Farm '17 - Baan committed to leading Grey 4-H Clubs
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Monique Baan of Walton is one of Huron County’s most active leaders in the 4-H program – something in which she believes wholeheartedly.
Baan is currently leading the Grey Township 4-H Pizza Lovers club, but over the years she has lent her skills and knowledge to dozens of groups. Her love for the program and what it can do for young people goes back to the 1980s when she was a young girl in Simcoe County.
Baan came to Canada from Holland with her parents in 1980. The family wanted to farm and there were opportunities in Canada they didn’t have back in their home country. They would eventually settle in on a dairy farm in Simcoe County where Baan would grow up.
Soon after the family immigrated to Canada, Baan began attending local 4-H club meetings, beginning with the dairy club. She wasn’t yet old enough to be an “official” member of the club, but she remembers attending meetings with children from other farms in the neighbourhood.
In 1983, Baan officially joined her first 4-H dairy club and would continue to be a prolific member from then on, learning a number of life skills from the various clubs offered in her community.
Those early years in local 4-H clubs were tough for Baan, she said. She was still very young and still learning English, but she said that all of her fellow 4-H members were very helpful and made her feel welcome.
“It was all a bit overwhelming,” Baan said, “but I stuck with it.”
She said that over the years she enjoyed attending fairs with the club in Barrie and other nearby communities. She remembered the community atmosphere of the clubs when the members of the club, as well as the leaders, would all live on the same concession as one another.
Baan continued to commit her time to 4-H clubs in her community until it was time to be a youth leader, which she did for two different clubs before she went to Ridgetown College. It was there that she met Don, her future husband, and her path to Walton became clearer.
Monique and Don married in 1994 and they lived in Listowel for a number of years before they moved to Walton onto Don’s father’s farm. The couple rented there for a few years before they bought it for themselves.
Once the Baans were settled and began having children of their own, Monique said she always knew she wanted to return to the 4-H program, but was dismayed to find out that it had been discontinued in Grey Township for a number of years.
Then, in 2008, Baan and a friend from the community endeavoured to resurrect the program and bring local children back into 4-H.
The first club in the community after 4-H’s return to Grey Township involved a lot of local children and their friends, Baan said, but soon it would continue to expand to beyond her circle of friends and acquaintances.
Many of those early clubs, she said, were focused on activities that were then more associated with male members, like outdoor activities and hiking, followed by life skills clubs that had historically been geared towards female members.
In the years that had passed, however, Baan found that members of all genders were interested in most of the clubs. She said she found that male members got just as much, if not more, out of cooking courses, so she felt things had changed quite substantially.
The clubs have continued to grow and diversify in the years following, she said, and being a 4-H leader in Huron County is something that she continues to find rewarding and fascinating.
Baan said she feels that 4-H fills a void in the young person’s experience that can’t be filled by other activities. It is a place, she said, for children who aren’t motivated by sports or some of the other, more popular after-school activities. However, it can contribute valuable tools to a child’s persona as they’re growing up, teaching them to interact with their peers, speak in front of a crowd and learn any number of new skills, all by way of the 4-H motto, which is to “learn by doing”.
She says she would have fit into that genre when she was young, but found a home and other children she could relate to through the 4-H program.
Now, after being a leader for nearly 10 years in Walton, Baan said she is seeing some of her former 4-H members become leaders, which has been really rewarding.
One former member, Jolande Oudshoorn, is now taking the lead with the club’s International Plowing Match project, one of the most important initiatives the club has taken on in the 10 years since it was rejuvenated.
Seeing her former members grow to be productive members of the community and to continue working in 4-H is very rewarding, Baan says. One of the most rewarding aspects of the program, however, is how well-supported it is in the community.
The 4-H program can really bring the community together, Baan says, whether it’s neighbours getting to know one another or local businesses opening their doors to club members, 4-H is a huge part of the fabric of rural Ontario.
For more information on the Grey Township 4-H Club, find its group on Facebook or visit the 4-H Ontario website at 4-hontario.ca
**To view The Citizen's 2017 Salute to Agriculture, click here**