People often ask Elaine Froese when she first began public speaking. Her reply is always ‘when I was nine.’
That’s when the Boissevain-based farm business coach, today giving lively talks to audiences all across North America, started 4-H — with the Dugald 4-H Club.
And like many who recall that first speech given somewhere in rural Canada, Froese remembers hers, too. It was about a sewing project. She and friend and fellow 4-H’er Carolyn did a talk on it.
“I think we were doing a demonstration about tote bags,” she says with a laugh. It’s one of her fondest 4-H memories.
Now best known for her work supporting thousands of farm families through transition, and as a professional public speaker and writer, Froese this month has been named the first recipient of 4-H Canada’s new Distinguished Alumni Award.
4-H Canada announced last year it would begin presenting the award, and sought nominations to recognize outstanding accomplishments and leadership of 4-H alumni across Canada.
The award category is carved into several categories including Community Engagement and Communications, Science and Technology, Environment and Healthy Living and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.
Froese is being recognized in the Community Engagement and Communications category.
She was chosen because she exemplifies the 4-H pledge and has carried the values instilled through 4-H throughout her entire life, said 4-H officials.
“Elaine Froese is a shining example of the positive impact a 4-H experience has on young Canadians,” said David Hovell, chair of the 4-H Canada board of directors in a news release.
“Through every aspect of her life and career, Elaine has not only lived up to the 4-H values but also believes in them with all her heart. We are delighted and proud to bestow Elaine Froese with the first Distinguished Alumni Award and work with her to promote the 4-H program to a new generation.”
Froese said she feels both honoured and humbled to receive the award.
“I have many colleagues across the country who have 4-H backgrounds as well,” she said. “It’s a lovely honour.”
It’s also affirmation of her life’s work, now spanning over 40 years, with farm families to help them improve their communications skills, she said.
Froese farms with her family in southwestern Manitoba and has lived there since 1978 when she moved to Boissevain to begin working as an extension home economist with Manitoba Agriculture, a career path much more influenced by time in 4-H, too.
Among her many other accomplishments, Froese became a certified business coach and professional speaker, has written for Grainews, and authored four books.
All that public engagement and communication really did all begin with 4-H, she said.
She liked public speaking from the start, and it came naturally to her, she said. She was valedictorian for both her high school and university graduations.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for 4-H. 4-H taught me public speaking and how to think on my feet among many other skills critical to running my business.”
Froese said she encourages all families to think about enrolling their children in 4-H.
“Many people I work with say public speaking is something they’re afraid of. The skills that children learn and grow into in 4-H are basic life skills that will put them on a solid path to leadership.”
She received the Wilson Loree Award for the Development of Excellence in Farm Business Management in 2018.
4-H Canada will present the award at its 2019 Leadership Awards in Saskatoon on January 31.