Committee chair Susan Mills hopes the celebration will attract new members and inspire current ones.
“In the ’40s when the Waterloo club was affiliated with the provincial association, at that time Waterloo had about 400 members,” Mills said. “And then I was a member from 1984 until 1993 and during that time we had about 100 members. For awhile there was not a club. For the last few years they got a small group of good, keen kids and there are probably only about 12 in the club right now. We’re hoping something like this will show them what a rich history we have and garner some interest in the community for new youth who might want to join.”
When Junior Farmers began in 1915 it was agriculturally based. Now, it’s geared toward rural youth, but there are no requirements that you must be a farmer. It’s more about bringing together young people, aged 15-29, to meet one another and do good in the community.“It’s basically a social thing you go to. There are travel opportunities. They have exchange programs. We’ve met people from all over the world,” Mills said.
The committee has been planning the event since last October, contacting past members. They’ve sent letters to all the past presidents, since the ’40s, since any earlier ones would no longer be living.
“The Wellesley Community Centre has a separate room that we’re going to have set up as memorabilia displays, so we encourage anyone who’s going to bring old scrapbooks, clothing, trophies, pictures, things like that. We’ll have tables set up so that it will be divided by decades so you can put your thing on the appropriate decade,” Mill said.
Following an hour of social time, they’ll have a catered dinner by the Elmira Golf and Country Club. A short program will follow. She says the committee decided to keep it short because the main reason people are going is to catch up with old friends. Next up will be a square dance and then a regular dance.“Originally my sister was invited to a dance and I remember my friends and I kind of thought it was funny, what are you learning to be a farmer? We teased her and she kept coming home and telling us what she did and how much fun they were having. Eventually we said well can we come too?” Mills says, recalling how she first became involved.
Sports were a big part of the club when she was a member. She says they held different tournaments, played broomball and every Friday night for years they’d get together for a volleyball game.
The current club’s recent project was sponsoring a portion of Nafziger Road to do road cleanup. President Meaghan Weber notes they have foreign delegates coming to town from Europe next week to do some farm tours, barbeques, and see the sights in the region. This will be their last stop in Ontario.
“We had a couple provincial events hosted here in Waterloo Region. We had Winter Games hosted back a year or two ago here. So that was a big provincial sports weekend,” she said.
She says she loves the fact she has contacts all over Ontario, and even the world.
Junior Farmers is very member-driven, meaning they decide what projects they want to undergo as a group. This is a big way it differentiates itself from 4-H, which is more structured with classes you sign up for.
“Junior Farmers is a self directed thing,” Mills said. “You can basically plan what you want to do yourselves. That’s one of the ways that Junior Farmers is so great because you plan dances and you plan fundraisers, so you’re learning how to do those things, developing your leadership skills by doing that. There’s really nothing that tells you, you have to do this or that. You’re free to do whatever your group decides you have an interest in.”
As for why the organization has seen a significant decrease in membership, she says there are many more groups and activities for kids to participate in now compared to when she was their age.
In order to belong to the provincial association they have to conduct one meeting on how to run an effective meeting. She says she’s always impressed when she sees a group of 20-year-olds making motions and amendments. It’s a skill she believes Junior Farmers take forward with them in their professional life.
“I think it instilled in all of us a sense of community. We planned fundraisers to benefit different charities. I think we all learned how important it was to be community minded people,” Mills said.
All past and present junior farmers are welcome to attend the celebration on August 22 at the Wellesley Community Centre. Social hour runs from 6-7 p.m., following by the banquet at 7 p.m., and at 9 p.m. the dance will start.
Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at Green Horizons Sod in Cambridge, Heritage Pet & Garden in New Hamburg, New Dundee Village Market in New Dundee, Oakridge Acres in Ayr, and Stoltz Sales & Service in Elmira.
They can also be purchased by contacting Susan Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-662-4327 or Marlin Stoltz at email@example.com or 519-575-8530.