AMES, Iowa – Four Iowa youth recently joined delegates at the 2007 National 4-H Conference in Washington, D.C. as they explored differences in today’s society and their affect on 4-H goals and activities. A growing number of 4-H members come from urban areas.
Youth today live in a much different world from the one their parents remember as children, conference organizers said. Between new technologies and a changing society, youth face many different experiences that will shape them into adulthood.
This year’s theme, “Our Changing World,” posed the question, “As the world changes, how do we enhance 4-H to ensure it remains significant and relevant for today’s youth?” The delegates formulated recommendations through roundtable discussions and town hall meetings.
Cathann Kress, director of youth development at USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), presented the 4-H recommendations to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and other 4-H and USDA officials. They include:
• engage more urban youth so they better understand the importance of agriculture, conservation, science and technology and their impact on the quality of life in urban communities
• develop more programs that focus on the unique needs of older youth as they go through high school and plan for future careers
• create more national opportunities to engage with other 4-H members
• do a better job of telling the story of 4-H
• update processes, policies and delivery methods to fit today’s world – so as today’s youth step into the future, 4-H goes with them
• continue to invest and allocate funds to develop new project areas and deliver the latest technologies to youth at the local level.
Johanns accepted the recommendations during a USDA Assembly and promised to give them careful consideration. He compared the 4-H conference to the recently held Farm Bill Forums in which the secretary and other USDA officials traveled the nation to listen to citizen ideas and engage people in talking about changes in agriculture.
Gale Buchanan, USDA under secretary for Research, Education and Economics, said 4-H is changing along with the world by adding new program areas for students living in urban settings and taking on issues that are important to society, such as the environment.
Johanns, a former 4-H member from Iowa, said that even though the world today is a different enterprise, the core values he learned in 4-H and the things youth learn today through 4-H haven’t changed.
Delegates also met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to discuss state 4-H programs with congressional members and their staffs.
Iowa youth delegates were Beth Baudler, 17, of Fontanelle; Mary Foell, 17, of Schaller; Elizabeth Hill, 18, of Manly and Jon Kempf, 18, of Jamaica. Adult delegates were Pat Beck of Buckingham, an Iowa 4-H Foundation trustee, and Mary Ottmar, Iowa State University Extension education director for Audubon County. Ottmar and Baudler presented a workshop on SOFA, a southwest Iowa program that stands for Speak Out for Agriculture. Beck, Foell, Hill and Kempf presented a workshop on youth-adult partnerships.
Monsanto and the Des Moines Register sponsored the youth delegates; Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance sponsored the adults.
Since the first conference in 1927, the National 4-H Conference has been an avenue to help youth develop recommendations to guide 4-H programs nationally and in their communities. In Iowa, 4-H is headquartered with ISU Extension 4-H Youth Development on the Ames campus.
Jennifer Martin, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, (202) 720-8188