Discovery Days 2012

If you’ve been following 4-H Folklore since it launched in February, then you already know what Discovery Days is all about, but, we have a new perspective to share with you; Discovery Days from a facilitators point of view. If you aren’t familiar with Discovery Days, this post will be helpful for you as well because it provides a some great information about the camp.

My Discovery Days Experience
By Julia Romagnoli

On Saturday, June 16, 2012 I had the opportunity to attend my first ever Discovery Days in Orangeville. Discovery Days provides 4-H and non-4-H Members ages 9-12 with a window into what the 4-H program has to offer. As a 4-H Ontario Ambassador, I was very excited to facilitate at this event as I never had the chance to participate in a Discovery Days during my earlier years as a 4-H Member.

Creating checkers boards
Discovery Day participants create checker boards

I thoroughly enjoyed running the craft and snack station where participants had the opportunity to create their very own checkerboard game as well as make tasty ice-cream cone treats. Other stations included Go For The Gold, team building activities, judging and a hands-on activity.

Science experiments
Discovery Days science experiments

The highlight of the day for me was running games in the Great 4-H Olympics and having the opportunity to speak with the participants about my role as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador. Fellow Ambassador, Jennifer Pollock, and I also had the chance to speak about various opportunities available to 4-H Members, ranging from Club projects to national exchanges.

Crafting t-shirts
Hand crafted Discovery Days t-shirts

Though I may have missed out on this event as a participant, I encourage you to attend if you are eligible! Or volunteer as a facilitator like I did. It truly is a great way to make friends and discover 4-H! So keep your eyes peeled for when Discovery Days comes to your area next summer!

Discovery Days is sponsored by Ontario Cattlemen’s Association.  Thanks OCA!

Believing In A Dream

The story I’m sharing this week is one that reminds me why story sharing is so important. We often focus too much on facts, and not the amazing experiences and moments that make those facts important. Today, I’m sharing the story of Justin Parish and the memorial bursary created in his name. Yes deadlines, application processes, and recipient names are important, but knowing why the bursary was set up is sometimes the more difficult and always the more important part of the puzzle.

In 2011 Justin’s parents, Connie and Robin, came to the 4-H Ontario staff asking for help to set up the Justin Parish Memorial Bursary. Justin was a Durham-West 4-H Dairy Club Member and for him, Learn To Do By Doing wasn’t just something that happened at a Club meeting, it was a way of life. Justin was illiterate and the hands-on learning approach of 4-H gave him a venue to showcase and build upon his unique skill-set. Justin was adopted from a desperate situation and his parents were truly unsure of what his future would hold, but farm life enabled Justin to excel. The family farm in Woodville, Ontario, gave Justin a great focus. He learned his tasks and did them exceptionally well. Yes, he couldn’t read or write, but he was very capable. Since a young age he showed a strong interest in and passion for cows. Justin was a true animal lover. Living on a farm was the perfect situation for him.

His strong animal sense gave way to a natural fit with 4-H. He tried leading calves for the first time when he was 11 or so, and was an active 4-H Member from 2003 – 2007 in the Durham West 4-H Dairy Club. His dedicated Leaders took time to teach him, but much of his learning happened simply by watching others in the Club. “As parents running a dairy farm you are often too busy to explain everything in detail, but through 4-H and what he learned, he really excelled,” Robin explains.

4-H gave Justin the outlet to do what he loved, experience new things, learn, and interact with others. He didn’t drive, and was unable to do a lot of things, so 4-H gave him a great opportunity to get off the farm and interact with others. 4-H also enabled Justin to focus on something he loved: clipping. Justin spent a lot of time clipping cattle on the farm, and he also clipped other 4-H’rs calves at shows. “He was very giving. He would much rather give than receive,” Robin notes.

