Cranbrook’s local 4-H club was paid a visit by Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham on Friday, September 28 at the Cranbrook Community Garden. Popham announced the ministry will be increasing their funding to 4-H B.C. by $63,000, bringing the total funding for 2018 to 2019 up to $150,000.
“It’s incredibly important,” Popham said. “The work that 4-H does is critical to connecting the youth with agriculture and for me it’s really making sure that we’ve got a connection to food in the future. The more people are aware of how our food is produced and why we’re doing it, it bodes well for growing young farmers into farmers that are going to be doing that for a living.”
She said that she’s always been proud of the work that 4-H does, and she believes they make do with a bit of a shoestring budget.
“So I tried as hard as I could to find some more room in my budget to make sure that the work is reflected. Of course the volunteer hours, it’s priceless, you really can’t put a price on what’s done by the volunteers but I think that $150,000 is a good start for increasing that budget that they work from.”
Popham didn’t receive any pushback trying to secure this extra funding and said that “this is the moment for agriculture in B.C.” — consumers are more interested than ever about where their food comes from.
“Trying to find support for a program like this at this time is probably the easiest time I could have pushed for that support,” Popham said. “Our government increased my agriculture budget more than it’s ever been increased ever in the history of the agriculture budget. I’ve got full support from the premier to do this.”
Heather Serafini, president of 4-H British Columbia said this announcement means a lot to the organization. She has personally been involved with 4-H since she was 10, her father was a member in the 1940s and she’s been on the provincial council for around five years — so truly a lifelong connection to the club.
“[The funding] helps enhance all the programs that we do,” Serafini said. “It helps us bring education and all that and open our programs into more urban areas and Indigenous people as well.”
Serafini described the 4-H club as “the best kept secret,” saying that people often think that you need an animal to be in 4-H which isn’t the case. The club has a wide range of programs and also instills life-long skills in their children, like teamwork, public speaking and problem solving.
“We have so many other projects that anybody can be in,” she said. “Right from gardening, to small engine, to adopt a grandparent and all those different aspects that people can do. And with the funding, that enables the province to be able to spend it at a better rate and help more people and be able to involve more kids.”
The funding will specifically be used to increase the awareness of their programs in urban areas as well as in Indigenous communities.
Popham said that in the big scheme of things, $150,000 may not seem like that much but it’s “150,000” thank you’s to the 4-H and all of their volunteers and members.
“The volunteers that run the programs, I mean they’re doing a job, but there has to be interest from the kids and you can see today how knowledgeable and how interested the kids are,” Popham said. “This is creating great citizens for our province.”
Popham added that their is a “huge renaissance” happening in agriculture right now, and that for years, she’s been hearing that more and more farmers are retiring and the average age of farmers is over 60. She explained that one of the biggest barriers to agriculture right now is the cost of land.
“There’s people that own farm land that aren’t farming it,” she said. “So there’s a new generation of new farmers that are incredibly interested if they have that opportunity, but these are people that may not have been involved in agriculture in their past lives. As long as we have this constant stream of 4-H kids we’re going to have some consistency and some stability with new farmers.”