Giving Back To Today’s Youth

By: Ryan Métivier

The TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic is a longstanding event at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, with many enthusiastic participants competing each year. Interestingly, this event came to fruition in part because of the efforts of 4-H alumnus John Mayes.

In the mid-1970s, Mayes agreed to initially fund the project, while supporting Bertram Stewart and Bill Edelstein to get the initiative going. The show originated as the Hays 4-H Classic.

“I thought that it was a great opportunity for dairy
4-H members from across the country to interact on our most important dairy cattle show stage in Canada,” says Mayes.

Being able to see his son participate in the event in the 1990s made the event even that much more special.

Mayes is a big proponent of involving youth in meaningful activities where they can interact constructively and strive to achieve through their own efforts, so it came quite naturally for him to have a hand in setting up the Classic.

“It has been a lifelong passion of mine to help young people in agriculture or business to set goals and achieve them. Whether it’s training a calf to lead or starting your own business, important life lessons are created,” he says.

Mayes was a member in 4-H in the late 1950s and early 1960s in South Simcoe County, completing his clubs in Cookstown. His clubs spanned a wide range of interests including 15 clubs in beef, swine, grain and displays (demonstrations). He also attended 4-H Leadership Camp to represent South Simcoe.

Though Mayes’ 4-H club participation was interrupted when he went to the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) for two years, he was quickly back with 4-H as a Summer Assistant Agricultural Representative with OMAF, where he was responsible for coordinating the 4-H programs in Norfolk County and South Simcoe during the summer. His responsibilities included supporting club leaders in meetings, conducting project visits and assisting with the County Judging Competition and Achievement Days.

Upon completing his Masters in Business, Mayes joined CIBC in 1972 as the first Agricultural Specialist for the bank in Ontario. He was tasked with assessing farming businesses on site and providing advice to the bank and his clients.

Throughout his 38-year career with CIBC, Mayes developed the Bank’s Professional Edge program for dentists and doctors. He managed a group of 30 branches with nearly 500 employees on the western side of Toronto. At the time of his retirement he was responsible for building an automated credit scoring model that complied with Basel Accord on risk management.

In keeping with Mayes’ love of supporting youth, he is proud to have been a part of supporting the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs (ACE). With chapters at university campuses across Canada, they encouraged young people to start their own businesses while still in school. Mayes would go on to be a director with ACE for a number of years.

Mayes’ time in 4-H taught him the importance of self-reliance and hard work and are attributes he firmly believes helped him in his career.

“Working cooperatively with others and public speaking were important skills I developed working on 4-H display projects and at Leadership Camp,” he says. “Some of the friendships I developed during 4-H have lasted a lifetime.”

Now retired, Mayes has kept busy by becoming a mentor for the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, helping young people to start their own businesses. These efforts were recognized in 2012 with a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.

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