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4-H is helping grow Cowichan's farming future

Cowichan 4-H Horse Club members are learning skills now to promote and preserve valley agriculture sector tomorrow. From left at the weekend’s Island’s Agriculture Show, Cowichan Exhibition grounds, are Matthew Smith, Makayla Mercer, Tasmin West, Tamara Allum, Halee Elzinga, and Dr. Clare Tompkins. - Peter W. Rusland
Cowichan 4-H Horse Club members are learning skills now to promote and preserve valley agriculture sector tomorrow. From left at the weekend’s Island’s Agriculture Show, Cowichan Exhibition grounds, are Matthew Smith, Makayla Mercer, Tasmin West, Tamara Allum, Halee Elzinga, and Dr. Clare Tompkins.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

4-H clubs are an investment in growing Cowichan's agri-business future, young members explained during the weekend's  Islands Agriculture Fair.

"4-H teaches kids what agriculture's about, and how to take care of animals," said Tamara Allum, 21, of the Cowichan 4-H Horse Club that mounted a booth in Cowichan Exhibition's Mellor Hall.

"They'll always be a part of the agricultural industry — they'll continue having horses or other animals for life."

That ground-level interest fertilizes the valley's diverse, farming sector.

"We're learning about animals, and some of us can become farmers after learning at an early age about it, so it becomes natural for us," Tasmin West, 13.

It's also natural for 4-H kids to boost their self-confidence by educating locals about animals and agriculture, indicated Makayla Mercer, 15.

"We run lots of shows and that encourages people bring their animals (to fairs)," she said, noting smarts about feed and grain-growing.

"Feeding animals helps animals, local feed businesses, and farmers growing feed," she said. "It's a like a big cycle."

That cycle includes having animals as a hobby, signalled Halee Elzinga, 12.

"The elders show kids how to carry on; how to provide (food and feed) through your own garden, and grow feed for your animals," she said, noting how her school education is supplemented by agricultural knowledge passed from her grandfather.

Matthew Smith, 16, explained kids involved in the land early get a firm grounding in farming that might mean jobs later.

"It may not be a farm position, but an office or marketing position."

Or maybe a calling as a veterinarian.

"Our members are disseminating information and learning public speaking," said Dr. Clare Tompkins, who practises at the Mill Bay Veterinarian Hospital.

"If 4-H helps keep them in agriculture, even on a hobby basis, they're supporting local businesses by buying feed from stores, using vet services, building fences, or getting maintenance on tractors."

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