The following post comes from 4-H alumnus Gordon Alblas. In 2011, Gordon was selected as the Garfield Weston 4-H International Exchange recipient from Ontario. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation 4-H International Exchange is a unique opportunity to learn more about agriculture and resources around the world, represent 4-H in Canada, and gain new friendships and experiences that will last a lifetime.
Funded by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, the exchange sends 4-H delegates to various locations around the world, such as the United Kingdom, Korea and Taiwan, where they participate in a reciprocal host-family exchange for up to eight weeks in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks to Gordon for sharing his exchange story!
An Opportunity of a Lifetime
By Gordon Alblas
Gordon hard at work in the Wales country side
Thirty eight days and 2500 pictures my United Kingdom exchange was truly amazing. In the summer of 2011 W. Garfield Weston Foundation exchange had six delegates from all across Canada participating. I was honoured to be Ontario’s delegate to the UK; what a true experience of a lifetime.
At the start of the trip of the Canadian delegates met in Toronto for an orientation meeting and to give us an opportunity to meet with the Weston foundation, our sponsor. After a jam packed day of introductions and then touring in Toronto it was time to be UK bound for the three of us. Our plane left at 6:30pm our time and landed 6:30am their time so we missed a night of sleep and we still had three hours of waiting and then four hours on a bus to get to our final destination. Needless to say we where all a little tired by the time we were picked up at the bus station in Coventry.
In Coventry we got to meet some other exchangees from Europe. We spent two days together before we were sent off to our first hosts. During the two days together we had the opportunity to tour the Warwick Castel, it is truly amazing the history in this country and the Warwick Castel is no exception to that. It was a great opportunity to see how people lived hundreds of years ago.
After the Young Farmers’ national meeting we were all “delivered” to our first hosts. The rest of the stay in the UK was all with different hosts individually. The longest that I stayed with one host family was one week, and the shortest time was one day. This gave a great opportunity to see a lot of the country in the best way possible, experiencing life through the lives of the people themselves. There is no better way to see a country then by the people that live there. The hosts that I stayed with were great, they all worked very hard to get me around to see all sorts of agriculture activities happening in their area. Almost every day of the 38 days that I was in the UK I was touring a different farm or helping out on a farm. I found this to be the best part of the trip, being able to interact with the UK farmers and learn all I could about farming in the UK. From all of the tours I had, each one taught me new things that I can take back to my farm at home to improve my farm at home.
The best part of the trip was that the hosts planned out the stay while I was with them. Most of the time I did not know what I was doing the next day or sometimes not even the day of, but to just go with the flow and not get too concerned made the trip a great success. I worked on farms one day, toured sites like Cambridge College the next, and was taking in amazing views of the Wales country side on another.
The Young Farmers in the UK is similar to both 4-H and Junior Farmers here in Canada. This was a great way to meet young people starting out farming in the UK and to learn about the challenges and opportunities that they face. I also found that there are a lot more young farmers with their own operations there then there is here in Ontario. This was a great encouragement for me being a young farmer starting out in Ontario because they have many of the same challenges to face as I do here starting out.
Last but certainly not least, are the many friends I made in the UK . Thanks to modern technology, it is possible to keep in contact with far away friends and to exchange different farming ideas. I am new to the sheep industry so the knowledge and pointers that some of the sheep farmers gave me are an invaluable resource.
The W. Garfield Weston Foundation exchange was truly an opportunity of a lifetime. I had an amazing time and learned a lot about the way of life in another culture. I was able to see and experience many new things during my stay in the UK. This was a great way to broaden my horizons not only in agriculture but also in the history of the land.
Gordon Alblas is a current 4-H alumnus. Gordon was a 4-H member for 12 years completely 63 projects including dairy, farm machinery and field crops. Gordon was also a youth leader for the Hamilton Wentworth Dairy Club.
4-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!