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This document is incomplete. If you are able to provide additional information, please contact us at: . Other sections on this history website, and references in the Books & Printed Materials Archive and the Films & A/V Archive on this website have expanded information on this topic.

They Need to Know How to Survive in the City...

Future Dimensions of Urban 4-H Programs

Urban 4-H – The 1980's and Beyond

Selected 4-H Urban Histories
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4-H Urban History Resources

Articles relating to urban 4-H from National 4-H News
They call themselves the Bed-Stuy Beautifiers – a group of 4-H’ers, ages eight to 13, who lined the streets of their Brooklyn neighborhood with flower-filled planters. Cynthia Cummings organized the girls and learned to garden along with them. “We got everyone involved,” she says, “from fathers to the Chase Manhattan Bank!” The group’s next project landed them on the NBC Nightly News – they bought a greenhouse to show Bedford-Stuyvsant Head Start children the joys of gardening. “At first they were worried – ‘How can kids teach other kids?’ says Ms. Cummings. “Now it’s ‘excuse me, but we can do this ourselves!” And when the Head Start children leave for the day, they say, ‘Goodbye, teacher.’” [Circa. 1988. “The 4-H You Know and The 4-H You Don’t Know” publication, National 4-H Council]


Urban 4-H is a very special segment of the total 4-H history. While it is fully integrated into the entire 4-H program, its purpose, its development, and how Extension "went about" urban 4-H was unique, not unlike the pattern of development for the era of national 4-H television series, molding the element of science into every program area, or perhaps even the creation of the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. To many people it was something new... something different.

Urban 4-H is a tremendously large area to cover historically. Not unlike 4-H, itself, there was no set way of establishing urban programs in our major cities. What worked successfully in one city, might not in another. The needs were different. The resources were different – both financial and human resources. Even the expected outcomes were different.

Thus, this history will try to cover the early years of working with city youngsters and then cover some of the major studies and pilot projects that were undertaken in various states when urban programs were in their infancy.

Then, lastly, because urban 4-H programs are so different from city to city, we are offering Extension Services in urban cities the opportunity to send us the history of 4-H in your city. It might be only a couple of paragraphs, or several pages. Perhaps your history has already been written. Please provide us with a copy for our Books and Printed Materials archive and we will add it to our history website and link to it in this Urban 4-H Programs History. Write us at:

4-H in the Cities - the Early Years

According to the book, "From a Dream to Reality," in the early years, A. B. Graham, Ohio pioneer in boys and girls agricultural club work, proposed that 4-H move to the city.

National 4-H Council newsletter, "The Fifth Leaf," in their Spring 1992 issue, reports that the first urban club work was reported in Kent County, Rhode Island in 1906-1910. Another urban program, it is reported, was located in Harris Counlty, Texas, which Seaman Knapp helped start in 1910.

In Franklin Reck's book, "The 4-H Story," Reck reports that Rufus Stanley of Elmira, New York... inspired by Liberty Hyde Bailey, in 1901 organized city boys into a handicraft and garden club, called the Omega Club, to give them some of the same advantages that farm boys have. [After the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, Stanley became county club agent of Chemung County, in which Elmira is located, and the following year he helped O. H. Benson organize club work in various eastern states.] The Omega club later became a 4-H Club... one of Stanley's early club members was Albert Hoefer, later to become state club leader for New York.

And, although 1901 is early in 4-H history, the urban program in Elmira presumably started even before that! According to a brief publication produced by Cornell University's Chemung County Cooperative Extension, "4-H Keeps Its Values for 100 Years," by Carla Dawejko, she writes, "Nationally, 4-H celebrates its 100th birthday in 2002, but for Chemung County the roots go back much further. Rufus Stanley, who was appointed the county's first club agent in 1919, was already organizing and influencing youth in 1886 with his Photographic Rambling Club. The Ramblers evolved into the Omega Club at the turn of the century providing 11- and 12-year-old boys in Elmira with some of the skills associated with country life - woodworking, gardening and camping. Stanley did this through annual pilgrimages to the College of Agriculture at Cornell University and the Geneva Experiment Station. To further broaden their horizons and develop citizenship and leadership, Stanley took the boys to the state and national capitals. Herman Halstad, one of the scores of boys in the Omega Club between 1883 and 1900, said the club helped many of the boys become outstanding members of the community."

Franklin Reck, in "The 4-H Story," also discusses Rufus Stanley. Reck writes that Stanley owned a farm outside the city. Inspired by Liberty Hyde Bailey's nature study bulletins, he conceived the idea of taking city boys out to the country, supervising them in garden work, and letting them both use and market the produce. "For the rural boy who envies the city boy, it will come as a revelation that Rufus Stanley was trying to give city boys some of the advantages that farm boys accept as a matter of course. Stanley stated this objective clearly in the outline of his Omega Club, organized in 1901, as the first paragraph states: The object of the club is to give city boys of limited means the opportunity of country boys – a chance to work; making things, and growing things, during out-of-school hours."

"Making and growing things out of school, of course, was the basic concept of club work, but the idea that city boys needed the privileges of country life was Stanley's own answer to the building character in working town boys."

World Wars I and II Catalysts for Urban Clubs

In Reck's book, "A 4-H Story," written in 1951, it is difficult to find much mention of urban 4-H, however he does mention, starting on page 150, "another effect of the war (World War I) was the invasion of cities by club work. There had been town and suburban clubs in New England from the beginning of club work, but not until World War I did the idea take hold in other parts of the country. Clubs in cities were the logical outgrowth of the hundreds of canning centers and thousands of gardens that flourished in all metropolitan centers throughout the war. For the most part, town and city club members dropped off after the Armistice, but here and there, city club work endured...

"In Portland, Oregon, for example, the state leader, H. C. Seymour, established garden, canning, and similar clubs in connection with the city schools. This began in the war years. The work was given permanence when the city council passed an act permitting the appropriation of funds to pay the salaries of city club agents for both boys and girls. Today [1951], under the 4-H banner, these agents go into the schools and, with the help of the principals enroll boys and girls in clubs. The projects for girls are much the same as they are in rural areas, while boys engage in craft, hobby, and garden projects. Parents and interested citizens are club leaders and meetings are held the year 'round.

"In Detroit, a school garden program begun during the first World War under the club banner has continued down to modern times. In 1949, Detroit adopted an all-out 4-H Club program directed by urban 4-H Club agent Ray Lamb. Lamb was appointed to his post on January 17, 1949, and in his first year enrolled 1,588 boys and girls, of whom 1,500 completed their projects. Lamb enrolled members through schools, churches, community centers and homes - wherever, in fact, a desire was present. Groups are organized into clubs with local leaders. Projects that have proved successful are electricity, handicraft, soil and water conservation, ceramics, plastics, clothing, foods, and other homemaking activities. One of the most successful activities is "good grooming," which involves clothes, manners and all-around health. The Detroit urban program is part of the Wayne County Extension organization, the county providing office equipment, clerical help and mileage. Much support for the urban 4-H program comes from public-spirited citizens.

"It may be noted here that World War II brought permanent 4-H club work to still another city - this one, Denver, Colorado. During the second world war, when the victory garden movement was at its height, a part-time club agent and a full-time home demonstration agent were established in Denver, and when the war ended, the state Extension staff and the Denver board of education agreed that 4-H Club work should be made a permanent enterprise. An agreement was entered into between the Extension Service at Colorado A&M and the city and county of Denver for the establishment of an office in the city. At first the city and county agreed to furnish office facilities and 40 percent of the total budget for personnel, but later the city and county assumed one-half of the total costs. From 1948 on, the Denver Extension personnel included an agricultural agent, assistant agent, home demonstration agent, home demonstration assistant, 4-H Club agent and two secretaries. Denver's 4-H enrollment in 1949 was 1,800 in 252 clubs and there was assurance of continued growth. Leaders found that the various home economics programs and projects planned for country girls were equally suitable for city girls. The program for boys was somewhat more difficult, since most crop and livestock projects were infeasible. The leaders, however, soon found suitable substitutes. Among the activities for boys are dog training, pigeon, rabbit and chicken raising, outdoor cookery, home mechanics, flower and vegetable gardens, home improvements and grounds beautification. Many of these projects are suitable for girls as well. The club program in Denver is introduced to boys and girls at the city schools, but enrollments are taken elsewhere. Club meetings are in members' homes, club activities are guided by voluntary local leaders, and over-all help is furnished by an advisory committee of interested businessmen. An outgrowth of this activity is the Denver Fair, which began during the war as a victory food and flower show. The show might well have been discontinued after the war, but with the development of the city-county 4-H program the fair has been made permanent and has become an important civic attraction.

