National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

30 August 2019

A long-haul adventure with YFC Travel gave 21-year old Amanda Watson from County Durham the chance to see ‘real’ rural life in Canada when she stayed in Saskatchewan on a Canada 4-H exchange. 

How did you find staying with a host family in Canada?

Luckily for me I had already hosted Doug – who is a member of Canada 4-H (Canada’s equivalent of YFC) – and so I knew him before I flew out there. Doug toured the UK and stayed with different Young Farmers over here, whereas I stayed on his Grandparents’ farm for three weeks.

I got to know his family and went shooting with one of his brothers and ice skating with the other one who was into ice hockey. 

They kept calling me their British daughter and they treated me like one of the family.

Did you enjoy hosting someone in the UK?

Yes – I found I saw bits of my own local area that I normally wouldn’t bother to go and see. There’s an old mine I have driven past for years and I’ve never been, so I took Doug to see it when he was here. I also visited a lot of local farms I hadn’t seen for a while.

What did you do while you were in Canada?

We visited a few museums and looked at the history of the country. I went in a small aircraft and flew over the area where Doug lives. I also went to Alberta and Edmonton. I went riding a lot, visited a range of farms, including beekeeping, (apiculture) and went to a rodeo.

After I’d finished my three weeks with Doug I met up with my brother, my boyfriend and one of my best friends in Calgary. We drove over to Vancouver and I extended my trip for a further two weeks outside of YFC. It meant I saw two other provinces while I was there.

Did you learn more about the way they farm?

My family have an upland beef and sheep farm and so it was interesting to see the large farm where Doug lives as they have suckler and beef cows too. The proportions of farms over there are very different. In this country you think you have a decent farm if it’s 600 acres but in Canada they think nothing of 2,000 acres.

It was extremely interesting to see the differences in production systems on farms in Saskatchewan as they have much harsher winters than in England. Most cattle are never housed over winter and kept outside which I found interesting in comparison to the UK. Farmers in Canada have fewer regulations and subsidies, which also affects the management of many farms.

Did you find out more about Canada 4-H?

They don’t generally meet over the summer but I did meet up with one group for a Wiener Roast (cooking hot dogs on a camp fire). They work differently to YFC but they have a common goal. Our club meetings are for all ages and activities but in Canada they are separated into group meetings focused on specific competitions. So people who are interested in showing beef that year will all meet together and there will be another group for horse showing and so on. Occasionally they will all meet up.

They have groups for CV building, which I thought was a good idea to take back to my club. You get so much from YFC to put on to your CV but a lot of people don’t have CVs until they leave school.

There are fewer social events (including balls etc) in Canada 4-H and there is no tolerance for alcohol.

Would you recommend the trip?

It was all a really good experience. Even getting on a plane on your own is a good confidence booster when you’ve not been so far away from home before.

It only cost around £1500 for the whole trip and I got £100 from the Young Farmers Ambassadors (YFA) as well.

It was my first time going on a YFC Travel trip and I’d quite like to apply for another trip now. If you want to go away from home for a significant period of time, it’s an excellent opportunity.

What’s the benefit of travelling with YFC?

You’re well supported and you’re with like-minded people. It feels like a safe environment where everyone is willing to show and teach you new things whilst learning from you too.

The people you’re staying with also know what’s best in the area. If you go as a tourist, you never really know what’s there until you get there, whereas your hosts know you’re coming and have planned everything. You get to do things you would never experience as a general tourist.

*New trips for the YFC Travel programme in 2020 are now open for applications and the deadline for applying is 1 November 2019. 

Thank you to the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust for their support of the YFC Travel programme. 


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