Serving Hands: Shelley Barfoot-O’Neill

Written by: Sara Harper

The 4-H Ontario Serving Hands feature is designed to celebrate the dedication of our amazing volunteers. We hope that these stories inspire you to share your 4-H story.

Shelley Barfoot O’Neill has been volunteering with 4-H Ontario for 25 years in Grey County. Her passion for 4-H stemmed from her participation as a member. She greatly enjoyed working with her calves, the friends she made across the province and country as well as the friendly rivalries that came about at shows. Her favourite club was Dairy for the simple joys of training, showing and the meetings. This joy continued when she became a volunteer as she now leads Dairy, Dairy Fitting, Dairy Judging, Sheep and Wiarton 150 Clubs. When asked why she chose to become a volunteer, Shelly said, “It was natural to want to do so as a third-generation volunteer, but to be honest I absolutely love it and can’t imagine not being a 4-H volunteer.”

For Shelley the most rewarding parts about being a 4-H Leader are, “… the warm feelings when I see shy quiet members blossom in the club, Brian [my husband] and I encourage and yes even push our members out of their comfort zone and it is so rewarding to see them blossom. Taking that one step further when they take a lead role in mentoring their club mates and then becoming volunteers themselves, it is an amazing feeling of pride.”

There are many reasons that Shelley feels that 4-H is important. The primary reason though is the life lessons that members (and volunteers alike) are able to develop to help them become better people, sometimes without even realizing it. Skills such as public speaking, meeting procedures and working with conflicting personalities (animals don’t always do what we want them to), being a good loser and a humble winner as well as team work are all skills that help them succeed in the real world. 4-H has made Shelley who she is today. She has learned “hard work, determination, [and] team work as a member. As a volunteer [she] learned how to get the best out of people, patience and compassion.” But what Shelley says is the greatest gift she has received from the 4-H program is her husband, Brian, of 31 years.

When Shelley isn’t rocking it as a 4-H Club Leader, she is a volunteer with the Wiarton Agricultural Society, the Wiarton Rotary Club and sits on committees for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Junior Sheep Show and TD Dairy Classic. Because of all her dedication to volunteerism, Shelley was awarded the BMO Woman of Excellence in Agriculture Award sponsored by Federated Women’s Institute of Ontario and BMO, which she received this past November as the Royal. She is also a 2010 Arbor Award recipient. Outside of her volunteer endeavours, she is the Senior Coordinator of Membership for the Real Estate Institute of Canada, a not-for-profit organization for real estate professionals.

“4-H truly is a blessing for so many members and leaders, but as with anything you get out of it what you put in and I encourage everyone to take every opportunity 4-H has to offer! Our 4-H dairy and sheep clubs are made up of mostly non-farm kids and to see them embrace agriculture and livestock and competition and teamwork and have a blast doing it is amazing. I am a lucky leader”

The Ambassador Beat: Robert McKinlay

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 2018, each of 4-H Ontario’s Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador Program is sponsored by FS.

Submitted by Robert McKinlay, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from Grey 4-H Association

Being a 4-H ambassador for the past year has given me so many opportunities to view 4-H in different communities across the province. The variety of communities I have been exposed to has expanded my understanding of the 4-H brand. From Northern Ontario to Ridgetown, Ontario the diversity of projects and members has been huge, but the commitment to the 4-H motto of “learn to do by doing” remained the same.


I had an amazing opportunity to participate in the Massey Jamboree where I was able to meet and talk with members and leaders from the surrounding area. I was able to further my understanding of what 4-H meant to them and how the 4-H program had changed them. The sense of community I encountered in Massey was astounding to say the least and gave me a better understanding of life in Northern Ontario.

The Massey Jamboree was a great place to represent the ambassador program as I got to wear many different hats. I was involved with a 4-H meeting the day before where I helped with a Beef Calf Club. This was extremely fun for me as the majority of the animals were young Holstein- Belgium Blue cross calves. This meant they had a whole lot of attitude and energy but didn’t have a lot of size. This allowed a great learning experience for the members because they could train the calves with a lot less danger of being hurt. It also meant that the calves could have some fun with the members too. The next day we traveled to Massey where I was involved in the setup of the activities and the welcoming of the kids as they arrived. As the event got underway I was involved both as a leader and as a participant. I was able to be involved in events like square dancing and the Amazing Race Massey. The Amazing Race Massey was a true show of the community of the area. During the race we used the community’s involvement to collect clues and complete tasks to ultimately complete the challenge. Finally at the end of the day I was involved in the cleanup of the event and in discussions of how the event could be improved for next year. To me this event was a true show case of the ambassador experience as I was involved with every level of the 4-H program and was able to truly make a difference in some 4-H members’ lives.


