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Amber Underwood Memorial News Competition


2018 Winners

Junior Category: Jordan Snider (Frontenac) 

Senior Category: Nicole Emmerton (Peel) 

2017 Winners

Junior Category: Ethan Russell (Brant) Read his winning submission here.

Senior Category: Natalie Nichol (Perth) Read her winning submission here. 



2014 Winning Entries Click to expand

Senior Winner - Nicole Scott
Grenville County


Junior Winner - Laurel Pierroz-Wong
York County

Chocolate Memories Galore!

One of the tastiest programs in York Region’s 4-H is the Chocolate Club. This club was held from mid-March to the last day of school this year at leader AnnaLena Seemann’s house – with the exception of the last meeting, which was an amazing field trip to two chocolate factories.

Our first meeting, of course, set the stage for the rest. It was held March 18th, when it was still below zero outside, and we had the honour of hosting two visitors from 4-H Jamaica. They went through a 40? drop in temperature, from the minute they boarded their plane to the minute they stepped off into what must have felt like Canadian arctic weather. But they threw on coats like the rest of us and turned out for tricky icebreaker games meant to get club members feeling more like friends than just part of a club. One of the best was the broom broom game, which drove everyone crazy trying to figure out what the trick was to winning. Another was a game where we made funny animal noises, played charades, acted out skits and had a ridiculous amount of fun – and our special guests from Jamaica did some novel impressions of a cow. After the games, we did what all chocolate clubs have done before - we ate chocolate. Actually, we were evaluating types of chocolate to improve our life-long judging skills. At 8:55 p.m. it was the end of the first meeting, but the beginning of a memorable and thrilling club.

Another superb meeting presented the “Master Chef Challenge,” where members were split into teams to design amazing cakes with the coolest decorations. One cake was transformed into a sunflower, with chocolaty delights sticking out from everywhere; another was an incredible 4-H themed clover cake.   

For a very specific club, the meetings were very broad, and ranged from making chocolate truffles, to crafting chocolate cream eggs for Easter, to learning that “you can’t rush science” (as guest chef Danny Seemann declared while making strawberry chocolate tuxedos), to taste-testing different strengths of chocolate.  Now those are some very different flavours that are hard to erase from your taste buds! The chocolates ranged from 70% cocoa (which wasn’t so bad) to 92% cocoa, by which time we had finished a full jug of water trying to flush out the painfully  bitter taste of some of the stronger squares. Small but mighty, one small bite of such a square and your whole mouth shrank in horror, forcing you to (delicately) spit the piece out. Member Katrina Seemann said “my tongue is crying,” and swallowed more water. But then again, to each their own because there were some people who quite enjoyed the stronger taste.  Ultimately, no one would have joined the Chocolate Club if they weren’t a chocolate lover, so it was quite the sweet experience. 

2013 Winning Entries Click to expand

2013 Winning Entries

Senior Winner: Bethany Stavinga
Wind turbine dispute in Haldimand County

Swoosh! Swoosh! A big controversy in Haldimand County right now is the effect of wind turbines in our area. This rural issue is important in this county because of all the commotion it has caused. Some people are for it, others are fully against it.

This past year in Haldimand County we have started the growth of technology by bringing in wind turbines. Some people believe that the windmills are better for the environment, then the coal factory. In some ways it can be, because there is no longer the pollution in Lake Erie. The wind turbines have been placed on farms throughout the area, and the farmer gets paid to have the wind turbine on his land. People in our community that own multiple farms have decided that they need these wind turbines because every penny counts. This benefits our county because we will be getting money back for the electricity made.

There is supposed to be up to 200 wind turbines installed in Haldimand County with contractors such as Samsung Renewable Energy Inc. At the moment there are many wind turbines running and there are quite a few of them in this area. They are huge and while watching them installed every once in a while, it looks like a big job. This is good for the economy because it brought jobs our way.

On the other hand, there are many people against the wind turbines in Haldimand County. We have had a couple of interferences with the wind turbines. One wind turbine was set on fire and was painted with graffiti. The cost of damage from this one turbine was around $60,000. People believe that taxes have gone up as a result of the wind turbine and have been outraged. When the wind does not blow, or if the wind blows too hard, the wind turbine will not run. So therefore, we are limited on use of the wind turbines due to environmental conditions. Some people do not like them because they think that they are not part of nature. There have been many petitions to stop the turbines in this area, but the wind turbines seem to be going up anyway.

