The Ambassador Beat: Tamara Hamilton

The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program provides youth with advanced level training in leadership, citizenship, communications and public relations. Ambassadors put their energy and 4-H experiences to work recruiting new members and sharing the 4-H story. Throughout 2014, each of 4-H Ontario’s six Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program is proudly sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc. and UPI Energy LP. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for you event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Tamara Hamilton, 4-H Ontario Ambassador, Russell 4-H Association 

Hi everyone!

My name is Tamara Hamilton and I am from Russell County. I have been an enthusiastic 4-H member for seven amazing years now. 4-H has given me so many life changing experiences from developing my leadership skills to teaching me the importance about taking risks. What better way to take both of those and to harness them then becoming a 4-H Ambassador. Doing so also gives back to all that 4-H has given me.

I have only been a 4-H Ambassador for a few months now and I can say that I am having the time of my life! So far I have only been able to participate in few events including the Ambassador Training Weekend (February 17), personally attending Future Leaders In Action (March 9-12, 2014) and have also participated in the Region 2 open house for Stormont County 4-H (March 29, 2014), but over the coming months am hoping to participate in many more.

I may have only taken part in a few events, nevertheless I am still besieged by the amount of passion and enthusiasm that is shown in every activity. Taking a look at the recent event I attended which was the open house for Stormont County 4-H, I couldn’t believe the amount of keenness in today’s youth. Many of them arrived at opening hours and participated in every game and activity that was there for them to do. The new members returning would educate them and include them in everything they did, ultimately making them feel united into the 4-H family. It was an incredibly rewarding experience. To see photos from this event visit the Stormont 4-H Facebook page here.

To date, being an ambassador has enabled me to share and express my passion for 4-H with the public and I know from what I’ve seen it has been contagious. It is the very leadership and collaboration skills that are a huge asset to my life ingrained into my personality. I can’t wait to continue to participate in the rest of my year as an ambassador and continue to meet many people and make many memories!

The Ambassador Beat: Brooke Thompson

The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program provides youth with advanced level training in leadership, citizenship, communications and public relations. Ambassadors put their energy and 4-H experiences to work recruiting new members and sharing the 4-H story. Throughout 2014, each of 4-H Ontario’s six Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador program is proudly sponsored by GROWMARK, Inc. and UPI Energy LP. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for you event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Brooke Thompson, 4-H Ontario Ambassador, York 4-H Association 

My name is Brooke Thompson, and I am from York County. I have been a 4-H member for eight life-changing years.

I have only been a 4-H Ambassador for a couple months now and I am having a blast! I have already had the opportunity to attend the following events:

Ambassador Training Weekend February 17, 2014
York Sign-up Night February 22, 2014
Durham West Rally Night March 5, 2014
College Royal March 15-16, 2014

At all my events I am overwhelmed by how enthusiastic and encouraging everyone is. Every event has taught me new skills and techniques that I am sure to use throughout my entire life. Being an ambassador has allowed me to share my passion for 4-H with many people and I can only hope that it has been contagious. Leadership and facilitation skills are a huge asset to my life that 4-H has been able to engrain into my personality. I am looking forward to the rest of my year as an ambassador and I hope to be able to meet many more amazing people!

Outstanding 4-H alumna begins her career

By Ryan Métivier

4-H is many things for many people and for Stephanie Huitema from Haldimand County, it proved to be a huge stepping stone in landing her current job as Marketing Coordinator at Erie Mutual Insurance.

A 4-H member from the time she was 16, up until she graduated from the program, Stephanie was a part of many clubs including sewing and quilting, cooking, baking, lifestyle, sheep, goat and many more. Stephanie was also a participant in yearly judging competitions, as well as the Go For The Gold (GFTG) competition. As a GFTG competitor, she went to Regionals three times, where she won twice, and also twice went to Provincials, placing fourth in 2010 and fifth in 2012.

In her graduating year of 2012, Stephanie was named Outstanding 4-H Member for the year, something she was honoured to be acknowledged with.

“What a great way to finish my career. I was speechless and remember not making any sense when I was thanking and accepting my award,” she says.

This past year, she was also given the responsibility of hosting the 2013 banquet.

How she went from accepting this award, to working for Erie Mutual, came from a newspaper article her now boss, read about her winning the Outstanding Member Award.