Another interesting opportunity I had was to help at a Discovery Day in Ridgetown, Ontario where I helped run games and activities for members. It was a great opportunity to view their community and their interests in the 4-H program. In their region 4-H was made up primarily of urban members as opposed to the membership I had witnessed in Massey. In this experience I was able to interact with members one on one and was able to learn what 4-H meant to them.


I have also had a great opportunity to view the 4-H program back stage and see all the planning and preparation that goes into the events. The incredible volunteers and leaders involved in the 4-H program are simply inspiring to talk to and hear the reasons they have for being involved. Working alongside them I learned about the amount of work it takes to put on a 4-H event. The amount of planning and preparation that goes into an event like a discover day or a judging event is immense.


This year for my Ambassador project I organized “The Spirit of 4-H” trophy that recognized a person or family in my area that has gone above and beyond in the 4-H program both succeeding within the program but also takes the values of 4-H and applies them to their everyday life. I was pleased when the club presented the award to the Visser family this year to highlight all the work and commitment they have done within our club and in the 4-H program.

(Photo of Visser Family and Spirit of 4-H Award )


This program would not be possible without our amazing sponsor, FS. Their sense of community is never more evident than in their charity golf tournaments and their Rendezvous where the appreciation to their customers and associates was displayed for everyone to see. Talking with individuals in the company I have learned about the extent of their business and the commitment to quality and customer service. This is truly a case of leaders helping leaders as they help inspire the next generation of leadership.

This program is truly amazing and I want to personally thank all the parents that drive members to meetings, judging competitions, calf training nights and achievement days. All the leaders that go out of their way to create clubs that are educational and engaging. All the 4-H staff that process thousands of forms and do all the hard work that allows us to create such a fantastic program.  All the supporters of 4-H both financially and physically that help us run such a great program. And finally my fellow Ambassadors that have travelled the province working with members and sponsors to ensure this program never shifts from the quality we have come to expect.

(Both pictures unfortunately missing Shannon Desjardins)


My experiences as a 4-H ambassador have taught me so much about the 4-H program and about being an ambassador. The depth of this program, along with the amazing people it encompasses is overwhelming and I feel honored to have been able to be a representative for this program. The energy and enthusiasm of the members to learn and succeed is inspiring and I believe the world needs as many young leaders, like our members, as it can get. When I was younger I always looked up to the ambassadors, but now as an ambassador I look up to the kids as they are the future of the program and will be the leaders of our future.






The Ambassador Beat: Lyndsay Dickson

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 2018, each of 4-H Ontario’s Ambassadors will submit blog entries about their experiences in the program. The 4-H Ontario Ambassador Program is sponsored by FS.





For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for your event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Lyndsay Dickson, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from Leeds 4-H Association


It is hard to believe that 2018 is here already. Where did 2017 go?!

2017 was a year of growth for me. A year that taught me to say “yes” to new adventures, taught me how rewarding experiences can be and taught me how to navigate on my own.


January 2017 – I was selected as a 2017 4-H Ontario Ambassador, an experience that has changed my life!

February 2017 – We celebrated success, as we were officially welcomed as ambassadors at the 2017 Ambassador Reception.

Shannon, Sierra, Nicole, Robert, Sarah, and I gathered with family and friends by our sides in Guelph as we were welcomed as the 4-H Ontario Ambassadors for 2017.

March 2017 – I began a social media feed to share my year as an Ambassador.

You can find my adventures as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador on Twitter, under the handle @dicksonlyndsay.

April 2017 – I attended the 2017 National Holstein Convention in Richmond Hill, Ontario as part of the Young Leaders Program.

May 2017 – I moved out!

After nearly 20 years of living under my parents’ roof, I found a place to call my own and moved out to start a new adventure of life on my own.

June 2017 – My first event as an Ambassador!

My first event as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador was the UPI Energy Invitational Golf Tournament.

July 2017 – My first 4-H dairy show of the season was a success!

My first 4-H dairy show of the season was the EastGen Showcase held in Spencerville. I was lucky enough to walk away with 6th Senior Heifer and Top Quiz.