"The instruction of city boys and girls was never contemplated in the original Smith-Lever Act. During the first World War it was welcomed as an emergency measure. Today, although urban club work is gradually expanding, many people ask why more of these young people should not have the benefit of the 4-H program, with its emphasis on home projects in the practical arts and its stress on the cooperative pursuit of worth-while social objectives. If there are to be metropolitan 4-H Clubs, such cities as Portland (Ore.), Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, and those in New England and Nassau County, New York, are case histories of what may be accomplished."

Serving Urban Youth Audiences - the 1950s, 60s and 70s

Where as the Reck book written in 1951 does not dwell on urban 4-H programs, the 4-H history authored by Tom and Marilyn Wessel in 1982, "4-H: An American Idea 1900-1980," devotes an entire chapter to the topic - Chapter 8, Edging Toward Urban America. Written 30 years after Reck, a lot had happened regarding 4-H and urban programs. "Edging Toward Urban America" - this is an apt title for the 25 pages presented as the journey was slow and often painful. There was strong Extension leadership behind the movement towards metropolitan areas... and strong Extension leadership against it. State 4-H leaders and state Extension directors were represented on both sides. The federal Extension staff at USDA also had strong supporters representing both sides. While there is much historic documentation relating to this issue during these three decades, this chapter does a very good job of covering the highlights and transitions that took place and the major players.

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There were two national programming "initiatives" which also had a great affect on 4-H in urban areas in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. These were: USDA's EFNEP (Expanded Foods and Nutrition Educational Program), and the series of national 4-H television programs, particularly Mulligan Stew, Blue Sky Below My Feet, 4-H Photo Fun Club and Living in a Nuclear Age. Both the EFNEP programs and the television series were popular in urban areas, embraced by the schools and other audiences, and gave Extension some new, popular tools for reaching youth. Undoubtedly, there were thousands of urban youth reached by 4-H and Extension through these programs that would probably have never been reached in any other way. Coupled to this has been Extension's national Youth at Risk Initiative supported by Congressional Appropriations and the private sector.

National 4-H News Promotes Discussion on 4-H Work in the Cities

A 1952 issue of National 4-H News over 60 years ago carried the following feature:


J. P. Schmidt Wants Your Ideas

"Expand 4-H Club work to take in city boys and girls. If it takes special tax legislation to get more money to do this, go ahead and make the necessary changes."

A. B. Graham, Ohio, pioneer in boys' and girls' agricultural club work, also told 850 delegates at Ohio's 35th state club congress that it is time to "adjust our pattern."

Some city schools, admits Mr. Graham, deal with living problems. On the other hand, he declares that pupils too often have to spend their time on dead material. It smells, they say.

Many home economics studies fail even to connect classroom work with home tasks. Graham thinks that city boys and girls ought to have a chance to do 4-H Club work.

I asked, "What can city boys do that will give them a chance to get their hands on living things that could qualify as 4-H work?"

"Use your imagination," chuckled the sage of 4-H. "Why, man alive!" he went on, "did you never go to a fair and see what is already being done? Small towns turn out rabbits and chickens by the carload."

"Yes," I greed, "but what about cities where one is not allowed to keep chickens?"

The answer was, he said, "Care of lawns, gardening, house plants, bird feeders, wood working, furniture and household repairs, tool sharpening and care, practical knot tying, care of pets and..."

"Enough," I murmured. Then I turned to another angle: "Doesn't scouting cover the needs of city boys and girls?"

Scouting is good, said my 84-year old friend. "But," and he thoughtfully centered his searching gaze on me, "have you ever observed any activity of youth that is as much a part of home life and life work itself as 4-H Club work?

"It is perhaps a good thing," he added, "that scouting is different. Credits can be counted by persons who please themselves in this way. I think that 4-H work gears more into everyday living and lasts a lifetime." Then he told me about a farmer who helped himself out of an emergency by practicing some rope splicing learned in his Club work 30 years ago.

By this time I could see that he had thought through many possibilities and advantages of 4-H work for city boys and girls. I finally asked, "What about the law? Why do you think it should concern us?"

Money to support agricultural and home economics Extension, Graham pointed out, is raised from all the people, city and country. The federal money is distributed to states, however, on the basis of its rural population. That is, a state gets federal money in the ratio that its rural population is to the total rural population of continental United States.

States match most federal funds by making state appropriations. Some states appropriate more funds than are received from federal sources. Counties add to these amounts, some generously, others rather stingily.

Oregon, Michigan, New York and Colorado have changed their laws so that cities can make appropriations. I suppose that counties now can make such additional appropriations.

Mr. Graham thinks it is well, nevertheless, to have specific laws so that there can be no questions standing in the way of expanding 4-H in cities.

"Adjusting Our Pattern" in club work for the years ahead (50 years after the first boys and girls clubs) also includes these proposals by Mr. Graham:

  1. More grown-up 4-H members to become leaders.
  2. Definite training program for leaders.
  3. Less emphasis on contests and prizes by recognition programs, and more emphasis on how best to use them.
  4. Progress in projects rather than completion as a better measure of a 4-H member's attainments.
  5. More citizenship training for members.
  6. More training in how to lead or teach.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Will an entirely different kind of youth club work develop in cities? Should rural leaders lend a hand to promote the 4-H idea? Farm youth are bound to be a minority. Farm population numbered 32.5 million in the United States in 1910. By 1950 this number was about 24 million.

Children under 10 years of age in the U.S. increased from 21.2 million in 1940 to 29.6 million in 1950. That is a 39.3 percent increase of the eligible club age available through the 1950's.

There are now more than 2,000,000 4-H members in the United States. If we make a big increase, it will take a lot of leadership training.

Schmidt made the following proposal to the 4-H local leaders who are readers of National 4-H News: In huddles of five decide if you agree (A) or disagree (D) to the following:

  1. It is only fair that city boys and girls have the same opportunity to do 4-H Club work as rural boys and girls.
  2. Better leave city youth work to the agencies established - like the Scouts.
  3. It is time that more rural kinds of work be introduced to cities in order to aid urban-rural understanding.
  4. The way to start more city 4-H work is to ask County Commissioners for money enough to hire the needed county club agents.
  5. City boys and girls can find 4-H work as interesting and as worthwhile as farm boys and girls.

Wind up with your idea of how to do something about this proposed city 4-H club work.

(November 1952 National 4-H News)

J. P. Schmidt reported on the results of the above article/survey in the July 1953 issue of National 4-H News. A number of letters were received supportive of 4-H work in urban areas and that 4-H can make a difference.

Ray Lamb, urban club agent in Detroit, replied with a copy of his annual report which shows that he worked with 21 agencies within the city, maintaining (for 1951) 76 clubs with a membership of over 2,000. Projects have included soil and water conservation, home garden, flower garden, wild life, electricity, food preparation and preservation, clothing, plastics, grooming and hobbies. A radio club is a new development, requiring boys to make first a crystal set, then progressively more difficult equipment.

Another report came in from Denver and Mrs. June Wurtsmith, sixth grade teacher in the Bryant-Webster Elementary School and leader of the Lucky Leaf Club, 72 boys and girls enrolled in first aid. She tells how the program has been integrated into the school, but keeps its identity as practical application of school lessons: in English, for example, the group learned parliamentary procedure and published a little newsletter, earning $10 for IFYE.

Mrs. Rosina Higdon writes from Portland, Oregon that there are many projects that city boys and girls can do. Many are things the boys or girls would do anyway, except through 4-H they learn to do them better. To show that city youth hold their own in competition, she points out that Portland usually has a state winner go to National 4-H Congress, and last year two girls and one boy from the city were members of the delegation. The boy excelled in home improvement.

