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Norfolk 4-H Resumes its Presence at Community Events

After months of meeting on-line due to the global COVID-19 epidemic, some of the Norfolk 4-H’s clubs have begun to publicly gather again. In fact, depending upon autumn pandemic measures, craft and livestock club members, both Clover Buds (ages 6-8) to members (ages 8-21) entered their work in area fairs and show ring competitions – long time venues for 4-H youth public engagement.

The first field trip that the Norfolk 4-H Dairy Club made after pandemic restrictions lifted was to the Little Brown Cow farm near Burtch

At time of writing, the Norfolk County Fair entry catalogue listed assorted 4-H competitions from rabbits and cattle to llamas. But the shows depend upon the pandemic situation.

“Kids need each other and they need to be outside,” says Anna van der Steege, a Villa Nova-area dairy farmer.

Van der Steege, who replaced Lori Hopper of Delhi as president earlier this year, credits the Norfolk 4-H’s leaders for keeping most of the clubs going when the government’s stay-at-home order forced 4-H to suspend in-person gatherings. “The directors did a lot more work to keep this club going this year than I did – I just chaired the meetings and rubber stamped things,” she said, adding that her primary 4-H passion is the Dairy Club.

Many of the clubs met on-line while waiting for social gatherings to resume. Some, such as the Cake Decorating, “Batter Up!” and Lego clubs are completed, while a Christmas Craft Club is starting this autumn, said van der Steege. Even the traditional registration or “Rally Night” as van den Steege dubs it where youth gather to register, explore various clubs and their leaders was replaced with on-line registration.

The virtual gatherings upheld the 4-H philosophy of “learning by doing”, which provided generations of 4-H youth opportunities for developing leadership skills and new life skills.

Some ran like courses. For example, the Alternative Agriculture Club, which van der Steege said was coordinated by Lorraine Vogel, utilized videos on topics such as cranberry, hazelnut, pumpkin and maple syrup production. Youth then submitted questions to local experts in subsequent on-line sessions.

This structure resulted in some groups, such as the Baking and Alternative Agriculture Clubs, attracting youth from other counties in Southwestern Ontario, said van der Steege.

But meeting via cyberspace was not for everyone. 2021 membership decreased from 85 last year to 50, said van der Steege. “But we were very happy with the 50 that we have.”

The lessening of pandemic restrictions this summer permitted limited social gatherings, with multiple clubs meeting in person or attending farm tours. Leaders encouraged both the Clover Buds and 4-H craft club members to enter their work in the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show Home Crafts Division.

The Norfolk 4-H Facebook page reveals other activities, such as public fundraisers, an online auction and displays of members’ crafts. In July, the Ontario Horticultural Association awarded the 4-H Landscaping Club for 15 years of public service; under the leadership of Monica Veit, members planted and cared for several area plots including nursing homes, the Simcoe Rec Centre, the Duck Park, as well as planters in downtown Delhi.

Norfolk 4-H is continuing online activities, including registration. And livestock clubs are encouraged to exhibit at surrounding community fairs and events, pending the COVID 19 situation.

Speaking hopefully, van der Steege explained, “It’s good to return to the show ring. The members meet other youth from nearby counties who participate in the Norfolk Fair. Often they continue on, and meet each other again at agricultural universities and colleges.”


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