Another dispute is that the big farm operators seem to get many wind turbines put on their land, while small time operators have a hard time even getting one. Another comment being that these big time operators do not put the wind turbines on the property they are living on. They have no problem putting them up on land they own that abuts up to their neighbours. It has been said by many doctors that there are health risks. Health studies should have been undertaken.

Hopefully this dispute will be over one day and the truth will be uncovered if these wind turbines are a positive or a negative in this community. Time will surely tell. Until then, this dispute will go on.


Junior Winner - Samara Aabo
York Region 4-H Cooking Club

This year I was in the York 4H Cooking Club.  The theme was “Milk Makes It Better”.  Our leaders were Karen, Theresa and Marion.  We meet once a month for six months at Karen’s house.  Our leaders were great.  They taught us lots about milk products and helped us out when we made recipes.

At the meetings we would talk about milk products and the importance of nutrition in them for our bodies.  We need calcium for our bones.  We would also do activities that were in our cooking club binders.

 We learned about products that have milk in them for instance yogurt, ice cream, butter and cream.   One activity we played was called the “Milk Jingle” contest.  Members would work in groups to make up a song about anything related to milk and perform it for the rest of the members in the club.  My groups jingle was:

Cheese please

It makes your bones strong

All lifelong!

We learned how to make butter.  We put cream in a small jar and shook it with our hand.  After shaking the cream for a while, it turned into butter.

Also, we learned if there is a picture of a cow on ice cream containers it means that it is made from 100% Canadian milk.

One meeting we sampled different types of milk for example lactose free, 1%, 2% and skim.  That was fun.  We also had to track at home how many milk and milk alternatives we ate for a week.

At home I had to make five recipes from our cooking club binder for Achievement.  I made hot cocoa, salsa nacho dip, creamy pasta, cheddar potato soup and frozen smoothie pops.   I loved all of the recipes.  My family sampled them all and thought they were delicious.

At Achievement night, all the members said a speech about their experience in the York 4-H Cooking Club.  Everyone also said a speech about a milk product.  We all made a recipe from our cooking club binder and brought it to the last meeting.  We all served our recipes to the guests who attended.  I made the herb vegetable dip. Other members made lasagna, ice cream cake, potato cheese soup and nacho dip.

My leaders were very generous and gave all the new members a green 4-H apron.  All of the members were given a bag with cooking utensils in it.

My favourite part of cooking club was when we would make the recipes and then eat them.

I had so much fun at cooking club and I am definitely going back next year!


2012 Winning Entries Click to expand

Senior Winner - Jackie Shaw
Oh the Lessons You'll Learn

The motto of 4-H is “Learn to do by Doing” however, I have realized that there are so many more lessons to learn by participating in the 4-H program. I was a member of the Damascus Woodworking Club this past spring and in one meeting there were a multitude of life lessons to be acquired.

The first lesson that I learned was that of teamwork. During this meeting club members were constructing birdhouses. There was only one mail-gun and both my younger sister and I needed to mail the shingles to our houses. We realized that if we worked together we could get the job done in a fraction of the time as we could have if we had worked individually. While one of us positioned the shingle on our roof the other would nail their shingle on and hand over the nail gun. This example of teamwork saved us time.

Overcoming my fears was lesson number two. At first I was very apprehensive about using the power saws to cut the wood for my birdhouse. However, after one of the leaders, Janice Walsh, reminded me of the 4-H motto I decided to give it a try—slowly. When I realized that I did not cut off any fingers I began to feel more comfortable around the tools and by the end of the meeting I was using them with ease. The third lesson learned was that it is okay to ask for help when you need it. I was having a lot of trouble using the drill press to make an entry hole for the birdhouse. At first I did not want to ask for help because I thought I would be able to figure it out on my own. A younger member, however, saw my plight and offered his help. After I accepted, I realized that without his help I probably would not have been able to complete the task. Sometimes in life we don’t ask for assistance when we need it; this experience reminded me that asking for help is not a bad thing.

The final lesson to be learned was that it is important to be involved in the local community. The birdhouses that were constructed during the meeting were placed on the Arthur Walking Trail. This meant that not only would the birds be able to appreciate out efforts, but the whole community would be able to see the birdhouses when walking on the trail.

