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4-H national membership down slightly

4-H membership is dropping in Canada, but not in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Chris Forrest, communications manager with the Canadian 4-H Council, said national membership dropped to 28,900 this year from 29,900 last year.

However, membership in Saskatchewan increased to 3,739, the first increase since the six- to eight-year-old age group was introduced 10 years ago.

The province now has the third highest 4-H enrolment in the country.

Valerie Pearson, executive director of the Saskatchewan 4-H Council, said in a news release that the council’s work with the First Nations Agricultural Council of Saskatchewan contributed to the provincial increase. Five First Nations clubs registered this year with 120 members.

B.C. had 2,923 members in 2006, which was an increase from the year before.

However, B.C. 4-H executive director Debbie Evans said membership has slipped in the past few months by about 150 members.

“The problem is a lack of leaders for the clubs,” she said. “It’s burnout.”

Besides trying to recruit more adults, the B.C. council has expanded membership to cover the entire year rather than the usual September to March period. Evans hopes to see numbers increase over the summer.

Forrest said an advertising campaign that 4-H members developed last year is “bringing the buzz of 4-H to a wider community.”

The national council looked at where young families are moving and then targeted that commuter ring, reminding suburban and urban kids that they can also join 4-H.

Forrest said significant growth has come through the 4-H website. After the web advertising was posted in February, the 4-H site received 50,000 hits in two months. There are now thousands of inquiries to follow up on.

“The internet-savvy tweens, when they see something they like, they follow up.”

Forrest said 4-H is offering activities that can be done in an urban setting such as babysitting, welding and working with dogs and small pets. However, beef and horses are still responsible for the bulk of the club projects.

“4-H hasn’t lost its ties with agriculture.”

Alberta had 7,108 registered members in 2005-06, which was down from the previous yer, but Vanessa Goodman, a 4-H specialist with Alberta Agriculture, anticipates growth in 2007, which is the 90th anniversary of 4-H in Alberta.

Twenty-eight 4-H ambassadors will promote the club in Alberta schools and at public events during their two year volunteer terms.

As well, the provincial council has hired three former 4-H members to visit schools in May and June and then set up booths at community fairs in July and August.

In Manitoba, 4,211 members were registered in 2006-07, which is less than the previous year.

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