Schmidt reports that one of the most thought provoking letters came in from Oregon, written by C. J. Robinson of Cottage Grove. It is reprinted almost in its entirety:

"4-H Work as now set up deals primarily with and for the rural youth of America and though inroads have been made in non-rural areas, the set-up in general is of an agricultural nature.

"Let us analyze the basic differences between rural and non-rural youth and see if the present program fits the need of city groups.

"In rural areas project work is associated directly with farm or home, and parents generally own their homes and take a vital interest in the work of their sons and daughters. The youth has a solid home background and is well on the way to good citizenship.

"Now in our city clubs we have a much different condition. Families are mostly renters with perhaps both parents working. Whereas in the rural group there is 100 per cent cooperation, in our city clubs we are fortunate if we have 20 per cent cooperation. If the aim of 4-H is to develop good citizens, here is a crying need for it.

"If you deal with the group that most needs 4-H work you will be working with those from `south of the tracks' because in this group usually both parents work, are away from home during the day and have little time to devote to their offspring. Here you find those that are not interested in school activities and their out-of-school hours are inactive. This is the group that must have attention.

"Whereas in the rural group the project work is tied in with the farm, the projects of the city group should be more in the line of arts and crafts.

"And we have another difference. Rural youth is ripe for competition, but competition would prove ruinous to the city group. Many of the city youth have taken a pretty severe beating and they have to be built up where they can stand on their own feet. This is better accomplished by teamwork than by putting them on a competitive basis. They feel a crying need to belong to and be a part of something, and teamwork fills this need. Therefore, the city clubs consideration should be to club exhibits (as a team) rather than individual exhibits.

"The leaders of city groups must have an over-developed Heart H as they will be working under discouraging conditions. It must be the love of the child that will hold them up. We need leaders who focus their attention on the development of the youth. They must visualize the development of the group to where every club member acquires the self-respect and dignity that will build good citizens.

"If we are to expand 4-H Club work to include city groups (and this means those areas that are rural in nature but urban in character), then we should certainly consider revamping of the 4-H structure to include programs suitable for these groups.

"If 4-H is willing to adjust its program to meet the needs of city youth, then by all means let's get along with the job. But if the need for a change is not apparent then let us pull out of the cities and keep our program for the rural youth."

(July 1953 National 4-H News)

National 4-H Service Committee Arranges Urban Support

As the Extension Service was beginning to seriously look at expansion into the cities, the National Committee found ways to help right at "home" in the city of Chicago.

In the mid-1950s, long-time 4-H friend and donor, John B. Clark, president of Coats & Clark Inc, became convinced of the need to demonstrate that 4-H was flexible enough to serve youth wherever they lived - even in the city. He contributed $25,000 to the University of Illinois through the National Committee. With the grant plus additional help from The Sears-Roebuck Foundation and Standard Brands Incorporated, the university undertook the bold experiment in Chicago. A husband and wife team were hired to enroll 4-H youth and organize a program meeting the needs of youth. While serving appreciable numbers of urban youth, the Chicago program also provided a model for similar work in other metropolitan centers.

Sandra Lignell wrote "History of 4-H in Chicago" in 1999, covering the first 42 years of operating the 4-H program in urban Chicago. This may be found on the 4-H History Preservation website.

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National 4-H Club Foundation Studies Urban 4-H Programs

A brief article in the April 1962 National 4-H Club Foundation Journal announced an analysis of 4-H Club work in urban areas would be made by the National 4-H Club Foundation under a $25,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

The six-months case study would concentrate on up to 15 of the metropolitan areas where 4-H work was already in progress. A two-person research team would assess the extent and effectiveness of these programs, looking toward three objectives:

  • A basis for policy decisions in allocating resources of the Cooperative Extension Service.
  • Provide organizational and program guide lines for extension staff members working with 4-H youth in non-farm areas.
  • Explore the desirability of establishing pilot experimental 4-H programs in selected urban and suburban areas.

Grant A. Shrum, the 4-H Foundation's executive director, indicates the study would get underway about June. The project staff would spend about three months in the field, and three months planning the field work, then analyzing and reporting the findings.

The study was proposed by Extension's Ad Hoc Committee on 4-H in Non-Farm Areas. Dr. Russell Mawby of Michigan was chairman. At that time urban 4-H work was being conducted in at least 34 states in 92 metropolitan areas. In 1960, 47.4% of 4-H Club members were from rural non-farm and urban homes.

The October 4-H Foundation Journal reported that "the case study analysis of 4-H work in urban areas would begin about November 1, according to Grant A. Shrum, executive director of the 4-H Foundation. The Foundation was conducting the study in behalf of the Cooperative Extension Service under a grant of $25,000 received from the Ford Foundation.

"The six months study would be made by Dr. Emory Brown of Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Patrick Boyle of the University of Wisconsin. They were granted leave from their institutions to conduct the Foundation study.

"They will concentrate on up to 15 of the some 100 metropolitan areas where 4-H work is already in program. The research will assess the extent and effectiveness of these programs looking toward the three original objectives.

"Brown and Boyle will spend about six months in the field and three months planning the field work, and analyzing and reporting their findings. They both have made extensive studies of 4-H and related extension programs in their home states, bringing a valuable background of experience and training to the project," the article stated.

The result of the Brown and Boyle study was: "4-H in Urban Areas. A Case Study of 4-H Organization and Programs in Selected Urbanized Areas," by Emory J. Brown and Patrick G. Boyle, published by National 4-H Club Foundation in 1964. 280 pages in length. The study can be found in the Media Directory of the National 4-H History Preservation website in the Books land Printed Materials Archive.

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A condensed report, "4-H in Urban Areas. A Case Study of 4-H Organization and Programs in Selected Urbanized Areas. Condensed Report" by Emory G. Brown and Patrick G. Boyle, 1964, also was published by the National 4-H Club Foundation. It is 42 pages in length. A copy of this condensed version also appears on the history website.

The implications and conclusions of the study, as presented by Brown and Boyle in an issue of the "Journal of Cooperative Extension," follow:

IMPLICATIONS - The following implications are based on the findings from this and related studies and from observations made by the researchers. These statements and questions should be viewed as tentative and should be subjected to more rigorous study and research.

  1. The extent of commitment of the organization to develop and implement 4-H in urban areas, with reasons for such action, should be communicated to all personnel so that no doubt exists as to the intent or direction of the program. Presently there is a great deal of confusion about goals and purposes. Such questions as these need to be answered: (1) Are organizational policies clear at national, state and local levels about serving urban youth? (2) What are the needs of youth in the urban area? (3) What can 4-H offer in satisfying these needs? (4) What should be the "target" youth in urban areas – the "disadvantaged" youth or the type now generally being served?
  2. An attempt is being made to broaden the scope of 4-H in order to satisfy a wide variety of subject matter interests. Is this the desired direction or should projects be limited to agriculture and home economics even in urban areas? If limited, what kind of agricultural projects will be of interest to city boys? If the program is broader than agriculture and home economics, are resources available to provide the needed content?
  3. The image that people have of an organization will determine, to a great extent, their participation. The image of 4-H is generally favorable, but it is seen as a program for boys and girls in rural areas. Extension staff attempts to portray a non-farm image have not been very successful. Is it possible to change the image of 4-H? Does Extension want to broaden or change the image? If so, what changes are necessary in both the organizational structure and programs? What would be the consequences of an image change in terms of traditional or new supporting publics? Should there be two separate programs – one for rural youth and one for urban youth? Should requirements for membership be the same for rural and urban young people?
  4. The 4-H organization has been closely associated with farm people and has tended to reflect rural values which are sometimes different from urban values. If the organization is sincerely interested in the needs and interests of youth in urbanized areas, will the value orientation need to be changed? Is it organizationally possible to assign priority to a program for rural young people and still develop an effective program in urban areas?
  5. To work effectively in an urban area, personnel must have the needed skills and competencies, must understand the social and power structures of urban society, the types of programs needed, and so on. The successful agent in rural areas is credited with having become an inherent part of the cultural milieu in which he works. In the same manner, is it necessary for the agent in an urban area to become part of urban society?
  6. Financial support is necessary for maintenance and growth of an effective youth organization. Representatives from local government with a rural orientation have given strong support to 4-H Obtaining financial support from county governments that do not have this rural organization may be more difficult. It appears that, in urban areas where rural influence still predominates, the need for 4-H will not be questioned. However, in counties with an urban power structure, will the need for 4-H be more critically evaluated?
  7. The success of 4-H in the areas studied has been largely dependent upon the support and assistance received from the school. What should be the relationship between the school and 4-H in urban areas? To what extent will voluntary leaders be acceptable within the urban school system if 4-H is conducted on school time? Can other organizations be persuaded to sponsor 4-H? To what extent will voluntary leaders be acceptable within the urban school system if 4-H is conducted on school time? Can other organizations be persuaded to sponsor 4-H?

