ARMSTRONG – True to their club motto, “Learn to Do by Doing,” 4-H club members across BC are finding new ways to market their animal projects when traditional means are unavailable.
Physical distancing rules in place banning events of more than 50 people and the cancellation of most fall fairs featuring 4-H auction sales have pushed 4-H leaders to think outside the box.
Organizers of the Okanagan 4-H Stock Show in Armstrong are going ahead with the planned sale date of July 11 but with an online format.
Interior Provincial Exhibition 4-H director Ted Steiger says 4-H members will create short descriptions of their animals for an online catalogue used for the week-long auction from July 4-11.
“It’s basically our only option at this point,” he notes. “Until they relax the rules somewhat … it’s our best option.”
Restrictions in place this fall will dictate the format of the 4-H sale typically held at the IPE.
“As far as the IPE sale goes, we’re still throwing some ideas out on that one,” Steiger says. “There will be some sort of an auction for those kids.”
The cancellation of the Pacific National Exhibition has Lower Mainland 4-H groups considering the online route as well.
Abbotsford 4-H key leader Heather Schmidt says not having the PNE to market animals is a reminder that creative thinking is a useful skill for farmers.
“The marketing is part of agriculture so it may be an opportunity for the kids to have to be a bit more creative in how they market their project,” Schmidt says. “In my mind, the selling of the project is the icing on the cake. The cake is really the whole year of the kids working together and learning how raise their animals well. Marketing is a part of that.”
PNE agriculture manager Christie Kerr is polling 4-H clubs in early June to determine if there is enough interest and resources to provide an online auction in lieu of the auction at the fair.
“It’s a whole new world for us. We are working to see what we can do to engage
4-H and support them in any way we can,” says Kerr. “There has never been a year that we haven’t been here to support 4-H, in particular the auction.”
She expects the auction to have fewer hogs as some swine clubs opted out of a project this year.
“Within our club, probably only half of the members were able to get hogs because of the sharing of property. A lot of pig clubs’ members have their pigs at one farm and with social distancing, they’re just not able to do that right now,” she explains.
Provincial Winter Fair organizers in Kamloops are making a final decision on their event on July 1.
“We’re definitely not going ahead with a full-scale fair,” says 4-H and open beef division representative Carole Gillis. “There is enthusiasm for some kind of an event. But there are also people who have said, ‘No matter what, we are not attending fairs this year.’”
With a 50-acre site to work with, organizers are hoping that something can be worked out with Interior Health for an outdoor event.
Any kind of on-site event would include safety measures in line with health guidelines, with the 4-H auction streamed live for telephone and electronic bidding.
Alternatively, a digital event will be offered with 4-H webinars in July and digital marketing for the sale in late September.
“Either way, we will have an auction of 4-H projects and open projects for anybody who wants to enter,” Gillis stresses. “We think it’s really important for kids not to lose the year and to have that connection to the fair.”
South End key leader Heidi Meier says the Williams Lake and District 4-H Council is currently monitoring the situation. The council hopes restrictions will be lifted in time for its annual show and sale at the Williams Lake Stockyards on August 6-10.
“If the council is unable to proceed in person, an alternate sale format will be presented,” Meier adds. “It is our greatest hope that the community members will continue to support their local 4-H members by purchasing members’ projects in whatever form is rolled out.”
Kamloops District 4-H key leader Ron McGivern says it is imperative that 4-H stock sales continue despite present circumstances.
“This has been a particularly challenging year for our 4-H members, our future leaders in agriculture,” he says. “We cannot have the challenges of this year stifle our members who really need to experience the successes of agriculture.”