"You had me at 4-H."
Those were Tim Church's words to me the first time we met in September, 2016. I had just introduced myself as UFA's new Marketing, Communications and Brand manager and mentioned I had ties to the Alberta organization.
But my new job wasn't the beginning of my relationship with UFA. My family were long-standing members. In addition to that, I personally had become familiar with UFA when purchasing show steer supplies from that awesome UFA branded travel-trailer manned by Larry Firmston. It would be faithfully parked down at 4-H on Parade every first weekend in June.
I joined 4-H at 10-years-old. I was one of those kids with an older sister who basically dictated what I should be doing with my extra-curricular time! Little did I know what an impact 4-H would have on my life, both personally and professionally. And so I became a member of the Jumping Pound 4-H Beef club in 1977. I proudly held that membership card for eight years.
Back then, if you can imagine, I was probably all of 75-pounds soaking wet, trying to manhandle a 1,200-pound steer. Over time I got experienced in wiping snotty noses, de-licing, jumping wooden fences when being chased by a not-so-tame animal, pouring molasses on feed in the dead of winter to get them to eat, and calculating rate of gain and financial losses in a record book.
I would overcome one challenge and then be faced with another. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was public speaking. I still remember my first speech on "The Piano", laughing for the entire regulated three minutes out of sheer terror. But slowly over time I began taking small leadership roles, acting one year as the club reporter, eventually becoming club president, and then serving as the Calgary Regional 4-H Council youth representative.
It didn't stop there. Doors began to open and I witnessed first-hand the value of a corporate sponsor. I saw UFA's support at Club Week in Olds. I participated in UFA's very first Steer Classic in 1983 at the Calgary Stampede, having my 4-H steer place first in the heavy weight class and earning a spot in the finals. I volunteered as a camp councillor at a UFA-sponsored 4-H summer camp. Thanks to those open doors my confidence grew. I was honoured to be a member of the Premier's Award group in 1985, ultimately winning my first plane ride to go to the National 4-H Citizenship seminar in Ottawa in April 1986. I even got to shake the Right Honourable Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's hand.
To this day my closest friends are those I met at a Water Valley 4-H camp when I was 12-years-old. I always said I could stop at every other small town in Alberta and find a 4-H friend. Friendships aside, it is because of 4-H that I found my career in communications. I saw an opportunity to be a voice and advocate for agriculture thanks to my relationship with this 100-year-old organization.
Most importantly, 4-H helped to build my character. 4-H taught me the value of hard work. The importance of friendships. Leadership skills. Confidence. Saying thank you. Learning from your mistakes. And ultimately, the drive to always Learn to Do by Doing.
So to the Alberta 4-H organization I say a heart-felt thank you for everything you have done for me. Happy 100th Birthday!
Tracey Feist, UFA Manager of Marketing, Communications and Brand