Minnesota 4-H Club Responds to State's Changing Demographics

September 10, 2017 10:53 AM
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A century-old University of Minnesota youth program often associated with agriculture has added new options to traditional activities to keep up with the state's changing demographics.

Minnesota 4-H Club has expanded from its farming roots as the state's agricultural community shrinks, the Minnesota Daily reported.

"We've always been at the vanguard of meeting kids where they're at, and ... if we don't change, we can go by the wayside," said Allison Sandve, a spokeswoman for University Extension, which runs 4-H Club.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say the number of Minnesota farms fell by more than half between 1940 and 2010.

An animal leasing program aims to make agriculture accessible to all kids in response to the declining number of farms, said Bradley Rugg, director of fair and animal science programs for the University Extension Center for Youth Development. The leasing program allows children without an animal to care for and train a mentor's farm animal, as well as show it at fairs and contests.

Rugg said this program is responsible for ongoing participation in some 4-H agricultural programs, such as the dairy program. There are 40 percent fewer dairy producers in the state than there were in the mid-2000s, but enrollment in 4-H dairy programs is down just 10 percent, he said.

4-H Club, a national program with state chapters managed by public universities, allows children to complete projects in areas such as health, science, agriculture and citizenship, according to the organization's website. Minnesota members can participate between kindergarten and one year after graduating high school.

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