Justin aspired to go to the Royal and compete in the Scotiabank Hays Classic (now the TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic). Justin did visit the Royal with his family to watch but he didn’t get there by accomplishment. The competition for the Scotiabank Hays Classic was tough and Justin’s just wasn’t able to go and compete on his own. When Justin passed away suddenly in April 2010, the family wanted to do something important in his honour and 4-H came to mind. His dream of competing at the Royal was one they wanted to support in other 4-H Members.

“It seemed natural to try and extend his love for what he did, to give the opportunity to someone else,” explains Robin. The Justin Parish Memorial Bursary of $500 is available annually to enable one 4-H Ontario dairy Club Member to attend the RAWF for the very first time. “We wanted to give a dedicated 4-H’r the chance to attend the Royal, one that wouldn’t otherwise get to go. That’s why it is so important the bursary recipient is chosen after the Royal teams have been selected,” explains Robin. Recipients of the bursary are chosen on their passion and dedication.

The bursary enables a deserving 4-H Member to experience the indescribable moment of walking into the Royal for the very first time. “If the experience of attending the Royal even adds the slightest impact on the recipients to go on with through their lives it will all be worth it. That kind of experience can have an impact to give youth an initiative that will stay with them for the rest of their life,” says Robin.


I’ve come to the realization that although I wanted to, I won’t ever know all of Justin’s 4-H story. I will only know parts and pieces, but those parts and pieces make the bursary more important to me. I know the deadlines, application process and recipient names, but I also know why the bursary has such an impact. I know the bursary is celebrating Justin and the importance of not only reaching for your own dreams, but also encouraging others to reach for theirs.

The nomination deadline for this year’s bursary is September 15. Click here to read more on eligibility and submission.

Region 4 Go For The Gold Competition

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Region 4 Go For The Gold Competition.  Go For The Gold (GFTG) is a competition where teams from 4-H Clubs compete in trivia-style games answering multiple choice, true or false, and short answer questions based on a variety of 4-H project manuals. Winners of the local competitions then move on to represent their Association at a competition between 4-H Regions and then at the provincial level. The competition I got to attend was between the Associations of Region 4. It was certainly entertaining, even funny at times, and I was glad to have been there. Read more about the competition below!

The Region 4 competition took place in Fergus, Ontario, with six teams representing Hamilton-Wentworth, Brant, Haldimand, Halton, Wellington and North Simcoe 4-H Associations. Most of the teams arrived at 9 a.m. with their coaches and were dressed in matching team colours.  The games started at 9:30 a.m. and ran until 3:30 p.m. with a break for a pizza and ice cream sundae lunch around noon.

Most of the attendees are return competitors that keep joining teams GFTG year after year for a variety of reasons.  The North Simcoe team says they like GFTG events because they are competitive, while the Halton team enjoys the events because it gives them a chance to learn things about different Clubs.  Everyone seems to have fun at these events and anticipate each competition, especially the Wellington team who joked, “We look forward to the free lunch”.

Halton Team
The Halton Team enjoying their ice cream sundaes

The competitors aren’t the only ones who have fun. Some of the questions and responses had the audience laughing along with the judges and coaches. Coaches travel with the teams to provide mentoring, pep talks, and to keep track of the scores. “We come to keep a positive vibe going in the team,” Raymond Wilson, coach of the Hamilton-Wentworth team, explains.  Carol Pollock, one of the co-coaches for the Wellington team, explains, “I get a satisfaction in hearing our team answer the questions correctly. Just to know that they learned something and retained that knowledge and now are using it in the games. It’s a good feeling”.

It’s a friendly game and gives Members a chance to learn a bit about other Clubs and meet and interact with people from different counties.

4-H Ambassador Samantha Klaver was also at the Region 4 Go For The Gold competition. Samantha was asked to attend the event as a 4-H representative and help keep score for some of the games. Samantha has competed in Go For The Gold competitions for several years and helped with the Huron and Perth Association competitions earlier this summer as well. “I think these competitions are great because it’s a friendly game and gives Members a chance to learn a bit about other Clubs and meet and interact with people from different counties,” she explains.