CONCLUSION - The extent to which adaptations have been made in order to serve urban clientele seem to have depended on the following conditions: (1) the skills, interests, and attitudes of the staff, (2) extent to which resources are provided by local government, (3) the proportion of rural to urban clientele in the area, (4) the extent to which the director or chairman of the county office is committed to serving an urban clientele, (5) the extent to which staff members are involved with influentials in the urban power structure, (6) the skills, interests, and attitudes of the publics involved in assisting with the program, and (7) the support and encouragement of state personnel in trying new approaches.

(Journal of Cooperative Extension)

Federal 4-H Extension Office Touts Urban Programs

During the late 1960s, staff in the Federal 4-H Extension Office, USDA, were highlighting 4-H urban accomplishments in speeches as they traveled and in articles that they wrote.

In the "Washington News & Views" feature in the May 1969 "National 4-H News," Russell Smith, Program Leader, 4-H and Youth Development, USDA, briefly highlights accomplishments in several urban locations.

Smith starts out, "More than 200,000 metropolitan youth are proof that the benefits of 4-H are not limited to the farm or rural areas. They know that learning by doing through ‘real-life' experiences can be fun, challenging and satisfying... For the first time in their lives, many low-income urban youth are reflecting a sense of self-identity, because someone took time to care. In contrast to formal education, 4-H offers girls and boys an avenue to probe their own interests and carry out a learning experience which has meaning to them. Extension agents and volunteer leaders are making a special effort not to force pre-determined packaged programs onto the inner-city. To be fully effective, the overall effort must be developed in cooperation with the youth and adults that will later be involved. Flexibility is a key factor and must be guarded carefully to avoid the criticism of planning something which is `good for them.' Many of the tried and true principles which made 4-H strong in rural areas apply to the city also. Mental and physical skills, ownership, decision-making, group loyalty, career exploration and service to the community are almost universal virtues. Historic 4-H methods and approaches have been adapted and altered to meet new situations and to help youth `start where they are.' Standards, requirements and regulations are being scrutinized constantly in an effort to provide relevant out-of-school education."

10 Point Program--

Smith went on to show that the 10-Point Program of 4-H Action which charts the course for 4-H in rural areas is equally applicable to densely populated areas, and that leaders are in a strategic position to help make the necessary adaptations. He says that there now are nearly 25 million young people in our cities who could benefit from 4-H. "Reaching them will require more professional staff, but the real impact will come from the time, interest and talent which you and many other volunteer leaders can contribute. Leaders who are willing to innovate, adapt, and build programs around the real needs and interests of urban youth are having many satisfying and exciting experiences."

Motivating Youth to Continue Learning
In Providence, Rhode Island, college students met weekly with underprivileged youth to help them improve reading and writing skills. Trips to the University of Rhode Island have helped to broaden horizons and the one-to-one relationships, played an important part in opening new doors and changing attitudes concerning education.
Improving the Employability of Youth
"New Careers" program aides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, organized 4-H groups and clubs to help youth prepare for the world of work. In cooperation with the Office of Economic Opportunity, they provided guidance to youth and answered questions about job possibilities.
Inspiring Youth to Become Better Citizens
Citizen responsibility was the chief point of emphasis in the auto care and safety project involving 1,250 youth in Greenville, Mississippi. Besides maintenance and safe operation, the teenagers learned the rules of the road, highway hazards and driver courtesy. Teachers, public officials, businessmen and professional people assisted with the program and as a result they have a positive image of 4-H.
Involving Youth in Community Development
By recognizing the need and working together, the young people of Roxbury-Dorchester, Massachusetts, proved that youth do care. With a helping hand from Neighborhood Youth Corps, extension specialists and volunteer adults (and using their newly-learned horticulture skills), they transformed unsightly streets into vistas of beauty.
Developing Leadership Capabilities
Older members and teen leaders in Middlesex County, New Jersey, reached urban low-income youth with the Urban League and with assistance from indigenous program assistants and college work students, they guided clubs and taught woodworking, entomology, herpetology, food-nutrition and clothing skills.
Preparing Youth for Improved Family and Home Life
More than 4,000 youth in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri are learning homemaking practices. Program assistants and aides recruit and train local leaders who teach project skills. Because most of the clubs are organized in public housing units, special effort has been directed toward improved skills in using commodity foods and in clothing renovation.
Building Habits for Creative Use of Leisure Time
Special day camps in Indianapolis, Indiana, provided out-of-classroom learning for many inner-city youth. Using the state fairgrounds as a meeting place, over 100 girls and boys broadened their horizons in conservation, crafts, grooming, athletics, outdoor cookery, weather, group games and job opportunities. Response was so enthusiastic that the program will be greatly expanded this summer.
Enhancing Appreciation for Conservation of Natural Resources.
4-H in Cleveland, Ohio, has been reaching low-income youth for over five yars. A phone call from a block leader requesting assistance in community conservation resulted in 4-H educational experiences for more than 200 youth. All of the persons involved were volunteers and there was no paid staff. Fifteen adults, including two men, assumed leadership in anti-litter, gardening, conservation, clothing, woodworking and foods projects. According to the County Extension agent, "Goals never dreamed about have come to pass and changes in people have gone beyond all expectations."
Increasing Understanding of Science and Economics
Inner-city youth in Buffalo, New York, enjoy a flexible 4-H program. Learning experiences are designed to meet individual needs and interests. Electricity and electronics projects, especially popular with the boys, let members learn to make simple electrical repairs and to build transistor amplifiers. Engineers at the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory used their special skills in assisting as leaders.
Intensifying Health and Fitness Programs
An 18-week special program in DeKalb County, Georgia, reached more than 200 disadvantaged youth who fail to join organized groups. Girls and boys from the fifth through eighth grades, primarily from apartments in low-income areas, met weekly in the summer of 1968 to receive instruction in health, safety, foods, home and community improvement, leadership and personal development. Program aides assisted in teaching and conducting a week-end camp - the highlight of the experience.

(end of article - May 1969 National 4-H News)

Leadership for Inner City 4-H

In a September 1969 feature in "National 4-H News," Charles Freeman, National 4-H Club Foundation, highlights the discussions which took place at the Urban 4-H Staff Institute held earlier that year at the National 4-H Center.

Major speakers were: Dr. Catherine V. Richards, special consultant on Youth Services to the Chief of the Children's Bureau, HEW. Her topic was "Who are the Poor?"; Dr. Roy J. Jones, director of the Center for Community Studies and assistant dean of the graduate school, Howard University. Dr. Jones led a session on "Understanding Myself and Others"; Dr. Frank Riessman, who discussed "Program Aides." He is professor of Educational Sociology and director of the New Careers Development Center, New York University; John J. Staggers, Jr., special assistant to Mayor Walter E. Washington, who discussed problems and imaginative programs in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Saul A. Silverman, psychotherapist who serves as consultant to the 4-H program of South Providence, Rhode Island. Dr. Silverman talked with the group about "Building the Urban 4-H Team;" and Ed Hooks, program aide, told about his role in South Providence. Dr. E. Dean Vaughan, director of 4-H-Youth Development, FES, USDA, challenged the agents to greater effort.

"Once most of us were poor - if we can judge the past by today's economic standards. During the depression, certainly, poverty was the usual way of life. If you found times easy then, you were the odd one. But now with average income high, the person with little money is out of things. He may be without a decent paying job, without much education and without a sense of belonging. On the corner store TV he sees what he is missing.

"How many poor children are there? If we take the usual definition of $3,000 annual family income (more or less, depending on family size and type of community), about 15 million children live in poverty. Fifteen percent of white children and nearly 60 percent of non-white children are poor. About half live in rural areas, and half in towns and cities. More and more, the large city poor population is black.

