My Rich History with 4-H

I love hearing and reading 4-H Ontario Alumni stories. It’s amazing to learn about the rich history of the 4-H program straight from the Alumni themselves. I find it extremely interesting to see how the program has evolved over the years to shape in to what it is today. Even though some of the activities have changed, there is one constant that always remains: The values of head, heart, hands and health, as well as “Learn To Do By Doing”. No matter the generation, every 4-H’r I have spoken with always shares that these values have impacted them, or shaped their lives in some way; it is truly amazing. Thank you to all the 4-H Alumni who are sharing their story. Myself, and many others, love to hear about your experiences with 4-H.

My Rich History with 4-H
By Joan – A Temiskaming 4-H Alumnus

When I was 12 I joined my first homemaking Club in Temiskaming District. For the next 10 years I was involved in the 4-H program completing many units. In 1951, I received my County Honours and then in 1956 my provincial Honours. These awards were so special.

Another very special award was given to me. It was a trip to the University of Guelph to attend the first Girls’ Conference for 4-H Homemaking Club Members. It was held June 22−25, 1954.

Miss Laura Phippen was our home economist. She arranged for all the girls from her districts to meet her in Toronto as we had all travelled by train. After meeting us at Union Station in Toronto, she took us to Niagara Falls to see the sights and have a ride on the Maid of the Mist. We became aquainted with a few before we met many other 4-H Club Members from most counties and districts the next day.

After we registered in MacDonald Hall, we were taken up the stairs to our rooms. Over the door, on one of the floors, I noticed a sign that said “If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here”. That idea stayed with me to this day.

Each session gave us so many ideas about how to become a better person in every aspect of our world; our home, Club, school and community. We were asked to take a look at ourselves.

Some ideas for us to consider, and how each may be achieved were:

  • How to become a valuable family member, friend and Club Member
  • How to be friendly, have poise, tact and a sense of humour
  • How to be enthusiastic, happy, pleasant and helpful
  • How to stay healthy

At the end of this amazing conference, I was asked if I would take part in a dialogue with two other delegates to prepare a radio broadcast for the CBC. It was very exciting!

58 years later brings us to 2012. I look back over those years and think of the leadership role in which I have participated. The seeds were planted in my mind back at that conference that led me to become an elementary teacher, 4-H Leader and community leader.
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!

My 4-H Achievement

If you’ve been following this blog regularly you’ve probably caught on to the trend that the 4-H experience is different for each and every 4-H’r. Every Member, Volunteer and Alumni has a certain experience that truly resonates with them and sticks out as a defining moment in their 4-H career, and this often expands to other facets of their life. For 4-H Member, Ben Smith, the 4-H experience that resonated with him was the ability to implement skills he learned from seven years of rabbit Clubs to save the life of his rabbit…twice. Thank you Ben for sharing your 4-H story.

My 4-H Achievement
By Ben Smith

I joined 4-H in 2005 when I was ten years old. I had just gotten a rabbit as a gift from a friend who was no longer able to take care of it and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. My older sister was already a Member of 4-H and told me about how I could learn more about taking care of rabbits by joining one of the Clubs. So I did. After the first meeting I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to learn how to do the crazy things that the Leaders had talked about, such as flipping it on its back for health examinations. I immediately rushed home and began trying to flip my rabbit, very awkwardly I might add. I struggled to get a hang of it but I was determined. That first year in 4-H opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities and skills that I could learn.

The next year I joined the Maple Syrup Club, along with the Rabbit Club, because it involved delicious treats. It was in that Club that I learned it would take 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup and how to identify the right maple trees by the colour and roughness of the bark. I learned how the Aboriginal peoples had originally made syrup in hollowed out logs with crude stone tools and was thankful that all I had to do was drill a hole into the tree.

As the years went on, I chose new and exciting Clubs to gain more skills. I joined the Photography Club and finally learned what all of the strange symbols on my camera meant. This Club revealed a new passion I had. I later pursued more photography classes in high school to expand the knowledge I had gained from that Club.

Another great leap for me was learning confidence while giving public speeches or talking to new faces. The judging competition held by our county was a great tool in that way. Learning to make opinions and judgements, and confidently sharing them with (to a large extent) complete strangers would become a valuable asset as I grew older and would begin to discover myself in high school. This confidence eventually landed me many roles in school plays, a position on the announcements team, and later the role as Prime Minister of my student council. These were opportunities that were greatly enhanced by the skills I learned in my early years in 4-H.

All the while, I stuck with the Rabbit Club, discovering a passion for rabbits and even receiving the half joke title of rabbit whisperer. After spending seven years with the Rabbit Club, I have gained a great knowledge of rabbit health which eventually lead to my greatest 4-H achievement; saving the life of one of my rabbits. A rabbit that had initially come to me as skin and bones and containing a botfly larvae had become a prize-winning rabbit at achievement days. I had nursed it back to health with knowledge that I learned from the Rabbit Club. But several years later she became very sick while pregnant and eventually aborted the pregnancy. I immediately called a vet, who was able to give her an antibiotic but said the chances of survival were slim. Slim was not good enough for me so I watched her and cared for her and gave her regular examinations in the same format as our showing procedure. A month later the vet returned for a separate reason but was amazed to find the rabbit alive and beginning to recover.

I learned a lot of new things in the last seven years and made many friends but my greatest achievement was the ability to save the life of a pet I loved.

Ben Smith is a senior 4-H Member who has been involved with the 4-H program for seven years. Ben has completed 12 Club projects including rabbit, leadership, miniature horse and maple syrup. He has held numerous executive positions in these Clubs including the role of President, Vice President and Secretary.