Overall, in the two hours of this meeting I was shown that one can learn many things that will be useful in a multitude of situations in life. From the benefits of teamwork, to asking for help when we need it, and having a sense of community spirit, 4-H has taught valuable lessons not only to the members of the Damascus Woodworking Club, but also to thousands of members worldwide. The most important lesson that will stay with me for the rest of my life however is that everyone can “Learn to do by Doing”.  


Junior Winner - Ariana Tersteege
Norfolk 4-H Rabbit Club

Norfolk 4-H Rabbit Club is run by Wendy Lamb at her farm in Lindoch, ON. It is an agility/showmanship club for rabbits. We are taught how to properly do rabbit agility, showing of rabbits, grooming and cleaning rabbits and the welfare of rabbits. We have a club meeting once a month on a Thursday.

For agility, Webdy teaches us how to get our rabbits to go over jumps, through tunnels, and weave through pegs. She also teaches us how to keep our rabbits healthy. She has taught me that I must clean their cages once a week and feed them every day. She has also taught me which vegetables I can and cannot feed them. For example, I have learned that you cannot feed them anything from the cabbage family because it will create has and rabbits are unable to release gas. Also it is good to treat your bunny to only a small amount of fruits and vegetables a day.

Wendy has also taught us about many breeds of rabbits, such as Holland Lop, Netherland Dwarf, Lionhead, and Flemish Giant. I have also learned many different colourings of rabbits such as blue chinchilla, otter, agouti, black steel, tortoiseshell, broken, Californian, castor, cinnamon, chocolate, cream, fawn, pearl, grey, lilac, orange, red, sable, sandy, seal, self group, shaded group, ticking, tortoise, and many more. During that process I have learned that my rabbit is a blue Holland Lop.

I have learned how to show my rabbit and about showmanship. We must bathe our rabbits, groom the, and trim their toe nails before showing them. If we accidently cut one of their nails too far, we have been taught to put the mail in baking soda to stop the bleeding. I have learned that you have to wear proper showing clothes and for showing a rabbit you have to wear a white top and black pants. To start the proper showing process, you must introduce yourself and your rabbit to the judge. To show you rabbit you have to describe each side of the rabbit, features and the condition they are in. For example: “My rabbits ear are nice and clean and free of debris. It is also not tattooed”. To end the showing, you repeat your introduction. You must also thank your judge or judges. I have also learned that you are judged out of a hundred point. Wendy’s daughter, Chrissy, has helped a lot of the members with their showmanship.

Wendy makes sure we do public speaking at every meeting. She makes it fun and easy to do. Wendy makes the club fun, yet we learn a lot about our rabbits and what to do with them. I think she is a very good leader because she knows the topic and she makes the club fun to attend. I have learned everything I know about rabbits from her. She is a good role model because she is a kind person and loves animals.


2011 Winning Entries Click to expand

Senior Winner - Nicole Shelley
How To Judge: Bubbles?

The Hanover 4-H Judging club has been running for three years, but in 2011 it got a fresh new makeover. Now, the new and improved judging club has 8 members this year who have learned that judging goes above and beyond simply judging animals, fruits and vegetables, and sewing. From the first meeting in June to the achievement day at the Grey Bruce Judging Competition in August, the members have been taught that they judge everything from the moment they wake up in the morning to the second they go to sleep at night. And the skills the learned will last them a lifetime.

When the members walked onto our farm for the first meeting of the year, the look on their faces told a truer story than words could have, describing how they felt about judging. As leader and youth leader, my mom and I could easily read their minds. “Yup, it’s just another 4-H credit. Same old thing.” But when my mom told the kids that their first task was to judge bubbles, their eyes went as big as saucers. “How in the world do you judge bubbles?” was the unanimous questions. It was explained that each of them had to blow bubbles, and then judge who blew the most, the biggest, and the longest. From that moment, the standard was set. Following the bubbles, the members had to judge water pails fro a fair (the criteria was a one day fair where they had to carry the pail a long distance), as well as hats, flowers, gum and pens.
Excitement spread as they anxiously waited for the next meeting. And what met them the following week were beach balls, chairs, candy, water guns, horses, and marshmallow sticks. They worked their way through the judging of the items, as well as reasoning out why they placed each item where they did. The members established that even if their placements were wrong according to the official placing, if well done, their reasons could still raise their score. Their memories of the previous week’s fun were refreshed as they used the marshmallow sticks to make and judge smores, judging who’s was the best.