"Many poor youth have known more failures than successes in school and community. Rather than risk being rejected again, they may reject the person who tries to help them. They may be hostile to authority, become cautious and uncommunicative with strangers and find it hard to stick to tasks that seem useless and unrewarding.

"Yet poor people have strengths. They are not necessarily incompetent or disorganized. Many are neighborly, mutually helpful, compassionate and probably more tolerant than the middle classes. Even their suspicion of do-gooders is probably a strength, for many outsiders have "done the poor in" by operating from the view that poor people are incompetent.

What 4-H can offer

"By reaching inner city kids, and building on their strengths, 4-H can:

  • Give contact with adults in an informal, personal way.
  • Provide many choices, thus getting at things the person and his family find important.
  • Offer experience that builds from simple to more difficult things as the person can cope with them.
  • Let the boy or girl learn by experience that what is dreamed and planned is really possible.
  • Give opportunities for personal success where everybody wins.

"4-H can offer this, but it is not automatic. We have an image problem and must prove our selves. 4-H must identify with people in the ghetto - usually black people - and help them find ways for personal growth, better education and economic development. The "Lady Bountiful" approach will not work. We cannot bring in preconceived projects as though they were the answers.

Many people take part

"People play many roles in inner city youth work - as volunteers, professionals and paid non-professionals. Here are some of the roles: In many cities 4-H gets off the ground when a new role is created - the program aide or paid non-professional. This is usually a person from the community, with limited formal education but firsthand knowledge of the situation and a "feel" for people. Often the first job of a program aide - in 4-H, schools, or other programs - is to reach people and get them to join in.

"Adults and teenagers of the inner city, often called "indigenous leaders," give volunteer help in many ways - doing a particular job when it is needed, serving as long-range leaders and giving the crucial link between other members of the team and the local community.

"Volunteer leaders from established clubs often work in the inner city. Trenton, New Jersey, is one of many cities in which volunteer leaders from the suburbs, in cooperation with others, have important roles.

"Students are effectively giving leadership in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, for instance. Some are paid as work-study students, while others volunteer. The University Campus 4-H Club gives very effective leadership and hard work.

"The professional 4-H agent coordinates, adds depth to the program, steps in if problems might get out of hand or opportunities might be missed and heads up the training of the team.

"What about the role of white people for youth work in a black community? In some places, black and white workers are both effective. In other inner cities, from which all white people have fled to the suburbs, experience is showing that white people are not effective. Even so, either a white or black person can have an essential part in the action, as a consultant and backstopper for those who work directly with young people. In programs involving black clientele, there should be black people not only on the staff but in policy-making positions.

Train head and hands

"Some methods of training aides for a variety of programs may also be effective for training 4-H aides or volunteer leaders: Jobs are broken down into specific tasks, such as the task of telling parents about a program, or keeping attendance rolls at school. Tasks are then classified as very simple, a little more complicated, yet more complicated and so on.

"In the beginning, program aides learn just a few simple tasks - either things they basically know but need to organize well or things they can learn quickly. Everybody involved must understand just what the aides are learning, so they can count on them to do that and not expect them to do everything.

"Later the aides can be trained in slightly more complex tasks. Gradually, they learn things that require greater initiative and responsibility. The program aide approach provides a ladder for personal improvement. If he wants, the aide can learn higher and higher tasks. From program aide he may become a program assistant. He may get more formal education and become a professional youth worker.

"How are aides trained? One of the simplest ways to begin is apprenticeship, or "shadow training." He accompanies an experienced person on the job and learns from him.

"Role playing can be effective, starting with simple situations and moving on to harder problems requiring quick judgment. An essential part of training is supervision on the job. This is not just "checking up" to see whether the aide is doing the right things. Supervision is help, and aides must be encouraged to ask for it.

Train the heart

"Attitude is as important as specific skills. Many of us carry around mental pictures of what we think disadvantaged youth are like - aggressive, hostile, uncommunicative, perhaps creative. Whatever our pictures of them, we communicate silently to the boys and girls we work with just what we think of them.

"The new urban 4-H worker, whether volunteer or staff, should:

  • Be able to live with uncertainty and ambivalence. He must accept the fact that when people do better and feel more secure, they want more.
  • Have a deep concern for people, similar to religious commitment.
  • Put people above systems and be ready to push the "powers that be" when change is needed.
  • Meet people with warmth and face the whole range of human feelings, including despair, with love.
  • Be ready to talk about almost anything, and not clam up on many topics.
  • Have fun, not a martyr complex. He should pay attention to his own needs and not let his battery run dry.

"A large order? Of course! But not impossible. All of us can grow a little each day. In South Providence, Rhode Island, sensitivity training is one of the methods of building the urban team. One morning each week there is a two-hour session, to which anyone can come. Six to 40 people may show up - black people and white, old and young, conservative and radical, clergymen and nuns, housewives, students, federal poverty program staff and, of course, 4-H staff. There is no set agenda. Sometimes they talk about community problems, sometimes about personal feelings, but always trying to be honest with one another. The psychotherapist in charge does not lead a discussion; he helps people communicate, face their own thoughts and feelings, and grow.

"Somewhat similar are the prayer breakfasts in Washington, D.C., open to anyone and attended by a cross section of residents - inner city and suburbs, black and white, professional and ex-convicts. As people learn to be frank and honest, they find they can trust one another. From this grows a sense of direction and action.

The Challenge

"While continuing to serve rural youth, 4-H also looks to the towns and cities where a growing majority of youth - especially unreached youth - live.

"This requires telling the new 4-H story to new audiences. It requires business support of a larger order than we have tapped. It means close cooperation with established agencies and new inner city groups. And it means helping to bring chnges in the attitudes and institutions that have encouraged discrimination and restricted opportunity."

(from September 1969 National 4-H News)

They Need to Know How to Survive in the City...

In the 1970's 4-H's move into the city was becoming recognized. This feature in the December 1971 issue of "National 4-H News" was reprinted with permission from "The Wall Street Journal."

"Ollie Sanders hardly fits the stereotype of a 4-H club member. He is 11 years old, black and lives with his mother and three brothers in a two-room apartment near Cleveland's run-down Hough section.

"Yet every Saturday Ollie attends the meetings of Eager Beaver 4-H Club in a community center near his home. His latest project was a shoeshine box he built and uses to earn money after school. "4-H is like school, but better," he says. "You learn things to help you now, not just for when you graduate."

As Ollie's experience illustrates, 4-H clubs, once limited almost exclusively to farms and small cities, have taken hold in many large cities. The move is a recent one - most city 4-H clubs are barely five years old - yet today's total 4-H membership of 4-million includes about 1-million urban young people from 9 to 19, many of them black.

Rural 4-H'ers still spend a lot of time raising prize steers, much as they did 50 years ago, when the organization began. Urban branches of the organization don't go in for animal husbandry, of course, but they have adapted the group's traditional, practical approach.

"Our kids don't have to know how to make Indian head bands; they need to know how to survive in the city," says John Thompson, a former Boston Celtics basketball player who directs the Washington, D.. 4-H program.

"We teach them how to make their own dinner, sew their own clothes and budget their bus money so they can get to school. We figure these skills will help them through impossible odds they face in their neighborhoods each day."

4-H is just one of many youth groups that have taken up residence in poor city neighborhoods in recent years. Its program, however, is significantly different from those of other such organizations. For one thing, its program is financed through local county governments and the Department of Agriculture, and staffed by workers on payrolls of land-grant colleges and universities. This backing makes it possible for 4-H to have a professional staff to back its volunteer leaders.

Like its farm program, city 4-H puts a good deal of stress on competition, believing that blue ribbons can bring much needed recognition to children who often receive too little of it.

Almost 60 percent of city 4-H club members are girls. They tend to be overlooked by other groups at work in the central city, but 4-H officials believe they are an especially important group because many of them are put in charge of running their households at very young ages.4-H teaches them basic housekeeping skills plus such "survival" courses as how to use food stamps, feed six people nutritiously on $20 a week and obtain a good credit rating.

Critics contend this program seems to be aimed at teaching a whole new generation of girls how to live on welfare and like it, but 4-H says that isn't the intention at all."Sure our programs teach girls how to make the best of a bad situation, but what we're really trying to do is stabilize the girls' home lives so they can give more attention to real careers when they're older," explains a black 4-H worker in Oakland, California.