“My boss went on to ask the staff if anyone knew me. A friend from public school who also works there said she knew me and went on to email me and tell me to bring in my resume,” she says. “I went from two part-time jobs, to the stability of a full-time position and I am so grateful to work at a company that supports agriculture and 4-H. It is a very community-minded company.”

Stephanie says 4-H helped her career by giving her confidence, life skills, leadership qualities, and life-long friendships. It also helped in getting her name out there in the community.

“What I have enjoyed the most is the process of 4-H,” says Stephanie. “I started out so young and received help from older members, and over the years I saw myself transition into one of the older members that helped the younger ones.”

Even after graduating from 4-H, Stephanie remains connected and active in the 4-H community with three siblings and two cousins as members, and her mom as a volunteer and leader. Today, Stephanie is in her second year of volunteering and is looking forward to leading her first club this spring with one of her co-workers – also a 4-H volunteer. The club is called “Girl’s Night Out” and teaches young girls about self-esteem, confidence, the importance of healthy eating, as well as body and hair care.

A 4-H exchange 24 years later

Submitted by Dorothy Shier, Durham West

In 1989 Ontario Durham West 4-H had an exchange with Saskatchewan Wood Mountain 4-H. Dorothy Shier was the chaperone for Durham West. Her daughter Karen Shier, participated in the exchange.

Karen stayed with Darcy, Loretta and their son Crag Smith. The Smiths farmed their ranch, raising Hereford cattle, which their family showed in their local 4-H club.

Darcy, Loretta, Dorothy and her husband Keith were all 4-H members and leaders, with their families completing many years in 4-H. Some also went on to become leaders, and now their grandchildren are 4-H members too.

Over the years the families kept in touch, and the Shiers travelled west to visit the Wood Mountain 4-H Club at their Achievement Day. They also exchanged letters and pictures at Christmas, telephone calls and emails.

In Sept 2013 Loretta and Darcy decided to come to Ontario to stay with Dorothy and Keith. Keith and Dorothy’s granddaughter Kelly Crawford is a member of the Simcoe North 4-H Beef Club. Keith and Dorothy took Darcy and Loretta to see Kelly’s Achievement Day and Kelly’s leader Kevin Moore, had a contest for all alumni members to participate in. Seeing as 2013 was Canada’s 100th Anniversary, Kevin wanted all of the alumni to show a beef animal at the end of the Achievement Day. Darcy and Keith took up the challenge and a great time was had by all!

From l-r: Dorothy, Karen and Keith Shier, Darcy and Loretta Smith

Alumni Focus: Roger Pommainville

By Ryan Métivier

Roger Pommainville had a unique 4-H experience growing up in Russell County, being a part of what was one of, if not the only Cucumber Club in Ontario. With several cucumber growers nearby with contracts with Bick’s Pickles in Montreal, there were two sorting stations in the area for pickle companies. Many of these growers were involved with a lot of small producers.

“As in any other crop club, we learned how to grow cucumbers as well as visiting the grading station for Bick’s Pickles which was installed in Limoges and other growers,” says Roger.

Members also learned how to present an exhibit of around 10 mid-size cucumbers for uniformity, size and healthiness of the specimens. One of Roger’s fondest memories was winning the trophy for his exhibit in 1966, which was awarded by Bick’s.

In addition to being a member of the Cucumber Club, he was also a member of dairy and crops clubs.

Roger spent his time in 4-H during the 1960’s in a variety of roles, being involved as a secretary, news reporter and president. But his time with the 4-H program didn’t end there as he returned in the late 80’s and 90’s as a volunteer leader for his own children once they joined in Prescott County. During this time he was also a part of the Prescott County Leader’s Association. Roger was also involved as an instructor from 1972-78, when he became an Assistant Ag Rep in Russell County with OMAF–back when Ag Reps were in charge of the 4-H clubs and were the main instructors.

Roger credits the 4-H program for teaching him the skills needed for working in teams and groups, as well as helping to prepare him to give public presentations during judging, as well as meetings and leadership trainings.

“The skills learned in 4-H helped me in all the different positions I held in my life,” he says.

Roger’s life outside of 4-H has included positions as a Communications Officer with Ag Canada at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, teaching an agricultural co-op program to high school students, work in OMAFRA as a milk quality and community advisor, and his current role as an interpreter at the Civilization Museum in Gatineau. He was also involved in organizing three French leadership camps held at the Alfred College from 1996 to 1999.


