Debbie Cooper looks content decked out in garden gloves and rain boots.
Looking over her shoulder, her cat Seth walks by with what appears to be a dead rat in its mouth. “She’s a good ratter” she says, rubbing her gloved hands over her miniature horse Little Joe.
Cooper, who last January revived the once-popular youth club 4-H, aimed at animals and agriculture, is passionate about rural living. But her seven-year-old daughter may even love the lifestyle more than her.
“Last year I tried (sending her to) soccer, but it always came back to her love of animals,” Cooper said. “Not all kids are interested in sports and it is still nice to have a club that keeps the interest in what (they) are interested in.”
For its inaugural year, about a dozen pioneering 4-H kids delved into bike safety and public speaking, among other confidence building activities. “4-H isn’t just about animals,” Cooper remarked. “Kids can learn about small engine repair, public speaking and sewing. There’s a lot of different things in 4-H.”
That said, this year the Metchosin-based club will focus on the farm, with lessons in horticulture, honey bees, sheep, beef and poultry. The program allows largely urban kids from the West Shore and Sooke to be connected with where their dinner comes from, in a hands-on way.
“It is about keeping farming in the community — but contrary to popular belief you don’t have to have a farm to get involved,” she said. “We teach them about the farm animals, we are providing activities that make it fun.”
Cooper hopes to expand the program in the West Shore to include older children who can branch off into more specific fields such as sheep or horses. Eventually 4-H kids of all ages could show these animals off at events including the Luxton Fair and Metchosin Day, where stalls to accommodate the activity already exist but currently sit dusty and unused.
“To be able to teach kids how to grow (their) own vegetables, have your own eggs, have your own sustainable living. That is big in our world today,” Cooper said. “Buying local and the 100-mile diet — that is what I enjoy, bringing that back to our kids.”
Eight-year-old Francis Barss who will enter his second year with West Shore 4-H, just can’t get enough of the animals, especially the sheep.
“I have had quite a bit of fun (with) sheep because they are big and warm and fluffy,” he said. “(Animals) are quite fun … I would recommend it.”
Enrolment is $140 per child to fund field trips and 4-H curriculum, and takes place Dec. 18 at Metchosin Community House, 2 to 3 p.m. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.