On Friday, 20th May, I left Hobart to travel on the longest journey I have ever taken to get to Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. After a long set of flights, with the longest being 15 hours, I finally arrived at my first host for my exchange. My first host family was Matt Smith and his family. Matt made my first couple of days in Canada really enjoyable, and I was able to blend in as one of the family quickly. Once settled in, I was introduced to the other exchangees (or delegates as we were also known!). On exchange with me were; Hannah from Northern Ireland, Sarah from Scotland, Alistair from England, Lea from Switzerland and Johanna from Germany.
Matt and the other club members from Haldiman & Norfolk county took us to quite a few things in week one, which included a lavender and cider farm. They were quite interested to know I was from Tasmania as they had been fairly recently to visit our lavender farms in the state! Other tours this week included ginseng, which was really interesting to learn about, dairy farm tours, strawberry farms and a few sheep farms, which in Canada is not that common. One highlight of this week was going to a lion safari park. It was the first time I had seen lions, zebras, giraffes, rhinos and other African animals so close. Another highlight was going to Niagara Falls. The sheer size and the amount of water that comes over the falls is amazing. Something I will not ever forget. We were able to spend a whole day at the falls, allowing us to go on the boat which gets pretty close to the falls, walk behind the falls, and we had time to check out all the tourist hotspots. The end of the first week saw some shopping and relaxing, which after a busy week many of us were happy for.
Week two. I stayed with Meghan and her brother Nicked Weber and their family in Waterloo county. They were a great family to stay with and I was even able to go for a horse ride this week, something I was hanging out for! Meg and Nick took me and the other delegates to dairy farms, ice skating, farm markets, greenhouses, sheep milking dairies, cheese farms, cattle sales. It was such a good week, with a lot learnt about the Mennonites that live in the local area. The way that the Mennonites are able to still farm and live in the traditional ways was interesting to learn about. The end of the second week saw me and the other delegates attend a leadership camp, where we were split into groups and undertook challenges and tasks throughout the weekend. One was a quiz which I did quite well at, but the leaders of the weekend need to beef up on their geography as they thought New Zealand was part of Australia, which I quickly informed then this was not the case..! It was a great weekend and it was a good way to meet other Junior farmer members from around Ontario. Many laughs were had over this weekend and it was great to bond with past and future hosts.
Week three! Wow, where did the first two weeks go? This week I stayed with Sam Klaver in Huron County. We visited many places this week, such as a winery (not that common in Huron county), we did a forest walk, museum at Godreich, the local town, Ice Cultures (the name says it all, they make many different things out of ice!), the Hensel District Co-operative: which process beans, sort them, cleaning, processing, distribution, Huron Tractor (John Deere) which is the largest dealership in Ontario, Veri Fine Produce which produce capsicums (or peppers) in red, orange, green. We even went canoeing on a local lake, which was a nice change.
Week four was Perth county's turn to host me and the other delegates. It was equally as exciting as the other weeks, and many more farm tours were planned. This week I stayed with Margaret. Her parents and other family members farmed much of there. We drove through and it was interesting to hear her stories. We went to Carson’s David's Farm and Auction, which had dairy cows. They had their own team of Clydesdale horses, Bruce Power Visitors Centre; a nuclear power station, a strawberry farm, Rheo Thompsons Chocolate Factory, Perth Pork Products (a pork and wild boar farm), a water buffalo farm - where they milked the buffalo to make buffalo cheese - and even a radio tour in Wigham. It was such a good week!
It was definitely a busy four weeks in Canada, and I can hardly believe it is over. I made friends with people from all over the world, and they promised to come and visit (one day!). I remember back to when I first applied for a Study Tour, and I thought I would never get the chance, but what did I have to lose? Not much. I wish I could have taken this opportunity earlier and I really do encourage anyone thinking of doing it to do so. It was one of the best things I have done, and from someone that is normally pretty quiet, it took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to take chances and push myself. I still cannot quite believe I spent a month in another country, and I can’t wait to head back one day.
I would like to thank Junior Farmers of Ontario (JFAO) for hosting me for my exchange, Rural Youth Tasmania for letting me have this opportunity and the University of Tasmania for Sponsoring the Study Tour to Canada.