Looking back at years of 4-H memories

Submitted By Ann Heinmiller (Uhler)

I grew up on a farm in Huron County, and hearing the stories of 4-H from my dad, couldn’t wait to turn 12 to be able to start my first club.

I still remember my first meeting, Adventures in the Great Outdoors. I was hooked from day one. In all, I took 19 different clubs ranging from cooking, to knitting, and etiquette to vet club. But for me, it wasn’t just the clubs, it was the extra opportunities that 4-H had to offer me.

At 15 I attended Member’s Conference, which at that time was held at Centralia. There I got to meet people from other counties, some of who I recognized from high school, but didn’t know until camp. The last night there was the first all-nighter that I pulled! I was exhausted by the time I got home, but knew I wanted to keep participating in 4-H.

As soon as I was old enough, I went to the the Provincial 4-H Camp. It rained the first couple of days, but it didn’t dampen my spirits. The people I met were people like me, from a farm background, and anxious to try new things and meet new people. We did so much that week it went by in a blur, but I remember how much fun I had, and not being able to stop talking about.

As I got older, other opportunities through 4-H became available to me. I participated in Go For The Gold at the local level and I went to Future Talk weekend, where we worked on presentation skills that would help us in our future endeavours. This was also the weekend that made me want to go the University of Guelph. As Future Talk was meant for senior members, the majority of the delegates were either at U of G, or planning to go. I knew then that was the school I was going to, which I did.

From Future Talk, I was invited to Selections Weekend. Throughout the weekend we had to do a presentation about our county, impromptu speaking, a quiz and an interview, all skills that have benefitted me in my adult life. I was fortunate enough to be selected to attend the National 4-H Conference in Ottawa in the spring of 1995 and what a unique opportunity it was to be able to meet top 4-Her’s from across Canada.

Lucky for me, my 4-H career didn’t end there. In the summer of 1998, I was a summer intern for 4-H. I spent the summer working at the OMAFRA office in Guelph where I updated 4-H manuals and got to attend a 4-H Member’s Conference as a leader. I felt it was my way to give back to a program that had given me so much.

Today when I look back at my years at 4-H, I could never of imagined the skills and opportunities it gave me. 4-H gave me the confidence to try new things and meet new people. It allowed me to practice my presentation skills and interview skills, which as a teacher has been invaluable to me. Thank you 4-H for all you have given me.

Huron claims Go For The Gold glory

By Ryan Métivier

On Saturday, November 2, participants from across all six 4-H Ontario regions descended upon the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair to compete in the 2013 Go For The Gold Provincial Championships, sponsored by Ontario Mutuals.

Go For The Gold is a trivia competition that gives 4-H’rs a chance to learn many new facts and compete amongst their peers.

After five preliminary rounds of competition, Region 4 – Halton and Region 5 – Huron, came up head-to-head in the championship game, with Huron taking the title by a narrow 165-155 margin. In a match that was fairly even for most of the game, Huron gradually increased their lead in the latter stages of the game, before a late comeback from Halton fell just short.

Region 4 - Halton

The Region 5 champions included Jeanette Schramm, Jolande Oudshoorn, Melissa Higgins, Reba Jefferson and Alternate Kate Higgins. The team was coached by Mary Ellen Foran and Marita Oudshoorn.

The team is made up of several family members and neighbours, and the girls are all a part of the Wawanosh Life Skills Club.

Team Captain Melissa Higgins, said her education in the Agriculture Program at the University of Guelph helped in quite a bit in her preparations, but the team also divided up the books and used a “divide and conquer” method to prepare.

“This morning we were feeding each other fun facts and because of that, we did get a Who Am I question right on the first try,” she said when asked about last-minute competition strategies.

In a tight final, Huron edged out Halton by a 165-155 score.

“It’s a really exciting competition and it’s just really fun to get involved with something with other 4-H people,” said Schramm. “You meet people from all across the province.”

Though the team from Huron County amassed an impressive average of over 200 points per game, the competition didn’t come without its challenges.

“The pop-ups are nerve racking, and the snappers,” said Jefferson. “Just cause it’s at the end of the game and true and false is hard. It’s 50/50, but it’s hard.”

“It feels good to win. Sort of makes you feel like a rock star in the 4-H world,” said Higgins.

“I’m super excited because my roommate was on the Region 6 team and I beat her. So now I can hang my winning ribbon on my doorway,” laughed Jefferson.