Ambassador Samantha Klaver
4-H Ambassador Samantha Klaven keeping score

After four rounds of games, the final match came down to two closely scored teams: Haldimand and Wellington. After a close match, with both teams quick to hit their buzzers, the Haldimand county team eventually won. The Haldimand team, an all-family team comprised of four siblings and one cousin joke that they might have had an advantage going into this competition. “Because we are all related and have been around each other for so long we know how each of us thinks and which of us knows what. We also push each other to do better and are supportive of one another at the competitions,” one of the team Members, Nicole Huitema, explains. In preparing for the competition the team, also knows as the Huitema family, had a unique approach. “We would study together, each of us taking two or three of the manuals to study. That way, between the five of us, we covered everything,” another team Member, Stephanie Huitema, explains. After all their hard work, the win was well deserved. The Haldimand team will go on to represent Region 4 at the provincial competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in November. Click here to see more photos!

Haldimand, the winning team
The Haldimand team, the winners

4-H Dairy Invitational the “Best One-day Show Possible”

The 10th annual BRITESPAN 4-H Dairy Invitational Show took place on August 6th in Lucknow, Ontario.  This year’s show was another success with 144 exhibitors competing and the stands full with spectators. The show was sponsored once again by BRITESPAN Building Systems, a local company that sells rapidly installed, versatile cover-all buildings, including dairy cow pens and stalls.  I was glad to have the opportunity to attend the show and learn from the competitors and organizers. A lot of energy goes into this one-day event. Read all about the event, and why it is such a great experience, below!

The show started in 2003 when seven organizers decided they wanted to start up a local 4-H dairy show in Lucknow. Their goal was to have a one-day show with all the grandeur and excitement of bigger shows that usually last two or three days. They recruited the help of Diamond Show sponsor Ben and Jenny Hogervorst, owners of Cover-All Building Systems (now BRITESPAN Building Systems) who were more than happy to help. The first show took place the following August with 47 exhibitors and has been growing ever since. Over the last ten years, each year the show has stayed true to the original mission of being “the best one-day show possible where every 4-H Member was glad to have been there”.

Exhibitors lining up before entering the ring
Exhibitors lining up before entering the ring

This year, the show had exhibitors from 14 different counties, some competitors driving three hours to attend. Two friends, Greg Fuller and Matthew Finch, from Dorchester area, got up at 3 a.m. in order to load their calves and be on the road in time to show. Greg and Matthew agree that the early morning was worth it. “There is a big hurry to get everyone ready and then pressure to perform well in the show. It can be stressful but it’s a rush – a good rush,” Matthew explains. The general consensus among exhibitors is that the show is both a great learning experience and a fun event. Landon Smith, a Perth 4-H Member, certainly enjoys the show. “I have lots of friends who show dairy cows, so the show is a bit of a social event for me, and I like competing,” he explains.

The best one-day show possible where everyone was glad to have been there.

The show provides a learning experience that goes beyond just getting the chance to show. “The local Lucknow Dairy Club is involved in the setting up and the clean up of the whole show.  So they are learning a little about volunteering and organizing. Often some of the Members continue to help out with the show after their 4-H years are completed,” one of the show organizers, Perry Van Osch explains. The show organizers invite an official judge each year that has strong showmanship skills to judge the competition. This judge takes the time to speak with each of the exhibitors on what they can do to improve next time they go into the ring. The show takes place early in the show season to provide feedback to 4-H Members. This gives them a chance to build on their skills so they can become stronger competitors later in the season.

One exhibitor with her project heifer
One exhibitor poses with her project heifer

This year the judge was Bruce Sayles. Andrew Den Haan acted as ringman keeping the cows in line and lending a hand to some of the younger competitors when needed. Announcer Glen McNeil, President of Holstein Canada, entertained the spectators with general information and comments about the show, interviews with show supporters, and draws. Ben Hogervorst, owner of BRITESPAN, and Kelly Thompson, BRITESPAN marketing manager, also attended the show.

