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 GROWMARK, Inc. and UPI Energy. 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

My name is Sierra Stanley, and I have been a part of the 4-H family for eight years now participating in many clubs ranging from the Beef Club, to Square Dancing, to Cooking. I have had the chance to hold multiple positions, which has led to me being a stronger leader in 4-H and in other parts of my life. This year I chose to give back to the program that I love by participating in the Ambassador Program as Carleton 4-H Association’s first ambassador. Through this program I have the opportunity to speak with so many different individuals who come from all different walks of life.

This past weekend I had an amazing opportunity to represent 4-H Ontario in the North at an event called Food Frenzy, and by speaking to the volunteers of Thunder Bay, Kenora and Rainy River 4-H Associations.

I started off my tour of the North at Food Frenzy, an event put on by the City of Thunder Bay to educate youth about food and different programs in their community. Ontario Nature was there teaching everyone about uses of different wild plants and Roots to Harvest was there with their blender-bike. Food Frenzy was a great educational opportunity for the youth of Thunder Bay and I was so happy to have been included in the event.

The next day I met up with Matt Hill, Volunteer Support Region 1, and Andy McTaggart, Volunteer Support Coordinator, Region 5 & 6, to start our travels through the North. Our first stop was to meet the volunteers of Thunder Bay, which also doubled as their Cookie Club Achievement Day. The youth made all sorts of different goodies and performed a play on how to make the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies. It was a lot of fun speaking with the youth and volunteers of Thunder Bay.

The next day the three of us headed to Dryden to meet the volunteers from Kenora 4-H Association. After a few hours in the car we checked into our hotel then headed out to meet them. It was a small group but I learned so much about the way different 4-H clubs are working in their Association compared to here in Carleton and about their various farming operations. The next day we traveled up to visit one of the volunteers’ beef farms and were given a tour of their operation.

Our Saturday adventure started with spending a little while at the farm with the entire Debney family, then we headed off towards Emo. After a few hours in the car listening to Matt’s music, and Andy and I trying our hardest to see a moose, we arrived at our hotel to check in. Then we headed off to meet our final group of volunteers. All the volunteers I met over the course of this trip were so amazing in their own way and this group was no exception. I learned so much from them and they were able to keep me on my toes with their questions. After meeting with them, Kim, one of the Rainy River volunteers, took us to see one of the world’s smallest chapels, which is located in Emo!

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, GROWMARK, Inc, and UPI Energy, I had the most amazing experience visiting a part of Ontario that I never thought I would be able to see. I was able to meet up with a Provincial Leadership Camp friend I hadn’t seen since camp, I saw the main campus of my university and I met so many fantastic 4-H volunteers. I had such a great time on my first adventure as a 2017 4-H Ontario Ambassador, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring for myself and my fellow ambassadors.

What’s The Real Dirt On Farming?

By Ryan Métivier

In 2016 the locally approved Real Dirt On Farming project continued to be popular in Region 2. Leaders Jean Sullivan and Leah Richardson-Dean of Carleton 4-H Association began the project in 2015 and in only its second year, it already doubled in size.

“I took the Real Dirt On Farming training (through Farm & Food Care Ontario) and felt the issues discussed would fit with the 4-H format,” says Sullivan. “The topics apply to youth as they are bombarded by information and misinformation on social media.”

The Real Dirt On Farming project is based around the teaching of topics such as how your food is grown, the difference between growing crops conventionally and organically, pesticide use, animal housing and animal welfare, environmental sustainability, technology used in farming and more. Last year Jean and Leah’s club touched on many of these topics by visiting a strawberry and vegetable farm to discuss farm labour, organic versus conventional foods and direct sales. They also participated in the Port of Prescott Grain Handling Tour, having conversations about grain buyers and GMO/non-GMO corn. Additional tours included learning about an anaerobic digester and manure management/stewardship during a dairy farm tour and learning about how soybeans reproduce at Central Experimental Farm. Three members attended the Centre For Food Integrity to listen to research about consumer trust.

In 2016, “soil your underwear” was introduced to provide a project to carry through the club and it was a huge success. In order to learn about soil health and the importance of soil to agriculture, members were given a pair of white cotton underwear to bury on their farm or property, with plans to dig up at a later date to examine what they could learn about soils. The club was also able to create a display at the Carp Farmers Market by stringing them up on a clothesline across the front of a small tent.

“We tried to make the conversation something that wasn’t too technical—simply that soil contains lots of microorganisms, fungi, and bacteria,” says Sullivan. “It’s these creatures that eat through the cotton in the underwear, showing us they are there and working to build soils.”

As someone who grew up in 4-H herself, Sullivan says it provided her with a positive experience and has shaped where she is and what she does today. Being involved as a volunteer has allowed her to share her knowledge on topics she cares about and to receive positive feedback from members, parents, other leaders and the community.

Kathryn Stanton, a 4-H member in Carleton, has been a part of the club for the past two years and says what she has enjoyed the most has been learning about different farm operations and furthering her understanding of the Canadian agriculture industry.

“A big part of what we learnt was how to best interact with consumers and becoming true ‘Agvocates,’ she says. “I also developed skills such as public speaking through our achievement days, one of which we spoke to the Ottawa City Council of Rural Affairs.”

As part of the Real Dirt On Farming project, each of the past two years a representative of Farm & Food Care has visited the club to provide insights into perceptions of media, consumers, protesters and others.

“Having Farm & Food Care attend our meeting was extremely helpful teaching us the ropes on how to best help tell the story and facts about the industry,” says Stanton. “One of the key things they touched on was how to have a 30 second elevator conversation, where you discuss who you are, how you are connected to agriculture, all the while keeping the topic positive and educational.”

“I think they are also gaining skills and attitudes to help them understand others,” says Sullivan. “Through participation in this club members are gaining confidence in presenting their opinions and public speaking, parliamentary procedure and decision-making skills.”