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4-H Season is Almost Here!

Well, the title is a bit of a misnomer, as 4-H is actually available year round in our county. We are involved in livestock projects though, so our clubs are focused on months with better weather.

4-H in Ontario is a program that has been around since 1915. This means that 2015 is the exciting 100th Anniversary of 4-H Ontario. We had a number of special events in our area for the 100th Anniversary of 4-H Canada, and are looking forward to celebrating the province's milestone too.

4-H as we know it now, is a youth program that is open to anyone aged 9-21 as of the first of January each year. Membership fees vary according to county, but are usually under $100 per child, which is cheaper than joining a lot of sports teams in our area.

People often get confused on the difference between a 'club' and a 'project'. They are basically the same thing. A group of kids and leaders might form a 'club' and might work on several 'projects' over the course of the year, or they might just do one project as a club. So, to explain that in plainer English, a Club, is a group of eligible members and at least two screened volunteer leaders. A Project is the topic they choose to cover. Each project requires a minimum of 12 hours of meeting time. Usually this is split into six, two hour meetings. 4-H has projects for just about anything, livestock, mechanics, outdoors, photography, baking, crafts, safety, you name it.

We have tried a lot of different clubs and projects, but have always focused on livestock. This year, we will be having sheep, goat and rabbit hopping clubs here at the farm.

This year, we are starting with an organizational meeting that is open to the community at one of the local libraries. Anyone interested in 4-H will be able to come out and see what it's all about. We are hoping for a good turnout, as we would like to see a lot of new kids join our clubs.

Many people think 4-H is only for kids who own farm animals. Lots of kids do own animals, but this is only part of the demographic. Like many other farms, we are willing to lend animals to kids who don't have their own. They have to commit to training that animal, and preparing it for the show, but they don't have to house it.

4-H allows kids to develop self confidence as they prepare and show their animal. They are also taught public speaking and critical thinking skills thought a competition called 'Judging'. This is where 'classes' of four items are set up, and the kids have to rate them as if they are the judge at the fair. There is a specific format to follow, but we don't take the actual competition too seriously. Our main focus is for the kids to develop the skills they will need later in life to make good decisions. Judging was a big deal to me when I was in 4-H. The immodest truth is that I was the top judge in the county for about the last 5 years of my 4-H membership career, so it's probably something I'll write more about later :)

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