After a challenging year for its members and leaders, the Ashcroft 4-H club has had its last in-person meeting of the year, and will be moving to Zoom meetings now that the weather is too chilly to allow them to continue with outdoor meetings, which allowed for physical distancing.
The club has three members who are old enough to show during 4-H classes at events such as the Provincial Winter Fair in Kamloops, which the club attended over the weekend of Sept. 25. The club also has a big group of pre-clubbers, or Cloverbuds (under the age of nine), who are able to show during open classes.
“You have to be nine within the 4-H year to be able to show a steer or heifer or anything else,” explains Diana Hoggard. She describes herself as “just a parent” who has thrown her hat into the ring to be a leader within the club. Her husband Jack is an A Leader, and their son Waylon has been a club member for several years.
Hoggard adds that a lot of the younger kids show sheep in open classes. “They have both kinds of classes at fairs, and that way the kids get a lot of experience before they’re able to show in a 4-H class.”
Monty Kinvig, an A Leader who has been with the club for many years, has grandchildren — and now great-grandchildren — who are part of 4-H. He says that before there was 4-H in the area there were the Western Wranglers and then the Cactus Kids, meaning the 4-H club has been here in some form for 25 to 30 years.
“The kids wanted to get their own club to differentiate it from the club in Kamloops,” he explains, adding that the local club has seen its numbers wax and wane.
“For a while there weren’t many people around the ranching community who had kids, but we have several ranching families now who have more kids and who are old enough to take part.”
Both Hoggard and Kinvig note that while 4-H is traditionally associated with ranching families, or people who have enough room to keep steers, heifers, and sheep, there are a lot of options for any kids who want to take part.
“A lot of people think they have to have their own property and keep big animals, but you can board them,” says Hoggard. “People will allow you to keep an animal on their property, and you feed and groom them.
“One of our members wants to do poultry, and a parent has agreed to come on as poultry leader, so we’ll have chickens and turkeys, and some kids have rabbits.”
Kinvig says that there are a number of different components to 4-H that are available for kids who do not have the ability to look after large animals. “There’s automotive, sewing, photography, poultry, rabbits, dogs. Clinton used to do a lot of beef, and now they do a lot of photography.”
Hoggard says that photography is something the Ashcroft club would be interested in taking on. “We don’t have a leader for that, but we can accommodate it if we can find someone to take on that position.”
She adds that the kids run the meetings, where they vote on things they want to do and look for new ideas. “4-H is such a great thing for kids to be involved in. My son is very shy, but he has to talk to people and make speeches. They learn by doing, and the older kids help the younger kids. It’s about helping out.”
As an example, she says that Waylon was the Ashcroft club’s only beef member for a few years. “He went to the Provincial Winter Fair for the final show and sale, and there were kids there from Yale and the North Thompson who would come and offer help with clipping to get his steer ready for the show. Waylon’s not in their club, so they didn’t have to do that. It was a huge eye-opener for me, and I’m very grateful for it.
“The kids are very competitive, but they’re there to help out, even the kids they’re competing against. Members connect with other kids they normally wouldn’t, and camaraderie is a huge part of it. Brenna Kellington, Monty’s granddaughter, has been a huge help to Waylon. She comes out and helps him clip his animals, even though she’s not in 4-H anymore.”
“The senior kids work with the junior kids and become role models,”says Kinvig.”They help with clipping animals, shearing sheep.” However, he adds that perhaps the biggest thing kids get out of 4-H is something they might not realize they’re getting at the time.
“When they go to apply for a job in the future and have 4-H listed on their resume, more often than not they’ll get a job because they’ve looked after the animals, they’ve done the books and the record-keeping, and have shown the commitment. I’ve had different kids tell me that it’s a positive for them.”
He says that this year’s Provincial Winter Fair — his 16th — was very different to past years. “They did the bare minimum so that kids could finish the year. They were the only show that had a virtual and live auction sale in B.C. this year, and the kids had a good sale for their animals considering everything. The buyer support was awesome. There was no public attendance or farm displays, but we had good sponsors who supported the fair because of what we were trying to do for the kids.”
Zoom meetings for the club will start in December, and the new year starts in January. Kinvig and Hoggard are hoping that more kids will come out and give 4-H a try.
“With COVID-19 we lost some members this year because they didn’t want to take chances,” says Kinvig. “We don’t know if they might come back next year. We’re trying to keep the club afloat because we have quite a few assets, but we haven’t had enough for quorums at meetings. We’ve been trying [to get more members] for two or three years, and it looks more promising for next year provided COVID-19 doesn’t get too damaging.”
“We’re trying to get the information out to everyone in the community,” says Hoggard. “We want to get the kids branching out a bit, so we’ve done a couple of virtual shows, and they’ve made videos.” She adds that 4-H is a great experience for the kids who take part.
“My husband was a member of 4-H until he aged out of it, and he has great memories of it.”
Anyone who would like more information can visit the Ashcroft 4-H club Facebook page, or contact Monty Kinvig at (250) 457-0041.