The Grand Champion Showperson was Linda Franken of Huron 4-H Association, Reserve Champion Showperson was Travis Canning of Wellington 4-H, and Honourable Mention went to Chris Stevens of Lambton 4-H Association. Grand Champion Heifer went to Darlene Lobb of Huron 4-H Association, Reserve Champion Heifer went to Travis Canning and Honourable Mention to Linda Franken.

Two competitors in their show outfits
Two competitors in their whites

All in all it was a good day for everyone. “The committee just wanted to put on a good quality 4-H show and have been blown away with the results of the numbers attending, the feedback and the number of counties that have been represented to this date,” Perry explains.  With yet another successful show finished and all exhibitors having learned something new, I think its sufficient to say that the 10th annual BRITESPAN 4-H Dairy Invitational Show was an excellent event! Click to view more photos from the show.

A 4-H Head Start with Clover Buds

If you have young kids who are anxious to join in on the 4-H fun, they you may have heard about the Clover Bud program. This program is still in the pilot stage and is being tested in certain locations before it is offered as an option across Ontario. I was given the chance to chat with April Sloan and Dawn Dolson, Clover Bud Leaders, about the program, their experiences, why they think the program is a great idea and expectations for the future. Read all about it below!

The Clover Bud program is a pilot 4-H program for children ages six to eight years old who think that they may join 4-H one day. This pilot program is run in a similar fashion to actual 4-H Clubs, complete with weekly 4-H meetings, tours and activities. The main difference is that in this program, each meeting is based on a different 4-H Club. “It is done this way so that the kids have an understanding of how 4-H operates and what each of the Clubs is like,” Dawn explains. The program offers youngsters a chance to get their toes wet with 4-H and decide which Clubs they might like to join in the future.

Clover Bud Photo
Clover Bud “All About Me” meeting

Each meeting begins with saying the 4-H Pledge and roll call. Then the group does activities based on the unit they are covering.  One of the units April’s Clover Bud group did was on dairy. “The kids got to tour a dairy farm, see a milking machine and how it works, feel the suction power, and even feed a calf. It is all very hands-on learning,” she explains. After the unit-related activities, the group may do a craft followed by a snack. The group then recites the 4-H motto and the meeting concludes. “A lot of the materials and activities used in the Clover Bud meetings are based on what is actually done in 4-H Clubs, so we know it has worked before and that the kids are going to learn something useful,” explains April. “Occasionally we’ll come across something that isn’t challenging enough or is too challenging for this age group, so we alter it a bit to make it more appropriate. Everything has worked well so far.” The children involved also seem to be enjoying the meetings. “We can tell when a unit we cover during the meetings is a success because the kids leave happy and have learned something,” Dawn explains.

 It really lays the groundwork so they go into 4-H understanding what it is about and what to expect.

You might think that holding the attention of a group of six to eight year olds for two hours each week would be a challenge, but April claims otherwise. “It is actually less challenging than running a normal 4-H Club, the kids are just so excited to be doing something new and to learn about the topics and participate. It makes planning the meetings really easy a fun,” she explains. The biggest challenge Clover Bud Leaders face is actually finding more Volunteers to help out at the meetings. April was lucky to have one of the mothers of a Clover Bud stay and help out at meetings. However, Dawn and April have both found themselves challenged to meet each child’s needs during the meetings.  It’s not hard to imagine that with a large group of excited six to eight years old, you might want an extra helping hand or two.

Clover Buds Baking
Clover Buds do some baking

Dawn, from Wellington 4-H Association, has been a 4-H Volunteer for 22 years while April, from Grenville, has been a Volunteer for 11 years. They both heard about the program through 4-H publications and volunteered to run the pilot programs in their areas.  Dawn and April are both mothers of young children and, after having led Clover Bud programs, they are both excited for the day when their young ones are old enough to become Clover Buds. “It just offers the children the opportunity to get involved and make friends and learn about all the Clubs,” explains Dawn. April adds, “It really lays the groundwork so that when they are old enough to become Members they go into 4-H understanding what it is about and what to expect, and so far the kids really seem to love it.”