They learned that you need to judge fairly, even when you have something of your own in the competition.
The weeks flew by as the members went from easily distinguished classes and placings to harder classes and reasons. But in every case, the class was always well enjoyed and the judging went hand in hand with fun. Finally, six weeks after the club started, it was the day all the kids had been waiting for.

The Grey Bruce Judging Competition was the achievement day, and the kids were full of adrenaline as they got ready to compete with their judging skills. The classes were hard and some were unexpected, but afterward the club felt enthusiastic. When the winners were announced, 4 out of 8 of our club’s members placed, with our youngest member winning three awards!

This year has been an experience with the new and improved judging club. With the crazy classes, eye opening ideas, water fights, and a whole lot of fun, I can’t wait for next year. There will be more members because the news of fun we have had has spread to many others. But with more members in the club, it means more opportunities for excitement and learning, and more ideas for things to judge. And to think it all started with judging bubbles!


Junior Winner - Mackenzie Dickie
4-H Rabbit Club Essay

Many people enjoy rabbits but some don’t know how to care for them. There are a lot of people in the Haldimand County Rabbit Club. Most people enjoy learning about their rabbits in every meeting there is something new to discover about them. Most people in the club breed and raise rabbits, so if you are looking for one, you can buy from them. Our club has noticed from the different outings and inter-county rabbit shows that the popular breeds of rabbits are Mini Rex, Holland Lop, and there is a wide variety of meat and Flemish Giants.

Rabbits come in different colours, shapes and sizes. As well as different features rabbits fit into different classes such as fancy and meat. When showing and looking at how well the rabbits fit into their described breed types they would be sorted into those categories. There are very many breeds of rabbits, some are pure bred and some are mixed. The only difference is that pure bred is supposed to have only that one breed of rabbit all throughout it’s background, while mixed would have different breeds or breed in the background of the rabbit. There are many breeds of rabbits that are probably unknown at the moment.

When looking after a rabbit there are a lot of things that are very important. Rabbits can have a lot of health problems if you don’t look after them properly. An important part of the rabbits health is to monitor their feeding habits. You have to know what to feed them and how much because they can get a very bad stomach sickness. A symptom that normally comes with this is a bloated stomach. This occurs because rabbits can’t throw up. Ways to prevent this from happening would be to five the rabbit plenty of hay. Some things that are not good for a rabbits stomach would be a lot of fruit and even vegetables. The reason vegetables are bad for a rabbit’s stomach is because too many of them can give them diarrhea. Looking after rabbits is a very big responsibility.

Things that the rabbit club do are going on different outings. This year they went to a rabbit meat plant. They learned different ways and strategies of caring for meat rabbits. The rabbit club also hold and inter-county rabbit show. This happens at the end of the year when all the fair showing is over. All the clubs around the area come to where the show is being hosted. Normally Haldimand hosts it. The rabbit club also has a barbeque before the Caledonia fair to practice showing their rabbit and getting together for the last time before the fair.

Everyone in the club would agree that they like the club because of all the fun they have together. They show rabbits, go on trips, learn about rabbit hopping and meet new friends. They also learn how to look after rabbits by identifying the breed, showing and caring for them.


2009 Winning Entries Click to expand

Senior Winner - Christina Straathof
Look to the West for opportunity!

Every year the 4-H Ontario Opportunities Guide arrives in the mail. 4-H members and leaders are offered camps, travel, workshops, seminars and more. Opportunities for all age groups beckon – you just have to be willing to pack your bags and take a chance.

The Canadian National 4-H and Youth Judging Competition, held in conjunction with the Canadian Western Agribition, caught my attention early in my 4-H career. Age 17! I had to wait until I was that old to apply! That seemed like a long way off. The fun of 4-H made the years fly by and before I knew it in November 2008, I was packing my bags, my 4-H Judging Manual as well as all the tips and tricks I had learned about judging over the years and flying to Regina with my teammates for my first Canadian Western Agribitrion. Another 4-H adventure to meet new friends, enjoy a new experience, gain new knowledge, have some fun and make some great memories.