August 2017 – I found out that the first heifer I owned is pregnant and due in March 2018!

I have my own prefix with Holstein Canada, Experience Holsteins. I own one heifer, Rockaberry Mogul Experience. I found out that she is expecting her first calf, which is also the first calf to carry the Experience Holsteins name in March 2018!

September 2017 – I had the pleasure of visiting Niagara Falls for the first time.

Fellow ambassador Sierra Stanley and I visited the beautiful Niagara Falls together following the UPI Energy FS Launch Party.

October 2017 – I celebrated my 21st birthday!

As all senior 4-H’ers will know; what your 21st birthday really means, is it’s almost the end of their 4-H career! 2018 will mark my final year as a 4-H member.

November 2017 – I attended my 5th consecutive TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic as an exhibitor.

I had the pleasure of representing the Leeds 4-H Association at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, held in Toronto every November, at the TD Canadian 4-H Dairy Classic. 2017 was my 5th consecutive year being a member of the Leeds team.

December 2017 – I celebrated the holidays with family and friends.

I am forever grateful for the amazing opportunity representing 4-H Ontario as an Ambassador for 2017. Thank you FS for this opportunity!

Once an Ambassador, Always an Ambassador.


The Ambassador Beat: Shannon Desjardins

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 2018, 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 FS. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for your event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Shannon Desjardins, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from Prince Edward 4-H Association

I would like to take a moment to reflect on this past year as one of six 2017 4-H Ontario Ambassadors.

I have had the pleasure of meeting so many of you this year, my name is Shannon Desjardins and I am from Prince Edward Association in Region 3. I am now a graduated 4-H member after the most amazing 12 years. I completed 126 clubs from the best program you will ever have the chance to participate in!

Over the past year I have had so many opportunities come my way from the 4-H Ontario Ambassador program. I have traveled across Ontario, meeting so many wonderful and enthusiastic 4-H members, siblings, parents, volunteers and alumni. From fairs, to livestock shows, plowing matches to awards nights, Discovery Days to Judge It Day – these are just a few of the activities I have participated in as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador.

Being a 4-H Ontario Ambassador isn’t just about traveling around Ontario representing 4-H at different local and regional events; it’s about the relationships, friendships, influences, contacts and skills you gain from the program as well.

At each and every event you attend as a 4-H Ontario Ambassador you grow as a member, a mentor and person. Each association has so many outstanding volunteers that give you new and exciting ideas to bring home to your local association. The members you meet along your journey share with you why they love 4-H, what clubs they have participated in and why they are excited to join next year making you more and more excited to be a part of this program. The parents (and potentially alumni) are so thrilled to speak with you about what opportunities are out there for their child and why the 4-H Ontario Ambassadors program is one opportunity they will never want to miss out on.

The 4-H pledge talks about Head, Heart, Hands and Health with our club, community and country, but what does the 4-H Ontario Ambassador program say? Well, an Ambassador to me stands for;












Those are just 10 words that describe the 4-H Ontario Ambassador program and why it is so amazing to have had the opportunity given to me by 4-H Ontario and our sponsor FS. When you are 18 years of age, I strongly encourage you to fill out the 4-H Ontario Ambassadors application form and apply! This is an opportunity that you will fondly look back on and never regret!

The True Spirit of 4-H: Rinske van der Steege’s Story

Submitted by: Rinske van der Steege, member of Norfolk 4-H

Rinke’s story reminds us of how 4-H can help you with any journey you may be on, personal, educational or career, our program can help you achieve your dreams.

Hi! My name is Rinske, and I am a first year student at the University of Guelph in the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture program. 4-H has been one of the best experiences of my life. It has given me the opportunities to build and develop my leadership skills, as well as creating ever-lasting friendships. 4-H has contributed to my education inside and outside of school. This year I was able to completely pay my first year of university through scholarships because of 4-H. From 4-H Canada, I won the Weston Family scholarship, and within Ontario, I won the Angelo and Frank Argo Undergraduate scholarship. I also won a few leadership scholarships such as the OAC’ 51 Leadership Scholarship and the local Federation of Agriculture and Crop & Soil Improvement Association scholarships. Within school I am on the class of 2021 executive team. Currently, more than half the team (of 14) are 4-Hers, from Ontario, New Brunswick and British Columbia. We work well together to organize events and represent our year.  My favourite part about being a 4-H’er is that you never know what you are getting yourself into. When I first joined 4-H to show dairy, I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to show at the Royal Winter Fair, attend awesome leadership camps or youth lead the dairy club. Thank you 4-H for shaping me the way I am today!

