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Advertise on the Tentacle

June 18, 2003

Budget Cuts Could Doom Another Program For Kids

Mike Kuster

The budget woes of Maryland may soon claim another victim. 4-H.

It seems like only yesterday that I stood before Governor William Donald Schaeffer with a petition to spare 4-H from state cuts. That petition was signed by thousands of Frederick County residents. The year was 1992 and I was 4-H King. The state and the country faced similar budget woes then, too.

Ten years ago, we fought to keep 4-H alive. Today, we must do the same.

Many of you probably have only a vague understanding, if any, of 4-H. So, let me tell you about this wonderful program and integral part of our county.

4-H celebrates its 101st Anniversary this year. It began even earlier than 1902 as Corn Clubs. Universities developed 4-H to teach young farm kids new agricultural and home arts techniques developed through their research activities. They quickly learned (as most farm kids do) that adult farmers don't usually heed the advice and council of others. Kids, however, will learn and incorporate new techniques into their farming and housekeeping.

In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act created the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) under the United States Department of Agriculture. CES operates through the countries land-grant universities (schools paid for through the sale of western land donated to the states).

Usually, each county has an office staffed by educators who have historically been known as Extension Agents. Most offices consist of educators responsible for three main areas; Agriculture (to work with farmers), Home Economics or "Family and Consumer Sciences" (to work with families on everything from cooking to shopping), and 4-H (to work with children).

In 1919, an Act of Congress established 4-H as a federal program under the Cooperative Extension Services. At the time, 4-H was still mainly an agricultural and home arts program. During World War I, however, 4-H began its evolution in a small way. 4-H agents began teaching city kids to grow gardens, known as Victory Gardens, during the war.

The Depression gave 4-H an important role of teaching children in cities and the country to make it through those difficult years. During World War II, 4-H used Victory Gardens and Recycling Programs to teach children and help the war effort.

During and after World War II, 4-H became an integral part of both agricultural and urban youths' lives. The program grew to include project areas to cover any subject kids could want to learn.

The foundations of 4-H have remained the same. Kids learn through doing. Each 4-H member chooses a project or several projects. Using curriculum developed by researchers at universities, 4-H'ers learn life skills and become experts in their selected project area(s).

Every project requires 4-H'ers to keep track of finances, make public speeches and demonstrations, work with other members, and to "Make My Best Better" (the 4-H motto). When you go to the fair and see all of the animals, plants, clothing, art work, and more, you are looking at the culmination of each 4-H'ers annual project work.

Today, 4-H is the world's largest program for kids. It involves kids throughout the world. Projects range from animal husbandry to rocketry.

In Frederick County, 4-H has been a big part of the community. It is one of the largest programs in Maryland. We have our own 4-H Camp and Activities Center paid for by the generous donations of businesses and individuals. We have over 60 4-H clubs in the county. 4-H also runs programs for military youth on Fort Detrick, for inner-city youth in Downtown Frederick, and summer camps.

There's always something for children to do in 4-H. Through the year, 4-H events in Frederick County include:

These are just some of the many countywide programs in which thousands of youth participate.

4-H provides a vital service to this county and its youth. The majority of these programs operate on donations from businesses and individuals. Tax dollars pay only for three educators in Frederick County to coordinate these many services. 4-H Educators spend countless hours working hand-in-hand with youth and adult volunteers providing a high-quality educational program for youth.

Our readers choose to educate themselves on the issues and stay involved, intellectually at the minimum.

I plea for each and everyone of you to contact the President of the University of Maryland, the Dean of the College of Agriculture, the Governor, and the Board of County Commissioners and ask them to maintain the level of funding for 4-H and our youth.

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