A local youth group looks to foster confidence, self-esteem, and positive self identity among its members with a good mix of practical experience and good old-fashioned fun. The local chapter of 4-H may be rooted in agriculture, but the club offers positive and rewarding experiences for young people of all backgrounds. 4-H in the Nicola Valley has a membership base of 20 youth aged six and up who participate in educational pursuits and service projects to explore a number of topics including agriculture and photography. 

Club members meet on a monthly basis for business meetings, where attendees discuss their respective project areas and other topics pertaining to club operations. 4-H in the Nicola Valley has four separate project areas that members can specialize in; beef, poultry, rabbits, photography, and cloverbud, for members 8 and under. While those 9 and up work to care for their animals and further their knowledge of animal husbandry, cloverbud members work on scrapbook projects relating to topics in agriculture. 

Group leadership told the Herald that 4-H is not only youth-centred, it’s also youth-driven.

“One of the most wonderful things about the program is because the motto is ‘learn to do by doing,’ and it’s all youth-centred, the adults take a very hands-off approach,” said Erica Martindale, general leader for 4-H in the Nicola Valley.

“We make sure the kids are safe, and we give them the skills, knowledge, and tools to be successful, but everything is member focused. They lead the meetings, they are the ones that raise their livestock, they’re the ones that are out there every night doing chores, and they’re the ones completing their record books.”

Members of the local 4-H club will not only have their larger annual project to work on, but the opportunity to learn more about a number of topics, such as daily animal care, selling animals at market, and other non-agriculture topics like photography. 

Martindale said the group puts an emphasis on developing key life skills in young people, including communication and public speaking abilities. Club members participate in a communication event every March, where they must present a speech or demonstration on their project area. She said the practice has positive impacts on young people’s memorization skills, stage presence, and word projection. No matter the topic, foundational skills are being built. 

“We have so many youth that come from agricultural families, and it gives them an opportunity to ‘learn to do by doing,’within agriculture,” noted Martindale.

“The other nice thing about our program is that we are not just kids who were raised in agriculture, we also have non-agricultural projects. Kids who live in town can still participate, and are still actively engaged in our club. It’s a nice way to kind of bring everyone together.”

Moving forward, 4-H in the Nicola Valley looks to invite more members to join its ranks, and promote the importance of agriculture in Merritt and the surrounding area. For more information on the club, email gh4hclub@gmail.com, or visit www.facebook.com/GrasslandHomesteaders4HClub/.