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4-H program adapts to changes in rural life

(Radio Iowa) – After more than a century in operation, the 4-H program has changed to continue thriving, but its leaders stick by the adage, the more the program has changed, the more it’s stayed the same. Cheryl Entriken, a 4-H leader in Hamilton County, says the focus remains on teaching young people leadership, citizenship, responsibility and life skills, though she emphasizes, it’s not just for farm kids.

“Rural young people are on the decline,” Entriken says. “As our farms are increasing (in size), we have fewer young people who are actually being raised on our farms. 4-H is not that way anymore. 4-H is for all young people.” Iowa has some 23,700 members in 4-H and Entriken says those members rely on their elders.

Volunteers and adult leaders are sharing their time, talents, skills and creative ideas, she says, which is key to making the 4-H program succeed. While raising livestock is still a popular area within the program, 4-H is not limited to agricultural pursuits. Entriken says members can jump into creative arts, consumer sciences, personal development, or science and technology.

“Anything that they really are interested in, if they come in, we can turn it in and fit it into a category where they could really grow and expand their interest,” she says. Learn more about the program through your nearest Iowa State University Extension and Outreach office or visit:www.extension.iastate.edu/4H