The teams in competition included Sudbury (Region 1), Carleton (Region 2), Prince Edward (Region 3), Halton (Region 4), Huron (Region 5) and Oxford (Region 6).

“We’re really proud of the team and all of the work they’ve put in over the past few months to prepare for the competition,” said Head Coach Foran.

In order for teams to participate at the Provincial Go For The Gold competition they must have competed at and won their local and regional levels. This weekend’s competition presented the ultimate challenge to members by testing their skills and understanding of 4-H project material as well as general knowledge of 4-H, agriculture, food, nutrition and current events.

“4-H is all about building skills and learning to do by doing and I’ve heard stories about obstacles and surprises and every team has fought through those to get here and have this experience today,” said Debra Brown, Executive Director, 4-H Ontario. “I hope you take many good memories of your experience today, and congratulations to everyone for all that you’ve learned and accomplished.”

For more Go For The Gold coverage check out our Youtube Channel for a video covering the event and interviews with our winners here!

Region 5 - Huron GFTG Champions. From left - right: Head Coach Mary Ellen Foran, Reba Jefferson, Jolande Oudshoorn, Melissa Higgins, Jeanette Schramm, Alternate Kate Higgins, Assistant Coach Marita Oudshoorn.



A life-changing 4-H experience

By Ryan Métivier

If you asked Karen Coutts as a child if she would one day be competing in national public speaking competitions, emceeing large events and mentoring aspiring writers and editors, she likely may have laughed at you – or maybe not.

A self-proclaimed shy kid who wasn’t confident speaking up in social settings, that slowly began to change as she became involved in many 4-H clubs. She got an early taste of 4-H while helping her mom who was a leader with a few projects before she officially joined herself in 1984 at age 12 and went on to complete 37 projects over the next six years.

“I emceed my first Achievement Night before I turned 12, because no one else in my club wanted to use the microphone,” she says. “Being part of a small club of four to eight members meant that everyone had a role to play on the executive. And when the group is that small, you know everyone, so speaking up became easier and my confidence started to grow.”

Coutts was also a leader in the Bruce County 4-H Association for seven years, serving as president for two, and association rep for five.

Delivering a Clear Writing Workshop to a group of senior managers in a local municipality

“The first time I attended a Bruce County 4-H Youth Council meeting, I brought some younger members with me from my club,” she says. “I didn’t realize that it was election day, and since I was the only person they knew, I ended up as president.”

It was these sort of out-of-club activities which also included the Regional Conference (now YAC), Future Talk and PLC, that helped her develop a new circle of friends outside of her school.

“I finally had a chance to be the me that I really wanted to be.”

Skills like how to speak in public, how to run a meeting, how to meet new people and how to have confidence in your decisions even when others disagreed with you, were all skills she didn’t even realize she was learning in 4-H, but found most helpful in pursuing and succeeding in her future goals.

Coutts has worked in many industries since, plus been heavily involved in her community with Girl Guides of Canada, local agricultural societies, and Kin Canada.

Karen displaying her Founder’s Achievement and Outstanding Zone Awards. Photo originally printed in the Walkerton Herald-Times in June 2012. Photo by Lindsay Kuglin.

As the Deputy Governor at Kin Canada for two years, she’s twice received the Outstanding Zone Award at the district and national levels. Currently, she acts as the Secretary for District One, which serves around 1,500 members, as well as being a member of the National Kin Education committee. One of her most memorable moments came in 2011 competing in the National Public Speaking Competition. Coutts took home first place at the club, zone and district levels, while claiming second nationally – all with a speech she wrote about the skills learned in 4-H.

“Seeing many fellow Kin from across the country reciting the 4-H Pledge with me was one of my favourite experiences ever,” she adds.

Her proudest accomplishment though, may be receiving in six years, what often takes Kin members 15 years to earn, the Founders Award of Achievement in 2011 for her work with Kin Canada.

Outside of her work in Kin, Coutts also holds the distinction of being recognized by the Learning Networks of Ontario as a Clear Writing Consultant and being one of only six people in the province who’s qualified to mentor people trying to become recognized as Clear Writing facilitators or editors. This stems from her role sitting on the Provincial Clear Writing Steering Committee.

Coutts is confident that 4-H has truly changed her life and has played a major role in shaping her career success.

“You never know until you try, and you’ll always be able to Learn to Do by Doing.”

