4-H Canada is set to launch a new youth leadership program, along with a farm safety fund, thanks to a $600,000 contribution from Canadian National Railway (CN).
Executives at 4-H and CN unveiled the 4-H Canada Leadership Excellence Awards of Distinction (LEAD) at Canadian Western Agribition on Wednesday morning.
Each year LEAD will award four 4-H members with a four-year scholarship toward their post-secondary education. The scholarships total $5,000 per recipient per year.
The award benefits 4-Hers in four thematic areas: community engagement and communications, the environment and healthy living, science and technology, and sustainable agriculture and food safety.
“We like our fours at 4-H,” Shannon Benner, CEO of 4-H Canada, joked during a media scrum.
Recipients not only need to excel academically, but make outstanding contributions to their communities, Benner said. Examples of contributions included mentoring younger kids, or helping others start a club.
The award also matches recipients with mentors who are leading in their communities or industry — “and this mentorship is a very important component of the program, because it will help LEAD recipients as they forge ahead in their careers,” said Benner.
The first LEAD recipients have already been chosen, including Cameron Choquette of Saskatchewan, Meghan McGillivray of British Columbia, Louise Pickard of New Brunswick and Austin Pizzey of Manitoba.
CN’s contribution is also launching a farm safety fund. Benner said the fund would allow 4-H clubs to start farm safety initiatives at the grassroots.
Sean Finn, executive vice president of corporate services and chief legal officer at CN, said that rail safety and farm safety is something that’s close to their hearts.
“A lot of these farms, the railways go through the farms, and the kids are exposed to our presence,” said Finn.
When you look at the farm fatality numbers, it’s clear “we’ve got some work to do,” he added. Agriculture ranks as the fourth most hazardous Canadian industry, with 12.9 deaths per 100,000 farm population, according to the Canada Safety Council.
Montreal-based CN is also talking rail safety at Agribition, and linking it to farm safety, which Finn said was a step in the right direction.
Finn said the railway wants to work with 4-H to develop future leaders and promote a safe environment on railways and farms. This commitment is not a “flash in the pan,” he said.
“I think it’s a bit of a new era for us to make sure that we’re present at Agribition, present in your communities.”
— Lisa Guenther is a field editor for Grainews and Country Guide based at Livelong, Sask. Follow her at @LtoG on Twitter.