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Cactus Country District 4-H Clubs out of the chutes

Posted on October 26, 2022 by Ryan Dahlman

By Samantha Johnson

Members in all 4-H clubs across the Cactus County District are glad to be back. They’ve been getting organized and having their general meetings, which are all done in person, as they were last year. Elections for the executive council have occurred and leaders chosen. 

Competitions are starting, with a public speaking competition taking place tomorrow, Oct. 26 in Seven Persons for the Norm Payne Award. This award has been hosted by Gas City Kiwanis for over four decades. Only members of 4-H can apply, applications closed last week on Oct. 19. 

For the first time ever, applicants can type their resume. They used to have to hand write them and it was a contentious issue for the teenagers who were applying for the award. The applicant needs a letter of recommendation from a leader and another member of a 4-H club. The event takes place in Seven Persons where the Kiwanis supply supper. Each applicant has a prepared speech and must also do an impromptu one. Winners are announced on Colour Night in Hilda on Nov. 19. This is the evening where all the district awards are celebrated. The winner of the Norm Payne Award receives a trophy and $600 cash with another $400 going to the representing 4-H club. 

Outside of beef, projects will include welding, sewing, cooking, painting, leatherwork, cats, archery, and dog agility. For welding, the member will be mentored at Kurt’s Ironworks again, which has been a very successful program over the years. Leatherwork is done out of Seven Persons Hall. Last year, the multi club in Medicine Hat made quilts, but this year they are focusing on sewing. “We are making scrunchies, pyjama pants, skirts, kittens, and a reading pillow. There’s everything in there from hand sewing to putting in zippers. Skills they will use for the rest of their lives,” said Shirley Elliott, Key Leader of the Cactus County District. 

Six cooking sessions will take place. They start by going through the safety skills in the kitchen and then pick a theme for each time they cook. “It could be rice, we split the kids up into three different groups and each would make rice a different way,” explained Elliott. “They all get to eat it and decide which one they like the best. It could be pasta where one group makes a mac and cheese, another a lasagne and a third spaghetti and meatballs. They are still watching and hearing what the other groups are doing and they get to taste it as well. We make them set a proper table and they have to do their dishes and all that fun stuff. We are trying to teach them responsibility.”

For dog agility, the members go to Gas City Dog Club and work with Sterling Hinch. “He’s amazing, he really is, and he’s worked with our members for almost four years. The members take their own dogs and he runs them just the same as he would run a program for adults. It’s also lots of basic behaviour, depending on how old the animal is,” said Elliott.

In the Medicine Hat Beef club there are 15 members. They have beef and sheep animals along with a few Cleaver projects, which are for the younger members that are six-to-eight-years old. Some kids have started picking out their animal during weaning. They are starting to feed them on the 4-H program and they will be weighed in around Remembrance Day. 

For some of the members, a parent or grandparent will help pay for the animal and the feed. “Sometimes everything is paid for and it’s hard to predict what it will be like in June. Calf prices are up right now so the output to buy an animal is higher,” said Elliott.

The sale last June went well, “it was almost a festive atmosphere,” explained Elliott, “because everybody was able to be back to normal. Everybody was there, we had a great attendance. We had families who hadn’t had a member in 4-H for years showing up just to support 4-H again and do something familiar. We had 20 or some odd quilts hanging, we had welding projects, we had leatherwork. I think we are going to do that forever now because where else are these kids going to get that credit?”

Numbers are strong, which tells Elliott the future of the agriculture industry is good. 

“These kids are learning a ton, not just about raising their animals, but they are doing community service, and all the other things a good citizen should practice. We are starting them young. Our district is one of the strongest in the South Region, which is Calgary south and border to border. Last year we sold about 70 steers and that was with five clubs doing beef. The amount of projects we have is unreal. Think a project, find a leader and we’ll make it happen.”

This year one club, who only had two members doing beef last year, has decided to pursue non-beef projects. Lots of members are starting to figure out what their community service is going to be. They are required to do one, but most clubs do three or four. Last year, Medicine Hat Beef went into Ronald McDonald House twice, one for a spring clean up and again to get the yard ready for winter. Seven Persons always does the HALO Gala in November, they clear tables and wash dishes and will be doing it again this year. 

“4-H’s future looks promising in our area,” concluded Elliott.  

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