Clover Bud feeds a calf
Clover Buds got to feed some dairy calves

The Clover Bud program is still in the pilot stage, meaning that it is only being run in certain locations. It is being tested and evaluated with the hopes of launching the full program as an option for Volunteers in 2013.

Clover Buds doing a workbook activity
Clover Buds doing a bookwork activity

To view the full Clover Buds album please click here >

4-H for Life!

Mel and Shirley Chamberlain are the lucky grand prize winners of the 4-H Ontario Dream Dinner Lottery (LOTTERY LICENSE #M644571 LICENSEE: ONTARIO 4-H COUNCIL). When I interviewed Mel about winning the grand prize I also learned about his interesting 4-H history including his career and how he met his wife, Shirley. Shirley also joined the conversation and took a couple minutes to add a few details to their tale. Read their story below, as they go from square dancing to world-travelling.


Mel and Shirley grew up in Peterborough County and were both 4-H Members from the time they were 12 until they turned 20, however, at the time they weren’t familiar with each other. “I believe that we were only ever in one Club together, a Grain Club in 1960,” Mel explains. “We met, but we didn’t really know each other, there is even a group photo of the Club from 1960 and we’re both in it,” adds Shirley. Mel and Shirley also both became 4-H Leaders. Shirley certainly had her hands full running up to five 4-H Clubs at once, including Veterinary Clubs, Bread Clubs, Life Skills Clubs and Horse Clubs.

After they left the local 4-H program, Mel and Shirley both moved out of the Peterborough area. Mel finished school and started working for the Ministry of Ontario Agriculture and Food in Wellington County, a career he says was jump-started by his 4-H involvement as a kid. “Essentially I was the 4-H Co-ordinator. Part of my job required working closely along side 4-H Leaders, so I guess you could say I was never too far from the program,” Mel explains. “With [Mel] being such a big part of 4-H, and me running so many Clubs, it’s really amazing that we hadn’t crossed paths at some point or another,” says Shirley. Mel and Shirley both met their spouses, married, and settled down, each having three children of their own; all six of them would later become 4-H Members as well. Years later, after both of their respective spouses had passed away, Mel and Shirley met once again while square dancing. “We decided to be square-dancing partners,” Shirley explains, “and we still square dance together today.”  Mel and Shirley have been married for two years and live in the quiet community of Markdale, Ontario.

There is no doubt in my mind that 4-H is the most important activity I have ever done, it has directed my career and my life

Both retired from their 4-H involvement, Mel and Shirley are still avid supporters of the program. “We still attend the 4-H shows that go on at the local fairs, and we like to make donation here and there,” Mel explains. In fact, one of the ways that Mel and Shirley donate to 4-H is by buying a Dream Dinner Lottery ticket, a donation they have made since the lottery first started. Lucky for them, this year Mel and Shirly were the grand prize winners claiming the prize of “Dinner for Two Anywhere In the World”.

Mel and Shirley Chamberlain
Mel and Shirley Chamberlain of Markdale, Ontario

When Mel looks back on his 4-H history, he remembers many, many good times. “4-H played such a big part in my life,” he explains. “There is no doubt in my mind that 4-H is the most important activity I have ever done, it has directed my career and my life.”

While Mel and Shirley both like to travel throughout the year, they have not yet decided where in the world they wish to celebrate winning the grand prize and have their “Dream Dinner”. With all of their hard work, support and contributions to the 4-H community in the past, these two are both very deserving recipients of the prize. Congratulations Mel and Shirley, and all the best in the future!

Share Your 4-H Story4-H Ontario’s Alumni program is funded through a Promotional Partnership with Hyland Seeds, including the position of 4-H Ontario’s Coordinator, Alumni Services. Hyland Seeds is passionate about agriculture and believes in supporting the people who are deeply rooted in the agricultural industry; dedication to 4-H is proof of this commitment. Thank you Hyland Seeds!