Leading in the Malwood 4-H Photography Club (2004)

Coutts along with fellow members of the National Kin Education Committee

4-H is a family affair for Jim Jenkins

By Ryan Métivier

It was 1960 when Jim Jenkins first joined the 4-H calf club. Today he attributes much of his career success to these early years in 4-H. He has also seen nearly his whole family become involved along the way, including his uncle, all three siblings and their spouses, both daughters, and all of his nieces and nephews – two of whom are now leaders themselves.

A member of the Belmont Calf Club for seven years, Jenkins also joined the Elgin County Swine Club for three years. After graduating from 4-H, he worked for a year with the Ministry of Agriculture, before returning to 4-H as a leader for the next 13 years.

Image Courtesy of the Elgin County Archives

Jenkins was a leader in his county, part of the 4-H Leader’s Association and active in Junior Farmers where he was Executive Director for several years. He won an OMAF-sponsored travelling scholarship for four Ontario Junior Farmer members to do an exchange with Young Farmers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. It was an honour that his brother Dave and one sister Jean also won.

An active member in the Holstein Club, Jim was also an official judge for several years.

“I was passionate about genetics and Holstein cattle, and judging was something I really enjoyed,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins and a fellow member used to attend the Ontario 4-H Judging Competition at the University of Guelph, and won the Ontario Judging Championship.

Judging, giving your reasons and showing were all things Jenkins loved, but what he later saw was that all of these things were helping him to develop other skills that he didn’t even realize at the time.

“4-H allowed me to work on committees with people who weren’t in my school and this expanded your horizons,” he says. “By working with various people on committees, I learned about parliamentary procedure.”

Parliamentary procedure would prove to be a useful skill, for Jenkins’ current role, as Deputy Mayor for Malahide Township, to which he was elected three years ago. The position also helped him become a part of the Elgin County council.

“When you’re judging a class of cows, your first instruction is to stand back and take a look at the whole class as they parade in front of you. This is sort of a connection to working with a municipality,” says Jenkins. “You have to take a look at the big picture first, rather than just the small item, where changing that may impact other items in a negative way because there may be consequences that you don’t see.”

Jim Jenkins as Deputy Mayor of Malahide Township

A retired dairy farmer since July 2011 who was milking 100 cows, Jenkins has had other career success along the way, including being the Past President of Western Ontario Breeders, Past Chairman of Ontario DHI and working for OMAFRA.

Today Jenkins counts many people in his life as those he’s met through 4-H or who have 4-H connections, including four of the nine members of his county council who are former 4-H members.

“Some 4-H members I started off with are now neighbours. Some have moved away, but I’m involved in a church committee with a fellow who was my former 4-H leader and I curl with my other former 4-H leader. All of my family are 4-H leaders and my sister Nancy has been a 4-H volunteer for close to 30 years. It’s just part of our life.”


Dream getaway for 4-H winner

By Ryan Metivier

This year’s 4-H Ontario Dream Dinner Lottery winners have begun their travels across Canada and are now sharing the stories of their adventures.

The Dream Dinner Lottery generates proceeds that go towards supporting 4-H Ontario’s Conference and Annual Meeting, Volunteer Symposiums, and resource development. For $100 per ticket, entrants have a chance to win a variety of trips and dinners around Ontario and Canada.

For second place winner, Lynn Clelland, a 4-H volunteer, that meant taking a trip to Whitehorse, YT with her husband Ian.

Lynn’s prize consisted of dinner for two anywhere in Canada including two return economy air tickets, two nights accommodation in a deluxe hotel all taxes and service included and a car rental.

A third-time contest entrant, Lynn was thrilled to come away with one of the prizes in this year’s lottery.

“My husband and I travelled to Whitehorse and then to Haines Junction which is one and a half hours west to help my cousin celebrate his 60th birthday,” she said.

During their trip, they were able to visit with her cousin and his siblings, before flying to Vancouver to meet Lynn’s best friend and her husband in Sechelt on the west coast, where they ferried over to Lund for dinner.

At the Laughing Oyster in Lund. L-R: Ian, Lynn, Marlene and Louis celebrating their anniversaries with a Dream Dinner thanks to 4-H Ontario.

“There is a restaurant called the Laughing Oyster, which has the most marvelous buffet served overlooking the water with the mountains in the background, where we celebrated our wedding anniversaries, which were a week apart.”

“The arrangements made by Worldwide Central Travel in Waterloo were great,” added Lynn. “The trip was smooth the whole way, including perfect weather and seeing family and friends was the highlight; along with the food.”