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4-H Promotion Compendium: 4-H U.S.- Soviet Union Exchange

A National Compendium of 4-H Promotion and Visibility over the Past Century

4-H U.S.- Soviet Union Exchange

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During the mid-1970s, while 4-H international programs in the Latin American countries were evolving, attention switched to programs with Eastern Europe. Although the eventual 4-H U.S. – Soviet Union exchange was the most visual and perhaps captured the attention of more people, the 1975 successful exchange negotiated with Poland through the Polish Society of Agricultural Engineers and the Polish National Council of the Union of Socialist Rural Youth, became an immediate success involving 100 Polish older farm youth visiting the United States for a year and young American farmers traveling to Poland later in the year.

The ice was finally broken in 1975 for an exchange with the Soviet Union as well. After years of talking, in 1974 the Chase Manhattan Bank indicated an interest in helping organize an exchange with the Soviet Union. Since Chase Manhattan had business agents in Moscow, it was possible to use their offices to make contact with the appropriate Soviet agency. The State Department encouraged using private avenues for discussions with the Soviets and indicated that it would assist when it appeared appropriate. Francis Pressly from the National 4-H Foundation, went to Moscow and negotiated a preliminary agreement in May 1975, 4-H reaching a final agreement with the Soviet Union later in the year for an exchange to begin in 1976. International Harvester Company provided $125,000 to conduct training programs at the National 4-H Center for the Soviet exchanges. The exchange with the Soviet Union proved a success with 15 young Americans heading to the Soviet Union. Most were recent or near college graduates. The 4-H exchange was a significant departure from previous exchanges with the Soviet Union – the Soviets generally preferred to keep foreign visitors in a group under the control of guides. The 1976 exchange was the first time they housed American visitors with Russian farm families. It proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the participants, most thoroughly enjoying the close relationships they developed with Russian farm families.

The exchange produced a great deal of promotion and visibility including a major feature article in the "National Geographic" magazine on the experiences of the American young people in the Soviet Union, bringing the program to the attention of thousands of Americans.

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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