This year my visit to the Acton Fall Fair was a lot different from my previous experiences. This is the first in over 10 years that I did not arrive on the grounds following close behind the cattle trailer ready to wash and dry my calf in preparation for the inter-club beef show. Instead I took the chance to sleep in and showed up around 10:30 to watch my cousins enter the ring with pure bred shorthorn calves following close behind. The day went along as planned with a few dramatic surprises from the nervous calves. Despite limited show ring success everyone came away with some excellent prizes.
This was when I noticed the small display at the side of the ring including a small Kubota tractor and some flags from the local Kubota dealer. I took a closer look at the prizes and noticed they had Kubota logos on them, so I asked around and soon found out Kubota has sponsored 3 local fairs. With further research, on the 4-H Ontario website, they have in fact sponsored 60 events nationwide. The total sponsorship deal is worth $200,000, with $75,000 being spent this fall. The sponsorship started last year at the Royal Winter Fair where they co-sponsored a youth leadership conference with TD Bank. Now Kubota has decided to sponsor Beef and Dairy 4-H shows at the local fair level as well as at some larger fairs such as the Royal Winter Fair.
Now, I was a little jealous of the prizes my cousins had received at the fair, the reasonably nice duffel bags were definitely more useful then the usual ribbon, but did they really serve their purpose. When it comes to the perspective of 4-H and the future of the agricultural industry, I don’t think it did help. There were quite a few less cattle at the fair this year compared to last, and only some of that could be attributed to the fact that there was another fair competing for entries that usually doesn’t overlap with Acton. What it comes down to in my opinion is that the 4-Hers who are still making the effort to come out to the fair and show aren’t there for the money and the prizes, they are competing because thats what they love doing and its a way of getting their foot in the door of the industry. They don’t need a gift from Kubota to keep showing up, but if 4-H isn’t benefiting that much from the sponsorship who is? Kubota is, its simple they need their logo and their name associated with grass roots agriculture and the future farmers of Canada. They are up against some of the strongest brand marketers in the world, John Deere and Case, in fact I saw more babies in John Deere clothes and Case hats around the fair then all of the advertisement Kubota had put up around the ring. So in the end I am somewhat disappointed with 4-H in that they have taken this sponsorships but haven’t stood up and made sure that the money would be well spent for both the goals of 4-H and Kubota. There must be a way where both 4-H and Kubota could receive more positive outcomes from this major cash sponsorship. I feel strongly that had the money been spent to promote new clubs and support important leaders it could have improved members experience in the 4-H program. In this case, Kubota would have their name attached to new growing projects which would provide a more positive image of the company with a vision of the future rather than a company with an increased advertising budget.