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4-H celebrates 100th in B.C.

More than beef and baking | Innovative, non-traditional projects are attracting youth to program

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — B.C. 4-H is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and enjoying a modest increase in membership at the same time.

The rural youth group saw its membership grow by five percent last year, a trend that’s being mirrored across the country.

Saskatchewan 4-H is the exception with declining numbers, 4-H Canada’s council, board, foundation and staff were told during their annual conference in Abbotsford May 28-31.

Kevin Rothwell, B.C. 4-H manager, said the introduction of the Cloverbuds project for ages six to eight helped add members.

4-H Canada recently changed the age range for members to between six and 25.

About 22 percent of the province’s 4-H members are considered urban, although many participate in agricultural clubs and projects.

“That’s terrific to bring those people back to agriculture,” Rothwell said.

He praised the promotional work of 4-H’s youth ambassadors and their campaign promoting the group as more than just cows and cooking.

“That resonates with parents looking for a program that will advance life skills with their youngsters so they become competent, confident and have a better outcome,” he said.

Rothwell expects to see more growth through clubs forming at the college level with a new Future Leaders program for ages 21-25.

B.C. will pilot the new program fostering leadership and business skills in post-secondary students beginning in 2015.

Joanne Hamilton, Saskatchewan 4-H Council president, hopes Future Leaders will help bolster sagging numbers in the older age categories.

“They may help us get them back..”

She said Saskatchewan’s numbers were down by about 100 last year, although enrolment remains strong among younger members and in beef and light horse clubs.

Valerie Pearson, president of the Canadian 4-H Council, said her home province’s large aboriginal population could yield new members in the future. Innovative and non-traditional programming will entice newcomers and retain others and clubs for young adults are offering skills development for life beyond 4-H.

“They’re picking up skills for future jobs,” she said.

Both Saskatchewan and Alberta 4-H programs will mark their 100th anniversaries in 2017. Manitoba and Canada 4-H celebrated a century of 4-H last year.

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