In recognition of 4-H in Alberta reaching the century mark this year, the Ponoka News spoke with three individuals that have been a significant part of the organization in the west central region and found out about their stories, experiences and what being a part of the 100 year old institution.
However, first a brief history lesson about the formation of 4-H.
W. J. Elliott established the first club for boys and girls in Alberta in 1917 — the Olds Junior Pig Club. That was quickly followed by what is currently the oldest active 4-H club in Alberta — the East Lacombe Beef Club, established in 1919.
From there the organization has flourished, now including at total of 70 countries with the latest club being formed in Kosovo. Additionally, there are many families that are being recognized this year for three, four and five generations of continued involvement in 4-H.
Long time involvement
For Teri Ormberg from Rimbey, her time in 4-H goes back nearly three decades although she wasn’t a part of it growing up.
“I was never a member until my kids got involved, so that’s about 27 years now,” Ormberg said.
“There are a couple of reasons I have stayed with 4-H, long after the kids were done. I like seeing the progress of the kids from one year to another. I see how confident they are, how much better they are at speaking and interacting.
“I also see the benefit of how everyone improves, the commitment from all of the leaders and all of the benefits the members get from all of the social aspects that are also a big part of 4-H. That’s why I’m still involved.”
Something that she has also noticed is that as the number and size of farms keep decreasing, that clubs like Rimbey are evolving.
“Rimbey has been a multi-club for quite a while, mainly beef since that’s more stable and the members tend to stick around, but the club has seen sheep, photography and is getting into more crafty areas as more people live on smaller places and acreages,” she said.
“However, it isn’t just all about the project work, as members learn to run meetings, go to camps, take trips and learn valuable skills like public speaking.”
It isn’t often you find someone, without any kids, stepping in to help lead in this organization. However, there is no doubt that Joyce Winter of Ponoka would have it any other way.
Winter was a member for nine years and has been a leader for 12 years, but still gets asked why she stays involved.
“The progress and growth you see in the members,” she stated, noting an example of one member’s seemingly remarkable jump from one week to the next in public speaking competitions.
“We notice as leaders and it can be from week to week. And they do grow, into very confident individuals. 4-H is about making a well-rounded person by giving members depth.”
The other aspect that keeps her coming back year after year, “You’re in 4-H, you’re family. When I went to university, there was a guy who I met through 4-H, so I wasn’t alone. When I have gone to the Global 4-H Summit, like the one this past summer in Ottawa, there are people I know.”
Winter added 4-H is a connection and that when she has heard from speakers and businesses, they comment 4-H is among the most respected organizations in the world.
Time to give back
Often, it is the young adults from 4-H that take a leadership role later on. That time is now for Isabell Stamm from the Crestomere area, who recently was selected as an ambassador for the west central region and is presently a program assistant with the 4-H section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Stamm was a member of the Crestomere Multi Club for the last nine years and is a key member — best described as a regional assistant — for west central.
“My mother started the Crestomere club 10 years ago with just seven members and the club is now just shy of 40,” she said.
“Done basically every project under the sun, I liked to touch every part of 4-H and what it was. And I went to every event I possibly could because I liked to help out. I think it is partially a bit of my nature, but things I learned in 4-H and the people I met really struck a passion in me to stay involved.
“That’s why I decided to pursue the summer job and see how that would be like within 4-H.”
Stamm added that she will soon be back in university, meaning her schedule will get busier, though her commitment to the organization remains just as resolute as ever.
“As ambassador and summer staff, I’m still involved. Being a part of it for the last nine years, I didn’t want to just leave,” she stated.