SUMMERSIDE – It’s a milestone year for Island 4-H Clubs and its members, with centennial celebrations right around the corner.
Long-time member and now leader of the Freetown-Harmony 4-H Club, Janelle Mann, says 4-H has continued its legacy on P.E.I. because of its range of programs and the power of family.
“It’s a real intergenerational thing. I joined 4-H when I was 10 years old. I was encouraged to join the club because my mom had been a member of the Freetown-Harmony club when she was growing up.”
The Freetown-Harmony club is the longest running club on the Island with 2018 also marking the 90th anniversary of the club.
“It was founded in 1928 and consisted of 12 members. What’s neat is my great-aunt was one of the original members.”
Mann’s favourite part of 4-H was the connections made with people and the life and practical skills she learned.
“I’m still in contact with some of the people I’ve met from shows and events I’ve gone to across the country.
“But in addition, 4-H isn’t just about agriculture. Yes there are agriculture centred projects, but there is also public speaking and other life skills that everyone can use.”
4-H P.E.I. was founded in 1918 with new clubs originating with new projects across the province. But over the years clubs combined and now there are 20 clubs across the Island, which fall in five different districts.
Brenda Larsen, the overall leader of the Albany 4-H Club, says the strength of P.E.I. clubs is apparent.
“We have a large number of groups on the Island and we often work together with members from other clubs if they need help or advice.”
Larsen says 4-H encourages youth in ways other groups don’t but also gives them opportunity to be a part of bettering communities and involved in events and public speaking.
Last year, Larsen received the top P.E.I. Leader award was and recently named one of the top volunteer leaders in Canada.
Mavis Drenth became a 4-H member in Quebec after she was asked to show a calf in a competition by her aunt.
“I was about 12 years old when I got interested in 4-H. From there I became really interested in agriculture.”
Mavis continued 4-H and then studied agriculture in post secondary. She and her husband, Randy, started their own farm in Ontario.
After moving to P.E.I. with Randy and continuing their veal farming business on the Island, Mavis introduced her daughter Taylor, 11, and son Thomas, 9, to the 4-H club in Kensington.
“The Kensington club started up around the same time we moved to the Island from Ontario. I haven’t been involved in 4-H for about 20 years. The age group for members is 6 to 21, and so I wasn’t involved during university. But until then, it had played a significant role in my life.”
Mavis says it was important for her children to develop a love for 4-H on their own.
“It was up to them to give it a chance and they have decided to continue attending and showing.”
Recently Taylor participated in her first show.
“I really enjoyed showing beef last year. To show you lead a cow around the ring. You have to be sure that they keep moving and if you do stop that their feet line up. You need to go slow and make sure the calf doesn’t go faster than you or that you don’t run into anyone ahead of you,” explained Taylor.
“When I show, I feel happy and like I’ve accomplished something.”
Thomas is anxiously awaiting his first showing opportunity this year, since he is now the eligible age.
“Last year I was in the Clover Bud program. We got to groom horses, which was really fun.”
The pair hopes to show calves in varying events and fairs this summer on the Island and possibly off.
The 4-H motto is “learn to do by doing,” something Mavis says is taught to every member.
“It’s given them something from the farm to show for and it taught them a lot of practical skills. They’ve learned to safely handle and interact with animals and take time to work with an animal and learn how it reacts and behaves.”
Five Fast Facts about P.E.I. 4-H
– 20 clubs
– 225 leaders
– 522 members
– Five districts
– Motto: “Learn to do by Doing”
The History of 4-H on P.E.I.
The 4-H organization began on P.E.I. in 1918, originally known as the Boys’ and Girls’ Club.
Over the years, separate clubs were formed for every project with the first clubs formed being swine and poultry.
Then in 1933, the program expanded outside of livestock with the introduction of sewing clubs.
By 1952, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club name was changed to 4-H Club and the program embraced the 4-H cloverleaf logo.
New projects began to take shape, including gardening, forestry, grain and potato. The first Rural Youth Fair was held in 1952 at the provincial exhibition grounds in Charlottetown.
By the late 1950s, 4-H was continuing to grow and consisted of 130 active clubs and about 2,200 members.
The 1960s and 1970s brought change for the Island 4-H clubs, as various groups were combined into single clubs in residential areas. With this, the number of clubs dropped but it offered members a chance to try new and varied projects.
In 1972, the provincial 4-H Council was founded with Dot Henry of Summerside acting as president.
The council helped formalize the involvement of volunteer leaders in the Island 4-H network. There is also a volunteer board of directors, which governs provincial 4-H policies, including the supervision of paid staff.
Then in 1988, the P.E.I. 4-H Trust was established to develop funding for new initiatives, through use of interest from investments.
The Island 4-H network consists of five districts, West Prince, Summerside, Charlottetown, Montague and Souris.
The districts are governed by district councils consisting of representatives from the clubs in the area. The councils are there to act as a voice for members/leaders and also assist in organizing social events in the district and provincially.
There are currently 20 4-H clubs on the Island with a total of 522 members ages 6 to 21 and 266 volunteers.