The national body of the 4-H youth development organization in Canada has received a boon of $3 million from the federal government.
Announcing the funding at a meeting with 4-H clubs at Parliament Hill last week, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Marie-Claude Bibeau said the three-year investment in the organization will go towards its work in supporting youth in predominantly rural communities.
“4-H Canada welcomes the government of Canada’s continued investment in impactful positive youth development,” said David Hovell, chair of 4-H Canada, in a statement. “This funding commitment will ensure 4-H members are empowered to develop relevant skills and knowledge while exploring career paths in the areas important to their generation: agriculture, food security, science, technology, environmental sustainability, healthy living, communication and community engagement.”
4-H clubs operate across the country, including in Waterloo Region, where the local club offers youth programming in everything from animal showmanship to veterinary studies to maple syrup and even soap making.
Coming up soon, the Waterloo 4-H will be starting the Fishing 4-H Club on May 25, and the Rabbit Hop club on May 23, where participants learn how to train rabbits for showmanship.
The goal through these activities is to develop youth with skills in leadership, creative thinking and personal responsibility, with agriculture often forming the basis for these activities. The clubs are all volunteer driven, with much of that support coming from farmers, agriculture-industry experts and former 4-H members.
“4-H relies on volunteers to run all their clubs, and I find 4-H really values their volunteers. You actually really feel like the time you put in is appreciated,” said Jason Brownridge, a veterinarian and one of the volunteer leaders of the Floradale Veterinary 4-H Club.
Brownridge himself was a 4-H member in his youth, and now mentors others in his area of expertise. Club members learn about animal anatomy, the different tools used by vets, and even get to dissect donated animals that have passed away (Brownridge notes no animals are harmed as part of the club’s activities).
“I enjoyed being a youth 4-H member, so it just seemed natural that I would then become a leader when I was older. I hope that my kids, when in a couple years they’re old enough, that they’ll become members.”
The organization receives strong support from farmers in the area as well, who open their farms for field trips, and offer their livestock for training. Many 4-H children do not come from rural backgrounds and don’t have access to farm animals and the like, instead relying on farmers to supply the component pieces.
“Well I was raised as a 4-H member, a history of 4-H,” says Helen Martin of her reasons for supporting the 4-H club as a host farm. “But I think it’s good for some of these children to see what it is like to lead an animal and learn about livestock on the farm. Learn how to handle them. It’s just a good experience for them.”
Martin supports the sheep club with her livestock, allowing youth to practice training her animals. Martin will also be helping the upcoming Rabbit Hop Club – though she won’t be supplying the rabbits herself for that club. “It teaches a person responsibility, learning how to train an animal,” she says.
The funding announced by the federal government will go towards 4-H Canada, which operates separately from the provincial 4-H organizations such as 4-H Ontario.
The national organization operates Canada-wide programs, while the provincial organizations are responsible for organizing and overseeing local 4-H clubs. Nonetheless, 4-H Canada has noted the $3 million in funding will help deliver grassroots programming with its provincial partner organizations, and says the investment will allow for the support of 4-H volunteers across the country.