4-H clubs have faced some obstacles in establishing themselves in central city areas. Many potential members view the organization as "square" because of its farm antecedents. Thus, to attract new members, some city organizations avoid the use of the 4-H name. "We let members call themselves the Green Buccaneers or whatever, but club activities still stress the 4-H approach of learn by doing," says R. O. Monosmith, California's former 4-H director.

Even so, some individual 4-H'ers must put up with some ridicule from their peers. "The other guys laughed at first; they thought I was going to be some kind of farmer," admits Lee Fenner, a member of Washington Imperial Drum Corps 4-H Club, which specializes in playing military marches. But he proudly adds: "Now they envy me. My club goes to neat places to play, and we've been on television."

Urban 4-H'ers are allowed to tailor some of their own programs, picking projects that appeal to them. Young people in Long Island clubs learn how to make and fire their own miniature space rockets. Teen members in Rochester, New York, hold seminars in drugs, alcohol and sex. And 4-H'ers in Syracuse, New York, and Oakland, California, study judo and karate.

Once youngsters gain confidence, 4-H leaders encourage them to do projects in their communities. One Washington group is credited with putting pressure on the city to install crosswalk and playground signs in a neighborhood. Another Washington group organized residents of a public housing project to clean up the litter that had resulted in several elevator fires.

Whether urban 4-H helps slum kids to any appreciable degree remains to be seen. Most programs in low income areas are less than two years old, and leaders admit those they reach may not be the type of youngster likely to get in trouble anyway.

Nonetheless, there have been some notable exceptions of young people who have been helped.

"I saw a seven-year-old boy, whose only diversion was smoking marijuana on the street corner, join our Clover Buds pre-4-H program for younger children and become enthusiastic about nutrition, instead of drugs," says Mrs. Nancy Smith, a Camden, New Jersey leader. "Now when his parents fight and send him out alone on the street, he can come to the club and talk to an understanding adult. However small, that's progress."

(From December 1971 "National 4-H News")

Future Dimensions of Urban 4-H Programs

In a presentation by Joel R. Soobitsky, Program Leader, 4-H Youth (Urban), Extension, USDA, at the 1973 Annual Cooperative Extension Conference on October 12, 1973, he starts by saying, "We are about to initiate the development of ‘4-H in the ‘80's' which will be more dynamic, comprehensive and flexible than any previous 4-H program geared to the serious developmental tasks of youth in today's society. Dr. E. Dean Vaughan, Assistant Administrator, 4-H Youth, USDA-ES, states that ‘If 4-H is to have a viable, growing, on-the-move level of program, it is necessary to look beyond rural America to the towns and cities where a growing majority of youth – especially unreached youth live." Soobitsky's full 18-page presentation is located on the 4-H History website in the Books and Printed Materials Archive under Research Studies and Reports.

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Urban 4-H – The 1980's and Beyond

By the 1980's much of the frustration, the uncertainty and the battles relating to 4-H serving the urban audience had either been solved or muted. This is indicative of the paragraph on urban 4-H in Wayne Rasmussen's book, "Taking the University to the People. Seventy-five Years of Cooperative Extension," published in 1989:

"Urban 4-H today, like 4-H generally, is concerned primarily with human development. City young people acquire feelings of self-worth, acquire leadership abilities, learn skills that may start them on particular careers, and overcome some of the social problems threatening youth in today's world. Their aspiration levels are raised. The young people themselves determine what specific urban programs are to be. In Minnesota programs have included bicycle safety, landscape and mural painting, play production, studying the role of women in America, and community beautification. Kentucky taught urban youth the basics of animal nutrition and health by having them work with pets, including mice. An urban club in Massachusetts used Double Dutch, a fast-paced, acrobatic jump-rope game, to teach values associated with team work and commitment to a group, personal accomplishment, responsibility, and community pride. Other urban 4-H club members have learned skills in nutrition, fitness, health, clothing, maintaining and repairing mechanical devices and automobiles, and other traditional subjects – all useful in human development."

–A positive description of 4-H in the city and the contribution it is making.

A great reference of this era is entitled "Strengthening and Expanding 4-H Programs in Urban Areas," which can be found in the 4-H history Books and Printed Materials Archive on the history website. It is the result of materials from the 1983 4-H staff development workshops with the same title, compiled and edited by Dr. Joel R. Soobitsky, ES-USDA and Patricia Carroll Panshin, National 4-H Council. The handbook, compiled from materials shared and information presented at the regional workshops is intended as a resource for 4-H and youth agents involved in developing or expanding 4-H programming in an urban setting. Included are materials with an organizational/management approach, as well as specific project ideas that have proven successful in counties across the country.

An additional, valuable resource from this same general area is: "4-H Programs in the Nation's Largest Cities – Report for the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations," dated April 1992 and compiled by Dr. Joel R. Soobitsky, National Program Leader, ES-USDA, 4-H and Youth Development. This report gives brief, but specific, results of 4-H urban work in a number of different cities. Dr. Soobitsky's report states:

"4-H has been operating in many urban areas dating back in some States to the early 1920's. The most significant Expansion has occurred since 1970. This expansion is due to the impact of special Congressional Appropriations in 1973 earmarked for urban 4-H programs and a major commitment within states to reach the broad spectrum of the nation's youth. Th successes of 4-H Expanded Food and Nutrition educational programs for low income city youth, 4-H educational television, and other programs were designed to reach the special needs of central city youth.

"Since 1970, over 13 million central city youth in all the Nation's largest cities participated in 4-H youth development educational programs. During the decade of the 70's, 4-H enrollments in central cities increased from 278,452 in 1973 to the current enrollment of 1,161,666. [1992]. There were 4.3 million youth in metropolitan areas involved in 4-H in the 1970's, while 9 million youth participated in 4-H during the decade of the 80's... 4-H programs are in traditional community based clubs and in schools, public housing developments, neighborhood centers, juvenile correctional institutions, extended day care centers, recreation and community centers – wherever youth can be reached."

This excellent 10-page report is on the 4-H history website in the Books and Printed Materials Archive.

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Selected 4-H Urban Histories

While it is important to cover the early history of 4-H in urban areas, and also the developmental transition that took place, primarily during the 1960s and 1970s, including the studies, we need to gain an understanding of how 4-H approached these opportunities (and challenges) in various urban centers... the history city to city. How the program began. The projects, programs and activities that were offered. How they "reached" the young people. How they recruited and trained volunteers. Their marketing programs, relationships with the city/county governments and the schools and other groups. Acceptance of the program, funding, uniqueness, the challenges and the successes. Has it endured... how is it going today? Although ideas and both success stories and failures may have been readily exchanged throughout the Extension system, no two city programs were exactly the same. There really wasn't a right or a wrong way to "do it." For both the professionals and the volunteers who started these urban programs, no better description can be used than the 4-H motto itself – "learn by doing."

These history vignettes sometimes cover how the city program got started, while others offer descriptive recollections of specific program approaches or use of volunteers... and much more. Anyone involved in the early establishment of a 4-H urban program... we would like to hear from you. Even if we get two or three short stories on the same city, that's OK...we all have different experiences to relate. We are also interested in learning about the contemporary history – how these programs are doing today.

Please send us your history stories, or contact us and we can talk about it:

Chicago, Illinois

In the mid-1950's, long-time 4-H friend and donor, John B. Clark, president of Coats & Clark Inc., became convinced of the need to demonstrate that 4-H was flexible enough to serve youth wherever they lived – even in the city.

Hoping to do something in his own New York City, Clark contacted Cornell University with his proposal. After some negotiations Cornell turned down the proposal to begin 4-H in New York City. Clark then turned to Rutgers University to begin a program in Newark, New Jersey. Once again his offer was rejected. Within a few months, Clark's interest shifted to Chicago and the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work (later National 4-H Service Committee, then National 4-H Council) which was then headquartered in Chicago.