The True Spirit of 4-H: Rhiannah Gallagher’s Story

Written by: Rhiannah Gallagher, Carleton 4-H Member


There are not enough words to describe the feeling you get when you step into the sale ring. The feeling of all the preparation boiling up to this one point. Knowing that behind you stands your parents, your leaders, your fellow 4-H members, and so many more people, and the fact that you get to see your hard work pay off is indescribable. And when finally, you reach it: you step into that sale ring and you know without a doubt that you accomplished everything you set out to do and so much more, you can finally breathe. Whether it be your first, 7th, or last time you feel that same pride swell up as the auctioneers start singing.


As I was sitting ringside at the sale on Saturday night I felt that pride in every one of those 4-H members attending. That pride stirred up in me a desire to donate 50% of my profits to the Ruiter family in support of a recent fire destroying their barns. The Ruiter family lost 100 Holsteins in the fire. The whole family has been active in 4-H and advocates of agriculture.


Since that night I’ve been asked why I donated half of my profits and I didn’t have an answer. But as the fair has now come to a close I believe I do finally have an answer to that question.


4-H represents the future of Agriculture to the general public with hope that they will learn how important this field is to the world and our country’s economy. This is a difficult task but we try our best to accomplish it at each and every event we attend as 4-H members. The Ruiters do this every day. They represent agriculture to so many people that as a 4-H’er I believe that I need to help and support them in any way I can. So if you asked me now why I did what I did, I could tell you that I did it for the Ruiters, 4-H and what they represent to the people around them.


The True Spirit of 4-H: The Jenkins’ Story of Generosity

Submitted by: Maureen, Dave & Evan Jenkins

On January 25, 2017 we received a phone message from Mackenzie Wright of the Essex 4-H Dairy Calf Club, asking if we could attend the Kent-Essex Holstein Club Family night on February 18th in Woodslee. They had a donation that they wanted to give us for Childhood Cancer research. This call was “out of the blue”, totally unexpected and once we connected with Mackenzie and attended the event, was even more touching.

Each year, the leaders of the Essex 4-H Dairy Calf club have their members select a charity to receive half of the money that the club raises during the year. At a club meeting, one of the members happened to see our Haldrey Farms advertisement in the December 2016 Holstein Journal, where we mentioned that we work on a nation-wide program and campaign in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness, targeting all government legislators in Canada. This campaign is called “The Maggie Project”, in memory of our daughter, Maggie who was a keen Elgin dairy 4-H member. The Essex 4-H club felt that our campaign would be a perfect place for their donation.

We went to the Family night, and were able to talk to everyone about Childcan, which is an organization that assists families in Southwestern Ontario that have children undergoing cancer treatments. One of their new projects is the Novel Therapeutics program, which allows children to be part of new research trials based in London at Children’s Hospital (rather than in Toronto at Sick Kids). We asked if we could direct their donation to that cause, and everyone readily agreed.

But the 4-Hers also inspired others at the banquet. Their initial donation of $400 grew to $910 through a live auction of a 4-H sweatshirt and a few other items that the Holstein Club generously donated, plus personal donations from fellow Holstein breeders. And a week later, we received another donation from the Essex-Kent Milk Committee (many of whom would have been at the family night).

With the generosity of these 4-Hers and others, we were happy to report to Mackenzie that a full-time research assistant was funded by Childcan for the program. Maureen now sits on the Board of Directors for Childcan, and can attest to the power of each and every donation (no matter what size) to this organization. Unfortunately, the need grows as more children are diagnosed, and others who have undergone long and painful treatments now find their cancers have returned.

All of us involved in Ontario 4-H can be proud of members like the ones in the Essex 4-H Dairy Calf Club.

The Ambassador Beat: Sierra Stanley

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 2017, 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 FS. For more info on the Ambassador program click here. To book an Ambassador for your event please complete the request form.

Submitted by Sierra Stanley, 4-H Ontario Youth Ambassador from Carleton 4-H Association

As my time in the ambassador program comes to an end I decided that I want to reflect upon the skills I have acquired throughout my year of adventures, memories and amazing experiences.

