A group effort to connect First Nations youth with agriculture has resulted in the launch of a new 4-H Club in B.C.’s Central Interior.
Since Oct. 15, members of the Williams Lake First Nation 4-H Club have been visiting the 150 Mile Ranch daily to feed steers as part of their 4-H beef projects.
“It’s been an in-house production which has been really neat to see,” said 4-H ‘A’ leader Julia Flinton, adding it was her goal to make it accessible for youth within the surrounding area.
The 150 Mile Ranch is currently being leased to WLFN in exchange for land given to the province to upgrade Highway 97 from 150 Mile House to Lexington, just south of the City of Williams Lake.
Youth won’t be required to pay the producer or supplier until their animal is sold at the annual Williams Lake and District 4-H Show and Sale, Flinton noted.
Flinton grew up on a small farm on Fox Mountain near Williams Lake and as a youth was heavily involved with 4-H as were her brothers.
“I jumped on the opportunity to start one in Sugar Cane with WLFN because I think it will be a really valuable program to have,” Flinton said.
“There was interest expressed in the community, and it’s just such a great program for youth.”
Although Flinton was not initially certain she would have time to lead the 4-H club as she has a toddler at home, she said her mother-in-law June Harry had talked her into it. Harry was hired in 2016 by WLFN to manage a beef operation at the ranch.
“So that’s how it kind of all started,” Flinton said.
Efforts to get the 4-H club off the ground earlier this year were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has made it more challenging but certainly we’ve had several Indigenous communities in B.C. that have expressed interest in looking at developing the youth program,” said 4-H British Columbia volunteer support coordinator Marie McGivern.
Some of those communities include Canoe Creek/Dog Creek, Merritt and Kamloops.
A first year start up grant has been made available for new 4-H clubs which covers the registration costs of members and provides them each with $25 for supplies said Marika Laird with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.
As well as having received backing from McGivern and Laird, Flinton has also leaned on the support of parents and 4-H Club leaders Connie Lynn Stafford from Springhouse and Michelle Archie of Canim Lake.
Flinton said they hope to take the lead of the Canim Lake Band in which their band operated businesses purchase the animals at the annual Williams Lake and District 4-H Show and Sale. From there they are sent for slaughter and are processed before being distributed to the community.
“I love 4-H and wish I could go back and still do it,” Flinton said, adding they will also be launching swine and lamb projects.
“I think it will be very valued in the community and I think these kids will get a lot out of it.”