I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my Health to better living. For my club, my community, and my country
I was seven years old the first time I heard the 4-H pledge. At the time, I was too young to join the program, but was still shuttled around to meetings, competitions, and project days along with my older brother.
Two years later, I was finally old enough to join the Airdrie Helping Hands 4-H Multi Club. Since then, the words and the meaning of the pledge have been engrained into my mind.
For 100 years, 4-H members across the province have been “learning to do by doing.”
In 1917, just 63 kilometres up the road from Airdrie, one of Canada’s largest youth organizations came to Alberta in the form of Olds Junior Pig Club. The program has since grown to include over 350 clubs in the province with 6,000 members.
“I don’t think I can choose just one part of 4-H that I loved the most,” says Brennan Munro, a former 4-H member and ambassador. “The program just has so much to offer and I think there is something for everyone and something everyone will enjoy.”
Growing up on a farm just west of Airdrie, Munro was a part of the Irricana 4-H Beef and Multi Club for 10 years, participating in sheep and horse projects. In 2015, she was selected as an ambassador for the Calgary region at the annual Selections program and also represented 4-H Alberta as the 2015 Premier’s Award Recipient.
“You can branch off into all the different opportunities such as 4-H camps, public speaking, volunteer work, large shows and scholarships. It just expands from a project into this massive web of activities and learning opportunities.”
Each year, 4-H members complete a record book and diary, teaching them to learn the importance of record keeping and being organized from a young age. Public speaking is also a large part of the program where members must get up in front of the club and give a timed speech or presentation. Winners move on to compete against other members in their area, district, region and then province.
However, throughout the whole year, the biggest focus of 4-H is on the projects.
“Members can have whatever project they want as long as there is a purpose,” says Munro.
Beef, horse, sheep, and dairy are common 4-H projects, but there are also many more options. Though 4-H is well known for its livestock aspect, it has expanded well beyond its rural roots. Multi clubs are quickly growing in popularity, giving members the opportunity to turn almost anything into a project. In fact, many livestock clubs are adding multi club components to attract more members. Kids can participate in anything from sewing to archery to small engines.
Though 4-H in Alberta started with swine, 4-H in this area started with beef.
In 1933, the program came to Rocky View County in the form of Balzac 4-H Beef Club. Since then, members have focused on raising steers and heifers and have participated in all 4-H has to offer.
Almost 20 years later, another prominent club took shape. In 1950, five families came together to form the Airdrie Junior Beef Calf Club, now known as the Airdrie 4-H Beef and Sheep Club. In the club’s first year, it had 30 members.
The Hanson family was one of the club’s founders and is also one of the few that has been involved in local 4-H for four generations.
Andrea Hanson joined 4-H in 1974 and has not looked back since. While her family already had strong 4-H roots, she recalls why she joined: “‘How would you like to join a 4-H club?’ Dad asked me one day as we sat around the kitchen table. ‘I don’t know, I guess?” I replied. That was the start of a lifelong career that has caused me to bleed green ever since.”
After years of being a member of horse and beef 4-H clubs, she went on to work as the Calgary Regional 4-H Specialist for a total of seven years, until 2015.
“I’d say the 4-H program is second to none for developing our leaders of the future.”
Once her two kids, Colton and Cailey Church, were old enough, they each joined the Balzac 4-H Beef Club.
“The project might have been why they got into 4-H but it was much more that keeps them engaged,” says Hanson, who was also co-leader of the club for four years.
Other clubs in the area include Crossfield-Madden 4-H Beef Club, Irricana 4-H Beef and Multi Club, Midnight Express 4-H Club, Golden Rod 4-H Multi Club and Airdrie Helping Hands 4-H Multi Club.
Airdrie’s diverse mixture of livestock and life skills clubs allow anyone the opportunity to get involved in 4-H and try something new.
“I like to see the expansion of projects that aren’t necessarily agriculture related,” says Munro. “We can use our agriculture background and knowledge to educate the urban group, but we’ve also seen a rise of clubs in Airdrie with non-agricultural projects. I think that’s an interesting thing that will be explored in the coming years of 4-H.”
I have never lived on a farm, but I found my own place in 4-H. I started out as an unbearably shy nine-year-old, but thanks to my time in the program, I ventured outside of my shell.
I remember being terrified the first time I had to get up on stage to compete in public speaking. I shook for the entire three minutes as I delivered my speech about cats. In my last year, I confidently spoke about the effects of technology on society and advanced to regionals – the furthest I’d ever gotten.
I went from attending camps as a delegate to counselling summer camps and acting as a role model for younger members. I volunteered in my community, acted as club treasurer, learned to run meetings, and made lifelong friendships. I spent nine years as a member and am now starting my second summer working as a communications assistant with 4-H Alberta.
I don’t know where I would be without 4-H, but what I do know is that my 4-H career is far from over.
A lot has changed in the 100 years that 4-H has been in Alberta, however, the program is still driven by the same basic principles.
4-H encourages youth to become involved in their community, teaches them valuable life skills and, perhaps most importantly, gives them an opportunity to “learn to do by doing.”
Using their head, heart, health and hands, 4-Hers will continue to learn and grow for the next 100 years.