Blogging the 4-H Way



Posted Nov 30, 2016

4-H Alberta was excited to launch its centennial celebration in grand style on November 9 at Farmfair International in Edmonton.  We plan to paint Alberta 4-H Green in 2017 to mark 100 years of 4-H in this province. The Centennial “Kick Off” is just us getting started. In addition to a multitude of dignitaries in attendance, the Kick Off showcased the provincial initiatives that will highlight our milestone – including two signature events.

As well we are beyond pleased to announce the release of our new 4-H song to celebrate 100 years. Written and recorded by Alberta country music artist, Blake Reid, Room To Grow perfectly captures why 4-H is an integral part of Alberta’s rural and agriculture roots. Click here to give it a listen.

For those who are unaware how/why 4-H started here is a quick summary…

One hundred years of 4-H activity in Alberta can trace its roots back to the first pig club formed in Olds, AB in 1917. William Jones (W.J.) Elliott, the principal of the School of Agriculture at Olds had been actively involved in extension work and the school fair program since taking the position in 1913. In the spring of 1916, a system of district agents was established. Five men representing the Department of Agriculture were employed at agricultural schools at Vermilion, Stony Plain, Olds, Sedgewick, and Claresholm. Their work consisted of supporting the development of Boys and Girls Clubs within a radius of about 25 to 30 kilometres of their location. Children from 95 schools were supplied with garden and vegetable seeds, potatoes, and eggs.

The following year Elliot took the program one step further.  He narrowed the focus to supplement the school fair program by organizing a boys and girls pig club with the aim of improving its quality. Assisted by the Imperial Bank of Commerce, loans were arranged so that each of the 24 members could purchase a pair of Duroc Jersey or Berkshire swine. Within the year additional clubs were formed at Stony Plain and Granum and an additional 12 organized in 1918 bringing the total to 15 clubs and 255 members, all due to William Elliot. That year he handed over his school fair duties so he could travel the province organizing the growing network of swine clubs.

Today, there are more than 335 clubs, over 5,500 members, and 750 leaders in Alberta. And each one continues to make a real difference in their hometown, throughout the province, and around the world by participating in the countless opportunities that 4-H Alberta program provides.

Follow the official 4-H Centennial website, for updates and list of events, and learn more about 4-H Alberta by visiting




My 50 years with 4-H

posted Sep 27

By Marguerite Stark
4-H Alberta Director (Mar. 2002 - Sept. 2016)
Provincial 4-H Camping and Exchange Specialist (Sept. 1979-2002)
Ponoka 4-H Diary Club (1968-??)

4-H has been part of my life for 50 years! I have been a member, a volunteer, a leader, a staff person and most importantly a parent.

I started 4-H as a Peewee member with the Ponoka 4-H Dairy Club in the 1966-67 club year. Dad was keen on having his children learn more about the dairy industry. The local DA in Ponoka, Kit Robinson encouraged Dad to register our family. The 4-H Leader Art Avison was a very respected Dairy Farmer in our area and so the journey began. My oldest brother Arthur was an official member and Peter and I tagged along as a Pee Wees and started with a small dairy calf and attending meetings at the Ponoka County Office. It was exciting for me in 1968 when, as a 12-year-old, I could officially join!

Dad felt that 4-H could not only help us learn more about agriculture and Dairy, but that he too, as a new Dairy farmer in Canada would also learn. Mom, on the other hand, felt the personal development and public speaking were the important components of 4-H. She never missed an opportunity to have us go to camp, or deliver our speeches- and often worked hours with us to help each of us – and there were 8 achieve success.

For me, 4-H was always a home away from home where we did not have the peer group challenges of school, but everyone was accepted for who they were and what they could contribute. I had wonderful mentors throughout my years. I especially remember Elton Dunk, our 4-H Specialist driving by our farm to pick me up to take me to the Ponoka 4-H County Council meetings where I held many executive positions – and later on to Regional meetings where I remember working with the regional Council in developing plans and specifically the West Central Regional Days with some great West Central Leaders.

I attended every district, regional and provincial opportunity that was available, and at each one, built skills, friendships and a passion for working with others. 4-H allowed me to grow and develop as a person, and offered opportunities and challenges. Public Speaking was, for me, the opportunity to excel at an activity, and throughout my years as a 4-H member, I participated at club, district and regional levels. I truly believe that the 4-H Communications program is a hallmark of our Alberta 4-H program and one that truly allows our youth to gain confidence in speaking and relating to others.