Ken Anderson, Associate Director of the Committee, began talking with O. F. Gaebe, Illinois State 4-H Leader and W. G. Kammlade, Associate Extension Director, in May 1956. Both were well aware of the public demand for 4-H in Chicago. As home to National 4-H Congress, which was heavily publicized throughout the city year after year, perhaps more people in Chicago knew about 4-H and its achievements than the population of any other urban city in America. When the subject of starting a Chicago 4-H program was raised with the Illinois 4-H Foundation there was little enthusiasm on the part of those in attendance. Anderson informed Gaebe and Kammlade that Clark was interested in helping and that several other businesses in Chicago would like to be involved. Kammlade immediately endorsed the idea and worked toward the establishment of the Chicago 4-H program. He had to counter resistance among rural 4-H supporters and agriculture leaders who feared their insufficient 4-H budgets would be further diluted to serve a growing urban area. But the grants from the private sources paved the way.

Clark contributed $25,000 to the University of Illinois through the National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work. With the Coats & Clark grant, plus additional help from The Sears-Roebuck Foundation and Standard Brands Incorporated, the university undertook the bold experiment in Chicago. A husband and wife team – Dr. Lawrence Biever and his wife, Anna Rose – were hired to enroll 4-H youth and organize a program meeting the needs of youth. While serving appreciable numbers of urban youth, the Chicago program also provided a model for similar work in other metropolitan centers.

Sandra Lignell wrote "History of 4-H in Chicago" in 1999, covering the first 42 years of operating the 4-H program in urban Chicago. This history is located on the 4-H History Preservation website in the Books and Other Printed Materials Archive.

Denver, Colorado

F. A. Anderson, Extension Director, Colorado, shares the story of the beginning of the Denver 4-H program in a feature article in the December 1949 "National 4-H News" entitled "4-H Flourishes in the City – Denver Program Stems From Success With Victory Gardens."

"We established a temporary office in Denver in 1942 and assigned a number of the State staff to it primarily to promote Victory gardens as a war emergency measure. The personnel of the office was increased in 1943 to include a home demonstration agent and a part time 4-H Club agent.

"The addition of the 4-H Club agent resulted from a plan developed with the Denver Public School System whereby a member of its staff, trained in agriculture, was made available to us as liaison between the schools and our office.

"Time spent by the agent in our office was in addition to his full time duties as staff member of the schools, and was aimed to give us entree to principals and teachers to solicit their cooperation in obtaining enrollment in 4-H Clubs and selecting and training of leaders in agriculture and home economics.

"An assistant home demonstration agent was employed in January 1945 mainly to have the same liaison relationship with the parochial schools.

"We were late in getting started in 1942 but the program gained a great deal of momentum in the spring of 1943, and we had around 41,500 Victory gardens in the city and county of Denver, approximately 40,000 in 1944 and 1945 and 25,000 in 1946.

"The Victory Garden program appealed to both adults and youth and suggested the possibility of interesting urban boys and girls in 4-H Club work. We were fortunate in having as superintendent of schools a man with an agricultural background who was very much interested and responded enthusiastically to our suggestion that an effort be made to establish 4-H Club work as a permanent enterprise.

"We then undertook to interest the Denver Chamber of Commerce in this activity and met with enthusiastic response. This led to a concerted effort for the establishment of a permanent office for Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics in Denver.

"The Chamber of Commerce through its livestock and agricultural committee participated very effectively in our negotiations with city officials for the establishment of the permanent office.

"An agreement was entered into between the Extension Service of Colorado A & M College and the city and county of Denver for establishment of the office in Denver. Space and other facilities in the city and county building and 40 percent of the total budget for the personnel were provided effective January 1, 1947.

"Additional funds were supplied effective January 1, 1948, now one-half of the total budget is from the city and county of Denver and the personnel includes an agricultural agent, assistant agent, home demonstration agent and assistant agent, 4-H Club agent and two secretaries.

"All members of the staff assume their full share of responsibility in promoting and assisting in the 4-H Club program under the direction of the agricultural agent.

"The 1948 enrollment in Denver was 1,352. Our goal for 1949 was set at 2,000. Completions have increased progressively each year with further improvement anticipated.

"A Denver-County Victory Garden, Food and Flower Show was organized by the Extension Service for the first time in 1943 in the Municipal Auditorium with 1,307 individual exhibitors. Approximately 15,000 people attended.

"This was repeated in 1944 and 1945 under the same name but changed to the Denver Fair in 1946. It has become an important civic attraction." (From December 1949 "National 4-H News")

Indianapolis, Indiana

"4-H in Indy – A Profile Of Youth Programs In A Metropolitan Area," provides a tremendous illustrated documentation on the Indianapolis urban 4-H program, particularly the organizational background and the programs offered.

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Pontiac, Michigan

"Better School Citizens from Urban 4-H" – a feature in the December 1963 issue of "National 4-H News."

"City boys an girls in Pontiac, Michigan are getting the chance of a lifetime in 4-H training. And their parents are gaining new leadership skills at the same time, thanks to a series of school 4-H Clubs springing up in this industrial center.

"Mrs. Ruth Montney, 4-H agent in Oakland County, has been guiding the clubs through their first two precarious years. Patterns of 4-H operation, so familiar in rural parts of the country, are new to most city folks. The agent has built a solid base of trained 4-H leaders, though, who can now serve as the nucleus for an expanding number of clubs.

"Working first with the sixth grade in Bethune school, Mrs. Montney found in the school principal, Mrs. Mary Killian, a willing helper.

"‘I seem to see a wonderful attitude there in the 4-H Clubs where children are busy doing something they want to do,' the enthusiastic principal comments.

"4-H Helps Discipline. One of Mrs. Killian's favorite incidents to illustrate the appeal of 4-H for her students – if a somewhat sad one – is a story of a boy who was sent home one day for misbehaving in class. After school that afternoon, he showed up to attend the 4-H Club meeting. ‘I'm sorry,' the principal told him, ‘but you can't stay for the meeting either.' Although she understood his heartbroken look, the educator thinks the boy learned a real lesson in discipline. 4-H is proving to be a great incentive for the more than 100 members in her school, she concludes.

"In working with the 4-H'ers, local leaders are finding that they have a real job keeping ahead of the members. One leader, Mrs. Delores Eanes, decided to go back and finish high school to help in her 4-H work.

"Average income is fairly low in the Bethune School area. But Mrs. Montney feels that even through 4-H members and leaders may be starting out with less leadership experience than many 4-H'ers, they are progressing well. ‘I think these boys and girls are getting something in 4-H that they may never have gotten in any other way,' says the agent.

"One group of girls in clothing cooked a carry out dinner at their leader's house, for instance, and made $16.50. With the money, they bought skirt material and toweling. Mrs. Montney believes that this was a unique and rewarding experience.

"Small Plots Teach Gardening. It's hard for city youngsters, especially in a housing project area, to learn about the soil. More than 70 members of the Bethune B's 4-H Club, though, have been learning about crop production on 4-H garden plots this summer.

"Working with the eager boys and girls (boys enjoy the foods projects as much as the girls do – ‘We like to eat') is a dedicated group of leaders, Mrs. Montney explains.

"Sixth grade leaders are: Mrs. Sammie Lee, organizational leader and Foods; Mrs. Florin Harden, Foods; and Mrs. Eanes in Clothing.

"For the newer fifth grade club, Foods, Gardening and Clothing leadership is coming from Mrs. Rebecca Woods, Mrs. Mary Seay and Mrs. Robert McCullom. Other leaders have helped out from time to time but have dropped out of 4-H Club work. Last spring's sixth graders will no doubt stay in 4-H in junior high school, organizing a new club this fall, the agent predicts.

"4-H Club work started in the county and will probably always retain a strong agricultural emphasis. But these busy members of the Bethune B's 4-H Club, with their dedicated leaders, are proving that 4-H does have a valuable place in the city as well." (From December 1963 "National 4-H News")

Portland, Oregon

The Portland 4-H program grew out of the use of school grounds in 1918-1919 for Victory gardens during World War I. The state 4-H leader, Harry C. Seymour, urged the incorporation of the school clubs into the state 4-H program to benefit from its guidance and incentives. The idea was supported by the city school administration, PTA, other organizations and individuals. T. D. Kirkpatrick served as the first club agent from 1920 to 1929, followed by Robin Maaske until 1931, when Chas. J. Weber became the first full time club agent. He served ably until 1944 when he went to Uruguay to head up the agricultural program of an Adventist school.

