Always a 4-H Alumni...

My involvement in 4-H has evolved over the past 60 plus years, first as a 4-H member; then working with 4-H as a Professional Agrologist for BC Ministry of Agriculture’s Youth Development team, over a 35-year career, during ongoing 4-H ‘change and transition’, followed most recently by 15 years a volunteer 4-H BC Foundation Trustee. I will always remain a 4-H Alumni.

What have I learned from 4-H?

  • 4-H is about Head, Heart, Hands and Health and ‘Learn to Do by Doing.’
  • 4-H is the most amazing and comprehensive youth organization in the world.
  • 4-H kids, 4-H Leaders and volunteers are the best!
  • 4-H at  Club + District + Region + Provincial+ National + International level, is like a ‘three-dimensional thousand- piece plus  jigsaw puzzle’. While most pieces fit together well, always some pieces not 100% fitting, with pieces and their relationship to each other constantly changing.
  • Anything is possible in 4-H, it just takes time.
  • Only thing normal in 4-H is ‘change and transition.’

Started as a Chilliwack Ayrshire 4-H Calf Club member.

As a Rosedale dairy farm kid, I was a member of the Chilliwack Ayrshire 4-H Calf Club  from 1959 to 1967. I learned my dairy showmanship skills from William (Bill) McFaul, dairy  showman extraordinaire.’ While BC Holstein News readers may remember Bill as a ‘master of dairy cattle pedigree + auction colour commentary’ he started out as a Chilliwack Ayrshire breeder, teaching 4-H dairy farm kids livestock husbandry. Showing at Chilliwack, Abbotsford, + Cloverdale fairs and Pacific National Exhibition became the highlight of my and my cousins’ summer. Dairy showmanship competition for a first-row blue ribbon often included the Berry and Blair families, among others, often with Gordon Souter, or Bruno Giacomazzi, as showmanship judge. As a Provincial  4-H Club Week delegate, I went on to attend the National 4-H Seminar in Esterel Quebec. As a 16-year-old farm boy going to Montreal by train for Expo 67 was really something. As an added feature, my older cousin Ron was a dairy herdsman for the national Ayrshire herd at the Canadian pavilion.

Professional Agrologist working with 4-H.

I had the good fortune to have a career I always liked and had fun doing. 4-H kept me young, but sometimes gave me extra gray hairs, while working with hundreds of British Columbia 4-H members and leaders across the province from 1969 to 2004.

Starting out as a 4-H Summer Assistant in the Okanagan and Central BC, and after graduating with a degree in Agriculture from the University of BC in 1971; I became BC Ministry of Agriculture first Regional 4-H Specialist, based out of Prince George, covering ‘everything 4-H north of Clinton’. Soon moved to Victoria as a Provincial 4-H Specialist. In 1978, along with 4-H Supervisor, Dave Freed, I relocated from Victoria, as part of provincial gov’t decentralization. Made sense to move the Ministry’s ‘provincial  4-H office’ to the Summerland Ag Canada Research station, and later Penticton to better serve 4-H across the province. Naramata Centre for Continuing Education grew to become a ‘second home’ hosting Provincial 4-H Club Week, Youth Action, and other 4-H training conferences. I soon found myself 4-H Supervisor, always with an energetic but every changing staff team spread across the province. In the mid 90’s, as the 4-H Partnership with the Ministry evolved, I moved to Vernon. “A pleasure to live a block down the road from the world famous “Davison Orchards’ with their Saturday morning limited bakery run of apple cinnamon buns! Direct farm marketing and Agri-tourism at it’s best, a fitting connection to 4-H Rural-Urban Connections Conferences of the time.”

While now a 4-H BC Provincial Council responsibility, prior to the late 90’s BC Ministry of Agriculture was the ‘4-H Agency’ in B.C. As Manager, of Youth Development Programs, I represented BC Ministry of Agriculture, together with Provincial 4-H Council rep, on Canadian 4-H Council (4-H Canada). I had the opportunity to serve on the national Board for several years, serving as President Elect - President - Past President, 1990/91/92. A resulting ‘claim to fame’ is that I have travelled to and visited each of the other nine provincial 4-H Programs at least once, often for better part of a week, attending national 4-H AGM Meetings. Highlight was always the locally hosted  ‘4-H In the Country.’

