The humble beginnings of 4-H activities in Alberta go all the way back to 1916 when William (WJ) Jones Elliot, the principal of the Olds School of Agriculture, organized a group of teachers to support and promote the development of boys and girls clubs in the area.
In the very energetic program that followed, the children from 95 district schools were supplied with garden and vegetable seeds, potatoes and eggs then were vigorously instructed in the process and methods of planting, cultivating and chicken handling.
From the overwhelming interest and support of the provincial government as well as the avid community involvement that followed, Elliot would form a Boys and Girls Pig Club in Olds in 1917.
By 1918, the exciting new Alberta 4-H movement had already organized 15 clubs and registered 255 members, who were enjoying their very first ‘Ag experience’ with friends and family.
Fast forward to an amazing century of countless activities, programs, recruitment, training, citizenship, friendships, life skills and deep roots in their communities, thousands of Alberta 4-H member’s ages 9-20 years and their dedicated leaders of then and now are proudly celebrating 100 years of excellence, involvement and the amazing successes and proud traditions in what has now become the most well respected boys and girls youth movement in the world.
The 2016-2017 Alberta 4-H statistics showed 337 active clubs located in rural and urban settings in operation with 5,620 members and 2,221 volunteer leaders participating in 85 projects ranging from beef to sheep to horses to foods and so much more that has always followed their grand philosophy of having fun together while learning to ‘Do by Doing’ and new members are always welcome.
One of the major milestones of the youth-orientated focus of the Department of Youth — which assumed responsibilities for Alberta 4-H in 1966 — continued with 10 new projects that included instruction in Automotives, Tractor, Leather craft, Photography, Junior Leader, Self-Determined, Veterinary Science, Handicrafts and woodworking.
The 4-H program has also grown at a tremendous pace throughout the modern world, now embracing over 70 countries and proudly hosting Global 4-H Summits that attract thousands of members, leaders and guests to a first class event where they can share their ideas, unique skills and friendships while being great diplomats of their nations and protecting our precious environment.
Saluting our West Central 4-H Region
In 1971, the West Central 4-H Council was established and now the region encompasses six districts playing host to 54 clubs, 824 members and 324 leaders.
These vibrant youth are encouraged to develop strong leadership and life skills as they become self-reliant and contributing citizens to their community.
They all have the great opportunity of taking part in a wide variety of programs and exciting and diverse year-round regional activities and projects which include public speaking, multi-species judging, junior winter camps, regional livestock shows and achievement days, herd building, cooking, small engines, record book competitions, all mixed with a lot of fun days.
Each and every 4-H club member and their leaders always look forward to introducing and taking part in new programs, but they also passionately honour their present values and commitment as well as the long-standing colorful history and legacy of the 4-H movement in Alberta, Canada and across the globe.
The West Central 4-H Region is the proud home of the oldest active 4-H club in Alberta, with the East Lacombe 4-H Beef running continuously since being founded by Joe Biglands in 1919. It was later changed to the Lacombe Junior Calf Club in 1929.
Over the years, the West Central Region quickly expanded to include new rural and urban clubs from the district zones of Camrose, Lacombe, Ponoka, Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House and Wetaskiwin. Along with their countless energetic projects, the West Central Region has also enjoyed taking part in such enjoyable year-round recreation activities from skating to trail rides as well as willingly supporting such community fundraising events as Santa’s Anonymous, local food banks, raising steers for charity, recycling, the annual highway clean-up and much more.
The very active 4-H clubs in the Ponoka District — with their formation dates — include: Central Ponoka 4-H Club (1944), East Ponoka 4-H Beef Club (1952), Rimbey 4-H Club (1964), West Central Ponoka 4-H Beef (1964), Bluffton West 4-H Beef Club (1968), Ponoka 4-H Renegade Riders (1985), Silver Valley 4-H Riders (1991), Winfield and District 4-H Beef Club (1992), Winfield 4-H Gait Riders (1995), Crestomere 4-H Multi-Club (2007) and West Central 4-H Rebel Riders (2012-2016).
With the ongoing help of the 4-H families, mentors, leaders, volunteers and their very supportive communities over the past 100 exciting years, the ever aggressive and growing 4-H programs have avidly encouraged our local youth to develop and share their leadership skills, foster positive values and a keen sense of responsibility. They all proudly carried on in a sustained team effort to face all challenges and to strive to make our planet better.
As we extend our sincere congratulations and appreciation to our 4-H movement of then and now on their milestone anniversary, we also extend hardy wishes for many more and ongoing outstanding successes and activities long into our future.
We also salute all of the Alberta 4-H ambassadors such as Isabell Stamm from Crestomere and leaders including East Ponoka’s Joyce Winter for representing the province so well at the Global 4-H Summit 2017 in Ottawa last month.