In a multi-page feature in the December 1956 issue of "National 4-H News," the structure of the Portland program is explained. The administrative 4-H staff in Portland at that time paralleled that of the counties. Ed Shannon, the club agent, came to the Portland program in 1944 and is assisted by two female agents. Shannon apportions his time with the administrative school people; maintains close relations with service clubs and business organizations; is staff representative and advisor in the city 4-H leaders' organization, and the 4-H office chairman. The two female agents work closely with what are known as school 4-H chairmen in planning and conducting the 4-H program for the different school communities, and are heavily involved in the leader training. In addition to the school 4-H chairmen there are 4-H project chairmen in each school. Project chairmen are chosen by the officers of the 4-H leader association, and are the life blood of the program, working closely with the three Extension agents. The school chairmen plan the leader training and help to coordinate and operate many of the 4-H events. The 4-H program in the mid-1950's was organized in 46 elementary areas of the city's public school system, plus eight parochial schools – one Lutheran and seven Catholic -- with a total 4-H membership of 2,530. The highest enrollment to date had been 1944 with 3,339 members, being a war year. In 1955 the program had 284 local leaders.

The Portland 4-H office in the 1950s was housed in one of the elementary school buildings entirely separate from any school office. Th city 4-H program is a joint enterprise of the schools and Extension Service, each sharing equally in the operating expenses of the program. (From December 1956 "National 4-H News")

Washington, D.C.

In "Washington News & Views" in the February 1969 issue of "National 4-H News," Eleanor L. Wilson, Program Leader, 4-H and Youth Development, USDA, wrote a column under the heading "4-H Comes To The Nation's Capital." It reads in part:

"...In November, 1966, President Johnson signed into law a bill to provide the District of Columbia a new college to be known as the Federal City College. The college was the first founded to provide comprehensive higher public education for the citizens of the District of Columbia. Despite the presence of five private universities (American, Catholic, Georgetown, George Washington and Howard), a Presidential study showed that the District's graduating high school seniors had little choice. They could attend one of the higher tuition colleges or simply not go at all.

"Once the legislation was passed, decisions about administrators, faculty, curriculum, tuition, fees and campus sites were among the major ones to be made. A nominal tuition fee of $25.00 per quarter was set for District of Columbia residents, and a tuition of $240.00 per quarter was established for students from outside Washington. On an open admissions policy anyone who has a high school degree or the equivalent is eligible to enroll...

"Federal City College started with 2,400 full and part-time first year students, but more than 6,000 applicants were received. The courses are divided into three main fields of the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences, including mathematics. Students and faculty have jointly determined the courses to be offered. Both day and night classes were scheduled to make college accessible to all.

"In June 1968, the new Federal City College was designated a land-grant college. Thus it becomes the first land-grant college in a city, and now provides extension programs, including 4-H youth development and home economics to residents of the District of Columbia for the first time. This means that Washington, D.C. joins the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam in providing 4-H benefits and opportunities to youth.

"What will 4-H be like in the District of Columbia? Just as, in your own community and county, local leadership plans jointly with extension staff to design the extension program, community leadership in the District is now being involved in program development. Appropriately, the extension program is to be encompassed in the Federal City College community education program. Professional staff and aides are being employed. Training programs will be provided adult and junior volunteer leaders. Both youth and adults must become aware that extension exists and what opportunities 4-H can offer.

"Because 4-H is new in the District, many innovative and creative approaches may be developed within the framework of the basic objectives of leadership and citizenship development in a strictly urban setting.

"When you next visit Washington, D.C. and you see those familiar 4-H signs, "A 4-H Member Lives Here," you will be interested because you know more about two new firsts for your nation's capital – the Federal City College, which is the District's first land-grant college – and, the Extension Service with its 4-H program." (From February 1969 "National 4-H News")

4-H Urban History Resources

"A Critique of the King County, Washington 4-H Club Program"
by Ronald Walter Scott. A Thesis submitted to Oregon State University. June 1972"

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"Factors Affecting the Development of Urban 4-H Work"
by Margaret F. Kohl. Masters Thesis. University of Chicago. 1951.
(abstracted in ExtensionReview of Research. 1952. p. 6)

"Extension of 4-H Club Work in Urban Areas"
by Clifford L. Meireis. Masters Thesis. Colorado State University. 1962.

"The Place of 4-H Club Work in Urban Areas"
by T. T. Martin. University of Missouri (1953)
A copy may be viewed at:

"Green Fingers [4-H gardening program] Help Reshape Troubled Neighborhoods"
by W. Burkhart and G. Thompson. 1972 Yearbook of Agriculture. p. 272-274

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"4-H Programs in the Nation's Largest Cities – Report for the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations"
by Dr. Joel R. Soobitsky, ES-USDA 4-H and Youth Development. 1992.

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"Future Dimensions of Urban 4-H Programs"
by Dr. Joel R. Soobitsky, ES-USDA. 1973. Presentation at Annual Cooperative Extension Conference, University of Illinois.

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"Strengthening and Expanding 4-H Programs in Urban Areas"
materials compiled from 1983 regional workshops on "Strengthening and Expanding 4-H Programs in Urban Areas, compiled and edited by Dr. Joel R. Soobitsky, ES-USDA and Patricia Carroll Panshin, National 4-H Council.

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"4-H in Indy – A Profile Of Youth Programs In A Metropolitan Area."
Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

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Articles relating to urban 4-H from National 4-H News

1949Dec32Urban 4-H. The Denver Program. written by F. A. Anderson, Extension Director
1952Nov164-H work in the Cities. Interview w/A. B. Graham
1953July24Pro's and Con's of 4-H in the Cities; follow-up to Graham interview
1956Nov15City 4-H Family
1956Dec244-H in Portland, Oregon
1957May384-H in Chicago
1957Nov38Chicago 4-H
1958Feb41Chicago 4-H
1963Feb15-16How 4-H Came to Town (Prince Georges County, MD)
1963Apr17Linking Farm and City Neighbors (relates to the activities highlighted in entries in the 1962 Farm-City Week Contest for 4-H Clubs conducted annually for 5 years by the National 4-H News)
1963Oct20-21Blueprint for a Farm-City Bridge (more Farm-City Week 4-H activities)
1963Dec29Better School Citizens from Urban 4-H (Pontiac, MI)
1964Nov10Urban Areas Need 4-H. Discussion of Brown/Boyle Rpt.
1965Jul1, 8-9Urban Gardening in Philadelphia
1966Mar18-19Introducing 4-H with Flowers (E. Trenton, NJ)
1968Mar17-18How a County Adopts Projects to UrbanYouth (Omaha, Nebraska program; by county agent Gary Garey)
1968Sept26-27The Happening... Indianapolis. Great 2-page spread photo feature of program sponsored by Sears-Roebuck and Extension.
1968Dec35-37Roses Bloom in Roxbury (Boston area)
1969Feb64-H Comes to the Nation's Capital (by Eleanor L. Wilson, 4-H Extension, USDA)
1969May6-74-H in Town and City, too (by Russell Smith, 4-H Extension, USDA; briefly highlights several urban programs)
1969Sept19-21Leadership for Inner City 4-H. by Charles Freeman, Natl 4-H Club Foundation; report on Urban 4-H Staff Institute recently held at the 4-H Center (covered in more detail in the Spring 1969 New Dimensions newsletter)
1969Oct16-19Urban Projects for Boys (covers 14 projects suitable for urban boys in general terms; no specific urban areas identified)
1969Oct20Summertime in Sedalia (Missouri)
1969Dec53South Pacific in South Chicago?
1971Jun1, 16-20Growing Plants. A major feature on growing plants in either rural or urban areas, mentions Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado.
1971Dec40-41They Need to Know how to Survive in the City... 4-H feature reprinted from Wall Street Journal. Mentions 4-H programs in Cleveland, OH; Washington, D.C.; Camden, NJ; Oakland, CA; Rochester and Syracuse, NY.
1973Feb4Newark, NJ's Marching Flamingoes
1983May4Natural Area - Tacoma
1988Apr24Betterment Through Beauty in Philadelphia, 4-H'ers Plant Neighborhood Gardens and Learn New Lessons.

Principal author: Larry L. Krug

Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.

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