I also came to appreciate Canadian geography…. ‘From the rocky shores of Newfoundland and Labrador…. to the red soil of Prince Edward Island…. to the apple orchards of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis valley… to the covered bridges of New Brunswick… to the culture of Quebec…to the nation’s capital in Ottawa… to the heartland of Ontario… to the home of 4-H in Manitoba…to the wheat fields of Saskatchewan… to the rolling grasslands of Alberta… to the mountains and forests of British Columbia. The diversity that challenges us as a nation is also our greatest strength that helps bind us together though our similarities. There is a true symmetry between 4-H and the Canadian rural fabric’. As the song says ….This land is your land, this land is my land, From Bonavista to Vancouver Island,From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters ... This land was made for you and me.’           

Early in my 4-H career, in 1978, I participated in an Agricultural Institute of Canada CIDA Commonwealth Foundation sponsored 4-H Worker Exchange to Sri Lanka. Spent a month visiting 4-H club members around the country doing basic 4-H workshops. This was my first international experience to a developing country. In hindsight, this experience played a big part of continuing my career with 4-H, as a Professional Agrologist.

4-H ‘Change and Transition’

 I have come to realize that the only thing normal in 4-H has always been ‘change and transition’. ‘Change’ is easy. It’s the ‘transition’ that’s difficult. While a decision is ‘easy’ getting everyone on side and finding the resources and implementing the training to ‘transition’ to a new norm is the challenge! Credit to the many great and new volunteer Leaders, and staff, who always step up to the plate to make new things happen in 4-H !

While current 4-H BC leaders have a basic appreciation of the provincial component of 4-H BC structure (yes it can be a ‘puzzle’) including 4-H BC Provincial Council Board and 4-H BC Office staff, and Ministry of Agriculture Youth Development staff partners; there was a thirty year plus ‘transition’ from ‘bottom left desk drawer’ …. to part time contract secretary-manager … to a full-time contract back yard home office …to two full time employees in an office in Enderby … to present 4-H BC Office staff team in Vernon. The ‘transition’ occurred as a ever changing volunteer 4-H BC Provincial Council Board assembled the required resources, and the many pieces of the ‘4-H puzzle’ were reset. Entirely fitting, given 4-H is fundamentally a ‘leadership development program’ of youth + volunteers taking responsibility, fundamental to the roots of 4-H, as an agricultural extension education program for youth + volunteers.

 An easier to understand example of 4-H ‘change + transition’ was the beginnings of the 4-H Dog project. “First introduced in the 1970’s, the first dog ‘pilot project’ met with stiff resistant from traditional 4-H project groups. Today it is a key project providing for the inclusion of many rural non-farm and urban families into 4-H”.

In the ‘90’s 4-H BC lead the way as the first provincial 4-H Program in Canada to introduce the 4-H Volunteer Leader Registration process with Criminal Record Check. Today it is a ‘given’ for all youth organizations! … more ‘change + transition.’

The ongoing 4-H BC Safety Program was always an uphill challenge. It took the death of a young 4-H girl, at her 4-H club’s field-day, for the 4-H BC community to refocus on Farm and Home Safety. The ‘transition’ did not come easy! Today 4-H Farm and Home safety training occurs regularly as part of 4-H BC activities.

“I always have had a lot of respect for 4-H volunteers, who travel and work weekends. I may have done the same, but I had the option of taking Monday off, they don’t. They have to return to their jobs.” 

“Being away travelling throughout the province or away for a week at Provincial 4-H Club Week, was hard for family back at home. My kids often kidded I needed to wear my name tag at home.

“One of my highlights of being a 4-H staff was chaperoning ten Canadian 4-H teens to the U.S. National 4-H Conference in Washington DC and staying at the National 4-H Centre in Chevy Chase, Maryland, along with 300 American 4-H teen delegates. Proud to be a Canadian + Canadian 4-H delegates really shone’.

Throughout ongoing 4-H ‘change + transition’ the core principles, values, and dynamics of 4-H at all levels have continued. 4-H BC has evolved with its present effective 4-H Provincial Council Board, focusing on policy and strategic planning, with 4-H BC office staff administering the program; together ‘in partnership’ with BC Ministry of Agriculture Youth Development Team focusing on programs and training. A very unique ‘one-of-a-kind Partnership’ reflective of outstanding 4-H leadership growth to help sustain BC Agriculture industry with community leaders into the future.


