, and ate all the deep dish pizza that she could – “a whopping two pieces.”

Michaella, you did an excellent job of representing yourself, your family, 4-H and Growmark professionally and with confidence. Congratulations from all of us at 4-H.

The Prince Edward 4-H Association Tree Sale – A True Example of Learning To Do By Doing

By Laura Squires

All 4-H’ers, no matter if you are a member, volunteer or alumni, know the importance of ‘Learn To Do By Doing’. Because of this, it’s no surprise that when the Prince Edward 4-H Association hosted their second Tree Sale Fundraiser they were completely sold out in less then an hour!

With the help of a dozen 4-H members and volunteers, the Prince Edward 4-H Association sold 1375 trees and raised about $1,700 to support their association. The 4-H members hand out the seedlings and label the trees, so people know what they bought, and the volunteers help set up and organize the sale and clean up.

“We provide a service for the environment and it gives 4-H members and volunteers a chance to work together as a team,” says Lynn Ward, Prince Edward 4-H Association Board Member.  “Everyone learns about the seedlings and where they grow and because of this, become more concerned about the environment,” says Lynn.

The Prince Edward 4-H Association started doing the tree sale in 2018 after the Prince Edward Land Stewardship had difficulty recruiting volunteers for their committee and asked if 4-H would be interested in taking it over. Lynn took part in the 4-H Forestry Club as a member and had helped the Land Stewardship with the sale in 2017, so she thought it would be a great opportunity to not only raise funds for the Prince Edward 4-H Association, but to help the environment and provide 4-H youth with a chance to help their community.

In their first year, Prince Edward 4-H took two days to sell out of trees and after some review and evaluation, made changes to help the event become more successful. They changed some of the species of seedlings they sold, decreased the number of trees on their order, and promoted the fundraiser on social media and through the local newspaper. This year they sold even more trees in less time! Now that’s ‘learning to do by doing’ at its finest!

Prince Edward 4-H is looking forward to their next fundraiser. Mark your calendars, the 2020 Prince Edward 4-H Association Tree Sale will take place on Saturday May 2!

 

 

The Ambassador Beat: Rose Danen

 

Getting Schooled – Balancing 4-H and University

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Rose (that’s me giving you the thumbs up!) and I am one of the 2019 4-H Ontario Ambassadors. I’m also a university student and managing to be an ambassador at the same time.

I love being a part of 4-H, and last fall school got in the way of doing what I loved. With homework, assignments, and classes, I didn’t know how I was going to make time to complete any projects. I’m going to school in Ottawa which is an 8-hour train ride from my home 4-H Association and any 4-H clubs close to campus were about a two-hour drive away.

So, I made some difficult decisions. I didn’t do a single life skills club over the winter – something completely uncharacteristic of me. I chose to not participate in my local dairy club for the first time in ten years because I wouldn’t be able to train my calf as well as I’d like to, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get home for my achievement day. I was most upset that I wouldn’t have the chance to go to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Senior 4-H’ers can feel overwhelmed as they start their post-secondary education, and this can influence their involvement in 4-H. I remember wondering why there were no senior members in my clubs. I would talk to my 4-H friends and they would tell me that they were facing the same challenges as me. Moving away from home and taking on new responsibilities has proven to be a challenge for many of us.

So, what can we do? Do we give up our last eligible years as a 4-Her? I think not! While this really is challenging, I know that 4-H’ers are full of perseverance. We ‘learn to do by doing’! We learn how to organize our schedules and juggle our responsibilities. It may be difficult, but many of my friends are doing both school and 4-H, and now, so am I.

Making 4-H A Priority

At some point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I would sit at ringside watching my friends show their 4-H calves, itching to jump in there and wrap my hand around a leather halter and stare down the judge. My siblings would bring home decorated cakes and barn quilts from their meetings. It was hard to watch and not be involved.

So, I decided to come back to 4-H. I decided to only do one club so that I didn’t overwhelm myself. My leaders were really understanding and helped me along the way. They gave me opportunities to make up missed meetings and were considerate of my needs. I’m also heavily relying on the support of my family to get my club completed, most notably my sister and my mother who will be looking after my calf when I return to school in the fall. And thank goodness for that extra support, because I also decided to get involved with 4-H in another big way.

Becoming an Ambassador

Last winter, I received an email from one of my 4-H mentors. “Become a 4-H Ambassador,” it said, “You’ll be good at it,”. I had no idea how I would even manage such a huge responsibility! Would I have the time? How would I get to events? But it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I took the plunge.

I put in my application, and a month later I was sitting in front of a computer screen in Ottawa, doing an interview over video chat. The rest is history. Since then I went to the ambassador training my reading week and my summer has been packed full of events. I’m even going for a two-hour bus ride from campus to the Metcalfe Fair in the fall!

I am so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who has pushed me to make time to be an ambassador and to FS for their sponsorship that makes the ambassador program possible. The program has already taught me so much and I’m sure there are many more lessons to come. I’ve already learned that time management is key and that you’re never too busy for the things you care about, and I care about 4-H a lot!

The Takeaway

Yes, balancing school and 4-H can be difficult, but not impossible! If you persevere and manage your time well, you can continue to be involved in 4-H. Some days it may be overwhelming, and on those days look to your community to support you. At the end of the day all that matters is that you continue to ‘learn to do by doing’ and that you love what you do!