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August 4, 2013

4-H serves area youth

The Cornell Cooperative Extension office is recovering from a busy week at the 2013 Clinton County Fair. 

The fair gives local 4-H club members the opportunity to display and be recognized for the many projects they have worked on over the past year. What happens behind the scenes is a lot of hard work and takes a lot of coordination from both extension staff and a host of volunteers.

Many people don’t realize that the 4-H Youth Development Program is an integral part of Cooperative Extension.

The 4-H program and its focus on youth development and personal growth is a big part of Cooperative Extension. For about 100 years, youth from all walks of life have benefited from joining local 4-H clubs and participating in educational activities of all kinds.

When extension first started, researchers at the land grant agriculture colleges found that adults were often reluctant to try new crops or techniques being developed at the universities. They found that young people were more open to new thinking and would experiment with new ideas and share their experiences with adults.

The very first 4-H clubs started out as agricultural after-school programs for youth in farming regions. However, it is still a common misconception that 4-H is just for farm kids. Nothing could be further from the truth. In my case, while I did not grow up on a farm, both my parents grew up on New York dairy farms and I always felt that agriculture was in my blood.

From an early age, I owned and raised a multitude of farm animals — goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and horses — all in a suburban back yard. Through my experiences in a local 4-H club I gained an even greater interest in all aspects of farming and animal husbandry. This led me to pursue a college degree in agriculture at Cornell University.

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