After High School, 4-H for me did not end but was the start of a working career that extended over the next 40 years. While attending Mount Royal College in Calgary, I connected with the 4-H Specialist and volunteered with many Calgary regional activities including the Youth Science Fair, and the Calgary regional show – now 4-H on Parade. I applied to be summer staff and worked out of the Vermilion, Barrhead, and Calgary offices over the next 4 summers. Although I was not an agriculture student, I was awarded the CN scholarship through the Canadian 4-H Council – for a student engaged and prepared to spend a career in Agriculture. Little did I know that I would work for 4-H for over 38 years!

After university graduation, I was the successful candidate for the 4-H Camping and Exchange Specialist position in Airdrie as part of the 4-H Branch mandate to have provincial staff located throughout the province. This position, which I held until 2002, provided me with the opportunity to utilize my education in recreation administration and communications to further develop the 4-H camp and club week programs into a strong focus on positive youth development. I am proud of the provincial LTCS program which provided a common thread for training counsellors at a provincial rather than region level, The CYA system used at Selections to ensure personal bias was taken out of award allocations, helping to initiate intermediate programming through PDP programs, and ensuring that all our programs were being evaluated through a common model that tied together 4-H objectives and programming goals.

People from across Alberta arrived in Airdrie to celebrate Marguerite Stark's retirement.
49 years of leadership
4-H Branch Heads, 1967-2016 (left to right)
Ted Youck (1967-1997), Mahlon Weir (1997-2002), and Marguerite Stark (2002-2016).
Grandma will have her hands full helping raise the next generation of 4-H Alberta.
There were plenty of gifts, cake, and memories shared.
Our 4-H Alberta Specialists were there to say good-bye.

I spent a number of years as the Branch Liaison to the 4-H Foundation, and together with volunteer Directors help build the 4-H centre to what it is today. My son Richard, husband Merv and I, worked alongside Jerry Hall building the garage which now is used a warehouse for the Foundation. My daughter Debra and I walked and repaired the trails. I always enjoyed determining needs for the 4-H and outside programming, and taking on assorted responsibilities as an active and valued member of the Foundation board in its early stages.

In 2002 I had the opportunity to become more engaged with the 4-H Council as they moved forward, taking on new responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities. The Council, always an important body providing grassroots feedback and ideas embraced the opportunity to become focused and involved in key areas such as leader screening and insurance. I truly appreciated Council’s desire to work with me in developing and providing the first procedures and policy manual for 4-H Alberta. This guide has provided direction for clubs and districts over the past number of years.

The last 14 years, as Branch/Section Head of 4-H has shown me what a great program we have and what great dedicated staff we have working behind the scenes. This group of ministry staff collectively work countless hours of overtime in the evenings and weekends without complaint and without the expectation of ever being compensated for the time. They all do this as a commitment to 4-H, a commitment to agriculture and a commitment to the best youth program in Alberta. To all the staff who have worked with me, beside me, and around me – Thank you for investing your best in the youth of this province.

As a 4-H parent, I had some of my proudest moments. Both Richard and Debra joined 4-H as soon as they were old enough to do so, and although it did take some convincing to stay with 4-H, both achieved their platinum medallions, both were chosen as 4-H ambassadors, and both credit the 4-H program for giving them leadership, communication, and technical skills that are proving to be invaluable in their careers. Through 4-H, our whole family was involved – Merv as an assistant leader, Richard and Debra as members, and me as the volunteer in the club that was happy to get involved.



4-H will, as has been documented in studies over the last 50 years, continue to try to increase 4-H membership in an increasingly busy world. We need to continue to let people know what a great organization 4-H is and how we are truly an organization that is dedicated to building positive youth, committed to community service, and steadfast in our commitment to agriculture and Rural Alberta.

We need to look ahead, and focus on knowing and understanding each other’s strengths, and be comfortable with being dependent on other team members when they have the skills, ability, knowledge, experience, and capability to do the work in the best possible way. Each one of us has areas in which we excel, and in these areas we have the opportunity to do great things. Let us embrace the skills and experience of each other; be comfortable with sharing and accepting feedback for the betterment of the program and be comfortable with using the experience and training of those who have the experience, knowledge, and training.

Let’s continue to be reliable and responsive to ensure we each do our part in ensuring quality work, and continue to communicate with each other by supporting each other’s work, being transparent and open, share in each other successes and help each other when needed.