4-H 100th Anniversary Celebrations held in 2013 + 2014

As a 4-H Alumni, I had the pleasure of being part of the 100th Anniversary committee of 4-H In Canada in 2013, and 100th Anniversary of 4-H In BC committee in 2014. Over five years of advance planning and preparation of each, consideration effort by many went into research and reflection of 4-H in the first 100 years, and on 4-H continuing into the 21st century.

If you are a 4-H member looking for a topic for your next public speech, and you have an interest in the history of 4-H in BC and Canada, check out the following 4-H Research Papers, on file in your 4-H BC Office.

  • Discovering the Grand-Father I Never Knew … E. Ward Jones (1889-1937) by E. Ward Jones, Vancouver, (2013)  ** The story of the gentleman who started the first Boys + Girls Club (later called 4-H) in Roland Manitoba in 1913. Written by his grandson of the same name, E. Ward Jones, of Vancouver, in 2013 as part of 100th Anniversary celebrations.
  • Dr. Echo Lidster (1916 – 2002)  ‘Mother of the 4-H Name in Canada’ By Gordon J. Bryant, 4-H Alumni (2013)
  •  4-H across Canada ….the Same….but Different   Gordon Bryant 4-H Alumni (2013)
  • 4-H Name, Emblem and Pledge Origin in Canada Gordon Bryant 4-H Alumni (2013)

Volunteer 4-H BC Foundation Trustee.

After being retired for three years, in 2007, the 4-H BC Manager of the day asked me to volunteer as a 4-H BC Foundation Trustee, resulting in my Foundation involvement over the past 15 years, with past several years as President. “I had previously had the good fortune to sit in as an observer at the founding meeting of the Foundation in the mid ’70’s and had a profound respect for volunteer Trustees over the years.”  I learned the often-misunderstood concept of ‘in perpetuity’ donations, and the power of investment earnings from a Foundation, together with 4-H Alumni having an opportunity to consider to ‘give back’.

What does a volunteer 4-H BC Foundation Trustee do? First, Foundation Trustees are the ‘caretakers’ of 4-H Foundation donations, ensuring sound investment return, without risking the principle. Second, Foundation Trustee are ‘cheerleaders’ to encourage Friends of 4-H and 4-H Alumni, etc. to invest and give back to 4-H to ensure a long term sustainable 4-H BC into the future.

4-H BC Foundation is a unique public Foundation, as the ‘investment arm’ for the overall 4-H BC family, serving 100 separate legal 4-H BC entities, all under the umbrella of 4-H BC. In practice, Foundation, as a provincially registered society, with a federal charitable tax #, technically operates no 4-H programs. Mission is to accept donations, build the portfolio, and distribute earnings back to 4-H BC. Under Canada Revenue Agency Charitable Giving rules, earnings can only be given to a ‘qualified donee’ … that being an organization with its own Charitable Tax #. Thus, the reason earnings go to the 4-H BC Provincial Council, who is a ‘qualified donee’, for 4-H programs and services that support 4-H equally across the province. ‘A charity cannot merely be a conduit to funnel money to an organization that is not a qualified donee.’   

In 2013 4-H BC Foundation was approached by the executor of an anonymous estate  wishing to make a very significant donation toward 4-H on Vancouver Island and needing a charitable tax receipt. Foundation used its existing mandate and expanded to provide for “Designated Donations’ under Charitable Giving within the Income Tax Act. Now known as the Vancouver Island 4-H Designated Donation (Anonymous), Vancouver Island 4-H Regional Council, applies as the ‘sole annual applicant’ for earnings from this gift, the principle of which have been ‘co-mingled’ with Foundation general funds to maximize returns.

“I am proud to have teamed with other Trustees, and staff, on Designated Gift donations over the past ten years. Now with first seven major donor agreements, which total 25% (+/-) of Foundation’s portfolio + annual disbursements. Foundation was in the right place at the right time, for these significant donations. I enjoyed the unique learning experience of fitting CRA’s ‘Designated Gifts’ requirements to 4-H BC’s unique structure, now in place going forward.”

Ways to Give … with a Choice of Three Pathways  

There are many ways to give to your 4-H BC Foundation… $, property, securities,         in-memoriums, insurance policies, wills, and bequests, Donors are encouraged to ask the question, “Is this what I wish my donation to do ?” Check out the following three ‘pathways’, all providing a charitable tax receipt.

