The Ambassador Beat: Christie Annett

4-H Helped Me Become Who I Am Today

By Christie Annett

My name is Christie Annett, I am 21 years old from the Lambton 4-H Association. This has been a pretty busy year for me with 4-H; I am a member, youth leader, leader and a 2019 4-H Ambassador. I have been in 4-H since 2007 and after 12 years I have been reflecting on my time as a 4-H’er. I am beginning to realize the impact that it has had on my life.  4-H has not only been a place for me to make friends with similar interests but it has given me the tools I needed to be successful in life.

I credit 4-H with being the place that started me down the path to finding my career in working with horses. I come from a beef and cash crop farming background but have always been far more interested in horses. My mom signed me up for the horse club my first year in 4-H. This was the first time that I touched a horse! It was an extremely memorable year for me, I showed my first horse, watched the RCMP musical ride, and learned something new and exciting every meeting! I won top member and top project that year, along with some other awards. For me, this was the beginning of an unforgettable journey.

After that first year in 4-H I took it further and started riding and competing on my own. I’ve tried out a few different disciplines to see what I liked best like: Western pleasure, dressage, jumping, before I decided that barrel racing and gaming was for me. After graduating from high school, I decided to take riding one step further and completed the University of Guelph’s Performance Horse Handler Program. I now work at Canada’s largest standardbred horse breeding facility. My favourite job is foaling out horses. Bringing an animal into the world is something truly special that I am honoured to have an opportunity to do. At work we keep the horses until they are a year old. During that first year, it is my job to break and train the babies. This was a learning curve for me when I first began because I had never dealt with horses that young and green before. I often wonder what I would be doing in my life now if I was never given the opportunity to find and explore my passion at such a young age.

Last year, I knew I had enough knowledge to resurrect the 4-H Horse Club in Lambton County (the same club started me out on my journey). I wanted to share all of the knowledge and enthusiasm for both 4H and horses, my goal was to help kids explore their interest in horses, and maybe even inspire someone with my story. I also started a club because I know how important 4-H was for me in finding out what I wanted to do with my life and how important it was for me in general. All of the clubs I have completed whether it be life skills or agriculture, have taught me something different about myself. I hope that my club gets kids excited to learn more about horses and find out what horses and the horse industry can do for them. If it’s only a club that they’re in for a year, I hope that they find that they learn something new about themselves and have fun participating.

Mini Diagnostic Day Introduces Members to Agronomy

By: Sara Harper

Southwest Crop Diagnostic Day is a full day event in early July put on by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in cooperation with the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. It promotes “hands on learning” experiences for those in agribusiness. The skills emphasized are troubleshooting, evaluation and management strategies. Industry professionals facilitate workshops based on common issues found in Southern Ontario and new technology available to help fight the issues. Participants are able to customize their day with the available 11 rotational sessions.

In the early 2000’s, one of the Diagnostic Day planners, Anne Verhallen, received an inquiry from local 4-H Lambton Field Crops Club Leader, Don Lunn, which marked the start of this great event. He wanted to know if there was a discount available to 4-H clubs to attend. When asked why he wanted his club to attend, Don responded, “I was looking for an educational field trip for our club.” Since space was limited, arrangements were made to create a mini version in the evening. This also allowed for more intermediate and senior members to attend since many had summer jobs during the day. Three facilitators presented their sessions to give the youth a taste of what the full day offered. Clubs meet at the Vet Tech parking lot, say the 4-H pledge and then load onto wagons that take the members to the research field. There, they are split into three groups and rotate through the sessions.

Attendance at the Mini Diagnostics Day has ranged from 20-90 participants since its inception, with parents also enjoying the experience. In 2016, approximately 65 members attended from Chatham-Kent, Lambton and Middlesex 4-H Associations.

Sometimes sessions are modified so that they can be better understood by the youth, but most facilitators keep them the same.

“I can remember having Dr. Gary Ablett speak on soybean physiology and wondering how he might simplify things,” recalls Verhallen. “When I checked with a couple of young members they said he had not “dumbed it down.” The members were excited, had completely followed his explanation and could repeat it back to me.”

The evening ends with a pizza party in the parking lot before heading home.

“This experience exposes members to current issues such as crop diseases, weed identification, and various bugs—both beneficial and destructive,” says past 4-H member and attendee Matt Smyth. “It also gives an introduction to proper sprayer set-up and boom height to reduce drift and improve application and safety of pesticides.”

Smyth’s favourite part of the Mini Diagnostic Day was being able to learn some leading edge things about agriculture. He feels that this event is a great way to spark interest in agronomy with 4-Her’s and helps them understand the basics of agronomy which is relevant in many aspects of agriculture. It also provides the opportunity to see the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, where many agribusiness personnel attend post-secondary studies.