Why change Iowa 4-H?

The Iowa 4-H camp has many different options for the kids who come to enjoy nature. The overlook area is nicely shaded and creates a relaxing place to be because you can see far off into the distance, which makes it a great place to look at nature.

Meghan Johnson

Several questions about the changes within the Iowa 4-H program go unanswered, but ISU 4-H members still want to show support. 

Recent changes have been made within the 4-H program that has resulted in the cancellation of day camps at the Iowa 4-H Center in the summer of 2013.

One in every five youths in the state of Iowa participate in 4-H and almost $5 million of ISU Extension and Outreach’s expenses are within the youth and 4-H programs.

Many have come to the conclusion that the cutting of programs isn’t the fault of 4-H, but just a change in the times.

“I think that more than anything, it is a sign of the times. The way people live their lives is significantly different than it was 50 years ago,” said Brent Sexton, a senior in animal science and an avid 4-H member.

“Our priorities are different and we don’t consider the same activities to be fun and entertaining like we once did. Kids simply don’t seem interested in the whole summer camp idea.”

Just like other programs, 4-H has taken a hit financially as the United States goes through economic struggles.

Caine Westergard, a senior in apparel, merchandising and design, who also has been involved in 4-H said, “Due to the recession, everyone is going through cuts and, unfortunately, so is the Iowa 4-H program.”

The program is fighting through its financial cuts, though.

“Even through cuts and program changes, Iowa 4-H still remains the strongest 4-H program in all of the U.S. and that is definitely something to recognize,” said Westergard.

“Although there will not be any camps this summer, there are so many other 4-H opportunities for families to take part in.”

The sudden changes happening in the 4-H program may have come from three main causes.

Finances within the 4-H program, changes within employment and change of interest in residential camps have all had a big part in the decision to make changes for the summer of 2013.

The changes will affect many families around Iowa, but in the eyes of the 4-H program, it is best for the youths of Iowa.

“The Iowa 4-H Foundation owns the Iowa 4-H Center. The Iowa 4-H program — which is ultimately managed by ISU Extension and Outreach — they make the ultimate decisions about what happens in the 4-H program,” said Kris Kuhlmann, executive director for the Iowa 4-H Foundation.

“The 4-H program has been the sole user of the Iowa 4-H Center since the day the Iowa 4-H Foundation had purchased that land, back in 1949.”

In fall of 2012, ISU Extension and Outreach informed the Iowa 4-H Foundation that the camping program and their commitment to the Iowa 4-H center was likely going to change.

They promised to be committed to Iowa 4-H through Sept. 30, 2013, but after that, commitment could not be made to the 4-H Center and Foundation.

The Iowa 4-H Foundation has no jurisdiction to say how their property should be used. That decision is made soley by ISU Extension and Outreach.

“So what we are here for is to serve the purpose of Iowa 4-H and to provide opportunities for youth and their future, and if 4-H is telling us that the camping program no longer suits their needs and doesn’t hold the influence on their life that it once did, then we have no other option than to look at what is going to help them provide for their future and what we can do to financially support what the priorities are,” Kuhlmann said.

Even though Iowa 4-H is making changes within its programs, the focus has continued to be on Iowa children.

“The future of the Iowa 4-H program is still looking green and they will continue to grow,” Westergard said.

Changes are made in the 4-H program to support change in communities. The 4-H program has to adapt to the children who are involved in their programs.

“I believe the future for 4-H is bright, but it is foolish to think that it isn’t constantly changing,” Sexton said.