Agribition is the biggest agricultural show in Western Canada. The National 4-H and Youth Judging Competition has been an important part of the Agribition Youth Program for many years. Over fifty young people representing their respective 4-H associations and Agricultural College or University programs from across Canada, the United States and Brazil came together in the Ramada Inn for the first time to learn about each other, the “do’s and don’ts” of the event (many based on the adventures – or misadventures – of previous participants) and details about the competition. We were there to compete but we were also there to represent our province, state or school and the youth in agriculture.

The Judging Competition was held over two days consisting of twelve classes to judge and reasons given on eight of these classes. The top prizes are attractive: the largest being a thousand dollar scholarship, an opportunity to shadow a qualified judge at an international show plus a number of individual and team awards. The personal reward is immeasurable!

I love the challenge of judging and this competition offered me the opportunity to improve on a skill I have been developing throughout my 4-H career. I got a glimpse of western agriculture – its differences and similarities to the east. I saw White Parks and Bison up close. I met a competitor from British Columbia that went to the National Citizenship Seminar with my older brother. I learned that boys from Alberta are fascinated by flowing water. We toured the John Deere parts distribution and training centre where company representatives explained how the importance of the 4-H program and opportunities like this judging competition impact job applications. The Agribition volunteers responsible for this event spent untold hours making sure everything ran smoothly and the competitors had a positive experience.

The 4-H Opportunities Guide is published annually. If you are 10 – remember the years will fly by and before you know it you too will be packing your bags for an opportunity of a lifetime. Happy adventuring!

Editor’s Note: The Opportunity of a Lifetime Guide was combined into the January edition of the “Leadership In Action” magazine starting in January 2010.


Junior Winner - Nicole Shelley
The tornado that brought my community together

On Thursday, August 20th, the weather was very hot and muggy. Nobody paid much attention to it, for the weather had been that way for a few days. But around 4 PM, the sky turned dark and everything changed. A tornado came ripping through the town of Durham and area, devastating the people who call this part of Grey County home. Trees were ripped from the ground, buildings were demolished, a handful of people received non-life threatening injuries, and one life was taken when the worst storm in years hit my hometown.

The tornado started around Ayton and moved toward Durham, ripping a path through farms, fields and bushes. When it made its entrance into the town, it tore apart the industrial park and surrounding homes. Moving over to the conservation area it did its deadliest damage. An 11-year-old boy died when he was hit with flying debris while running for a place to hide in a coverall building. Along the conservation road and the next concession over, people had to run for their basements when the tornado started taking their homes apart, bit-by-bit. After the tornado left the area people started coming out of their homes to find barns flattened, sheds gone, and houses broke apart like toothpicks. One lady said, “It feels like the end of the world.”

After people recovered from the initial shock, the immense clean up that would take days and weeks got started. People who had not been affected by Mother Nature’s wrath went to help less fortunate people. Trees that were uprooted, picnic tables in tree branches, and BBQ’s 3 miles away from their homes were starting to become normal for volunteers in the disaster area. Stores began putting up signs volunteering chainsaws to the cause. Women started making extra food to be given to families in need. Churches planned fundraiser while men, women, and children alike worked together to remove the fallen brush, downed trees, and torn fences that the tornado had caused, as well as cleaning up the ruble where beautiful barns had once stood.

At least 8 homes were destroyed or damaged so badly that they were declared uninhabitable, along with numerous barns. Deputy Mayor Dan Sullivan has declared around 9 million dollars worth of damages to be found, but making sure it was clear that there is a relief fund for those in need. While insurance companies will be covering houses, barns, sheds, and vehicles, things such as fences, trees, and hay or straw that was not under cover cannot be insured. For the unfortunate people that had these particular things happen to them, the money for repairs and help will have to come out of their own pocket.

Experts say that the tornado was an F2 on the Fujita scale, but if more serious damage turns up, that it will move up the scale to an F3. Winds that were strong enough to cause this damage are believed to be around 180 - 240 km/h.

My parents and I have been volunteering along with our community to help these poor people who have lost nearly everything. Even though it is haying time for folks in the country, people are still taking as much time as it takes to clean up the damage that has been caused by this horrible storm. For the kids in my area, this is something that will stick in our minds for many years to come, not just the damage, but also the courage and willing spirit to help people in need that our community possesses.


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