4-H members learn to do (differently) by doing

A young person’s 4-H livestock career is marked by the showing and often the selling of their stock.

Season-long projects take a lot of heart, time and learning, all of it evaluated and measured at achievement day. This year, the usual culmination of 4-H livestock projects is missing due to pandemic restrictions and health risk mitigation measures.

Fortunately members are finding ways to complete their projects and communities are coming together to support sales efforts and buy animals.

For kids with long 4-H involvement, a big percentage of their lives has been devoted to projects through which they gain the knowledge and experience that comes from raising and being responsible for animals.

Clubs across North America have decided or are in the process of deciding how their achievement days and sales will look. With guidance from provincial and national organizations, they are largely turning to technology to execute the process.

A pandemic is no excuse for easy achievement. After all, this is 4-H, not high school, and there are no shortcuts. Record books are expected to be done and projects exhibited for others to see and judge.

Despite the cancellation or changed format of meetings and limited access to 4-H leaders, the onus is always on members to complete their 4-H experiences as best they can.

With fundraising and traditional meeting attendance curtailed, many clubs still found creative ways to achieve club and member goals.

Technology has helped. Record books can be scanned, photographed or otherwise recorded to show completion. Video of livestock allows animals to be critiqued and judged.

The 4-H motto has come to the fore and finding ways to lead and succeed are what it’s all about.

However, the loss of traditional achievement days will be sorely felt. In addition to the typical anticipation surrounding preparation and transport and meeting with other club members, there’s the not insignificant issue of the sale.

For many members, sale of their livestock project helps fund post-secondary study. Successful sales allow them to fund future careers and help lead this country, developing the healthy heads, hearts and hands that will be needed when this pandemic is silenced.

Some clubs are selling online. Others are donating a club animal to food banks or allocating sale proceeds to charity.

But here is a message to all who have the opportunity to buy a 4-H animal for the herd, for the freezer or for donation: please do it.

4-H is in many ways a tradition among farm kids of the Prairies and its benefits have long been evident among those fortunate enough to participate. In Alberta alone, 4-H members last year contributed more than 4,400 hours of community service. Organizations in other provinces have similar records of turning their hands to larger service.

So help out a 4-H member or club this year by donation or by purchase.

As Alberta 4-H interim CEO Kim McConnell stated: “This is an excellent opportunity for a double win — supporting local charities who are facing bigger needs currently and encouraging young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen and Mike Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

About the author


Stories from our other publications