A general donation to 4-H  BC Foundation: Donations are invested in perpetuity, with annual earnings going to 4-H BC Provincial Council’s provincial 4-H programs for members + volunteer leaders. $25 plus.


Or: 4-H Endowment to 4-H BC Foundation: Donation invested in perpetuity, with annual earnings  ‘designated’ to a specific provincial 4-H program. E.g., Provincial 4-H Scholarship, etc. $5,000 plus. One-step. Recognized as a ‘named’ 4-H Endowment.


Or: 4-H Designated Donation to 4-H BC Foundation: Donation invested in perpetuity with annual earnings ‘designated’ to a specified 4-H Region (one of 7)  or a specified 4-H District (one of 31) for a 4-H program of their choice. $25,000 plus.  Three-steps including application by sole designated recipient. Recognized as a ‘named’ 4-H Designated Donation.

 Talk to a Foundation Trustee of your choice, or contact Danuisa Tarr, 4-H BC Fund Development Coordinator,  4-H BC Foundation, 2743 - 30th St. Vernon, B.C. V1T 5C6   250.545.0336   or  1-866.776.0373           

History of 4-H Relevant to 4-H Going Forward….

For me, history is important, especially when it relates to the success of an organization going forward. “ An organization needs to know when it has been, to have success planning and going forward in the future…’  

“While the movement now know as ‘4-H’ has been around 110 + years in Canada, the name ‘4-H’ has only been around since 1952. Prior to1952, it was called ‘Boys and Girls Clubs’. The original telegram, dated March 1, 1952, approving the name Canadian Council on ‘4-H’ Clubs’ from the Canadian patent office in Ottawa was received in Victoria BC by then Supervisor of Boys and Girls Clubs for BC Ministry of Agriculture, Miss Echo Lidster, who at the time was the elected President of the Canadian Council on Boys and Girls Clubs. Use of the 4-H name in each of the ten provinces evolved from this telegram. Hidden in 4-H office archives for over 50 years, original telegram surfaced in 2007, and was ‘repatriated’ to the ‘national’ 4-H Museum in Roland, Manitoba, home of the first 4-H Club in Canada, as part of 2013 100th anniversary of 4-H Canada celebrations.“

My respect for Dr. Echo Lidster stems from getting to know her during her retirement in Penticton in the 90’s. Knowing this 4-H history has resulted in my one 4-H ‘pet peeve’ … that of people, often unknowingly, incorrectly writing 4-H on signs and in printed material. 4-H is a patented copyrighted name, thus always written as 4-H  (Always with a dash) ! Compliments to the 4-H BC community for using the recent new Canadian 4-H Emblem, not the old Canadian 4-H emblem or not the different American 4-H emblem.

“My Sri Lanka experience recently came back to me, one evening four years ago, when my wife Jennifer and I visited Kenya with it’s many wildlife reserves. Nothing more fun for an ’agriculture youth extension person’ than to visit a traditional Masi village and hang out in their village’s brush fenced compound housing their cows and goats and talking with herdsmen + kids about livestock husbandry. Cows and goats are brought in behind a bush fence at night to protect them from lions. And we think we have wild-life and livestock issues ! The Masi people are known for their tradition of drawing blood from their cow’s and goat’s neck and mixing it with fresh warm milk. For the Masi it is like a ‘strawberry coloured high energy protein smoothie,’ Thankfully they never offered.”

In retirement, I have been fortunate to travel to many countries. While tourist sites and beaches are great, I am always attracted to the rural and farm stops with the opportunity to talk with locals farm families and kids. From Australia to New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Morocco, South Africa, Kenya, and Panama; there is a ‘common thread’ of challenges related to soil, water, weather, and marketing by farm families working to make their community and country better.”

Going Forward ….

I have come to appreciate that the key to 4-H going forward is to have a strong Strategic Plan that is clear + simple, with buy-in from all. I have every confidence that 4-H will continue to grow and evolve to meet the needs of youth and volunteers, continuing to focus on new skills, personal development, leadership, communications, and health.

Having relocated from Victoria to Chilliwack four years ago, to be closer to family; I have found a new passion as a volunteer member of Atchelitz Threshermen’s Association Pioneer Village Farm Museum. “Where else can one restore one’s own ‘54 Ferguson tractor, and display it is it’s own cottage, plus have an allotment garden. A wonderful place for a retired 4-H farm boy now living in a condo.”