Throughout the ambassador program I have met so many fascinating people and learned so many things from them; the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been have taught me so many skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have improved my public speaking and my confidence through the various presentations I have given and the events I have attended. This benefits me in every aspect of my life including school, work and even in my sorority.

The confidence I have gained since February when I took on this role is amazing. I am now more confident in driving across the province, flying on my own, and showing up places without knowing anyone else in attendance. This program really helped me learn just how much you can accomplish when you’re confident, have a will to learn and want to help others succeed.

I have gained even more respect for the amount of commitment, time and effort volunteers have put into this program. These people clearly have a passion for this program and it really shows. Thank you to all of our amazing volunteers, this program could not run without all of you.

The ambassador program has also made me more passionate for my chosen career path in teaching; I’ve run activities and spoken with youth at events like Judging Days, Go For The Gold and various other events, and seeing the different youth participate and show genuine interest in what I was telling them was absolutely amazing. When I finish my schooling and eventually have my own classroom, I hope to inspire my students the way I have been able to inspire 4-Hers over the last ten months.

I am so thankful to our sponsors; Growmark and UPI Energy FS, for offering me this opportunity through their continuous support of the 4-H program.

Your Future in Agriculture – A pilot event for SHSM students

Written by: Sara Harper

On October 26, 4-H Ontario in partnership with AgScape, presented Your Future in Agriculture. It was a pilot event for 4-H Ontario’s Passport to Leadership Certificate and also hosted AgScape’s Career Competition. Three schools from South Simcoe County with approximately 110 students were gathered at Mount Forest Sports Complex to experience all that agriculture has to offer.

The Passport to Leadership Certificate was prepared by 4-H Ontario to meet the requirements of Ontario Specialist High Skills Majors (SHSM) students for certification. The certificate program embodies key elements of traditional 4-H programming while focusing on various areas of leadership styles such as goal setting and teamwork. The funds for this project were donated by William Seath. On May 30, 2017, William Seath generously made an in memorial gift to honour his late wife Rhea who was a 4-H Member. Sadly, William passed away on September 14, 2017 before the launch of the certificate. We will remember William and Rhea for their contribution to ensure leadership development makes a mark on today’s youth.

And what a mark it has already left. SHSM students were immersed in a self-reflection of their own leadership style, learned how all styles can work together and discussed their SMART goals. Mikaela Adams, a 4-H member from Bruce County, spoke at the beginning of the day about what it means to be a 4-H’er and how the program has helped shape who she is today. She also participated in the day’s activities.

“We learned how to become better leaders and I loved the setting goals part of the morning,” says Mikaela.

A teacher from Stayner Collegiate Institute shared that, “The material was really good for them to know. The whole concept is excellent.”

The afternoon is when AgScape took over the hall with their Career Competition. They delivered another SHSM component bringing real world, experiential opportunities to explore a variety of agri-food careers. Students were split into eight groups and then rotated to participate in four of the eight activity stations. They learned about various different aspects of agriculture careers in areas covering marketing, finance, robotics, pest identification, water management, genetics, soil science and food processing. AgScape staff member Jenny Mayer was on site to help facilitate the event.

“Students often get stuck in their school community bubble,” she says. “It is important to present them with engaging, interactive events like this where they can learn about real world opportunities in our innovative and growing agri-food industry.”

In the future, 4-H Ontario and AgScape hope to host similar events for other school boards. We would also like to thank our amazing sponsors who made this event possible. Thanks to, Agriculture in the Classroom, Agriculture More Than Ever, The Co-operators, EastGen, FS Partners, GayLea, Meridian, Monsanto, St. Clair Conservation, South Simcoe District School Board, ThinkAG and The Township of Wellington North. SHSM students of South Simcoe County School Board are now one step further in building their agricultural future.

Manitou 4-H Club participates in Manitowaning Fall Fair!

Submitted by: Matt Hill

Manitou 4-H Club is back again….just a generation later.

On Sept 9, 2017  members of the Manitou 4-H Club participated in a float for the Manitowaning Fall Fair.

Each brought something to decorate the float with , but it had to represent a project that  was available in 4-H, such as campfire for their winter wilderness project, or a drill to represent a woodworking project.

We also had several things to represent Canada 150 which was the theme of the parade. To add to that, the members would sing O’ Canada several times during the parade.

On the float was also a quilt that was given to one of the members grandmother when she was in 4-H about 50 years ago. It was made by her club members and signed by each member. What a treasure!

As a result of their efforts, the float won first prize which they were very excited about.