Celebrating KY 4-H History in the 1960s
The Sixth Decade
The early sixties saw a change in leadership in the State 4-H Office. Dr. Ray Ranta came from Michigan State University to serve as project leader(1) of the 4-H department, succeeding George Corder who had been acting program leader for four years. Corder returned to duties in the agronomy department. Ranta served as project leader for five years, leaving the position to serve as director of agricultural personnel.
The decade of the sixties was one of change in the College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension—as well as in 4-H. The untimely accidental death of William S. Seay, dean of the College of Agriculture, precipitated the appointment of Charles E. Barnhart to succeed him.
Other major changes occurred in the sixties: the Civil Rights Act, 4-H as a profession, new camps for 4-H’ers, continued urbanization of 4-H, expanded leader training opportunities, new literature for 4-H’ers—to mention a few.
Acting on the concern of the fifties, and under the leadership first of George Corder and then in July 1962 of Dr. Ray Ranta, the 4-H staff continued the major emphasis on leadership development. Training leaders was not a new objective for 4-H, but at this time a set of circumstances was unfolding which made this goal an even more critical one.
Traditionally, 4-H Clubs had been predominantly school clubs. Leaders were largely those who went into the classroom to help teachers. With the enactment of the Minimum Foundation Law of 1956—which limited the amount of school time students could spend on activities such as 4-H, and with more consolidation of schools in the early sixties, fewer schools would allow 4-H as a part of the curriculum (including Fayette, Jefferson and Daviess counties). Although many schools still had clubs, the goal became to expand the leader role to one who served community clubs and other out-of-school type activities. Ultimately, the goal was to change the 4-H program from an agent-oriented to a leader-oriented one.
Moving some of the 4-H activities to after-school hours proved to be the stimulus for recruiting more parents and leaders—particularly those who had interest in a specific subject. Emphasis was placed on organizing more project clubs such as automotive clubs, gun safety programs, horse and pony projects and dog projects. Leaders became more involved in club meetings; agents began attending fewer meetings.
As it happened, school principals and superintendents who wanted their students to participate in 4-H activities during school hours pushed for a change in the law. In 1960 the Kentucky General Assembly enacted legislation (Kentucky law 159.035) that permitted school administrators to count 4-H members in attendance at school while attending 4-H educational activities, provided they were under the supervision of an Extension agent or designated 4-H leader. However, the movement to after-school activities was well under way and has remained a significant part of 4-H programming today.
In 1961 and 1962, various concepts of leadership were taught, including workshops on the philosophy of leadership and understanding youth. In 1964, the focus was on internal operations of 4-H club work. A training session called “100 Questions Related to 4-H Work,” a quiz-type session, was held for agents to learn more about opportunities and programs for 4-H’ers. The idea was that agents could complete the training then take the information back to the county to volunteer leaders. (It is important to remember that fewer than half the counties at that time had agents who were 100 percent youth oriented.)
In 1964, three-day workshops on 4-H expansion were held. These workshops were designed to answer questions such as “What is my role as an extension worker in an expanded 4-H program? What barriers must be faced to expand 4-H work? What are expected results of a 4-H expansion program? What constitutes effective utilization of 4-H leaders?” 2
The 1964 “Leadermete,” sponsored by the National 4-H Council at the new 4-H Center in Washington, D.C., provided another opportunity for training leaders. Kentucky sent more than 50 leaders to this first Leadermete. During the six-day training program, leaders participated in training designed to build confidence in their ability to be leaders, to understand leadership roles in urban 4-H, to develop a proper 4-H image within the community and to provide for effective incentive awards.
Returning from the Leadermete, many leaders passed what they had learned on to other leaders in special workshops at 4-H Week. These leaders, in turn, helped train other leaders back at the area and county levels.
Special camps became a new setting to provide leader training opportunities.
Another area of concern in the sixties continued to be literature. The major objective was to develop quality literature geared to varying age levels. To accomplish their objective of upgrading literature, the 4-H staff, in 1964, met with designated subject matter specialists from the various College of Agriculture departments to review literature available from Kentucky and from other colleges and universities to determine guidelines and standards for evaluating 4-H project literature and updating programming ideas. There was a need not only for graded literature but also for someone from the subject matter departments to provide leadership. Incentives for meeting this need came when departments assigned specialists to help 4-H and when evaluation instruments began to include credit for production of 4-H literature. According to Ranta, Conrad Feltner (a district field agent at the time) made a great contribution when he persuaded departments to assign full-time equivalents (FTEs) to 4-H.
In addition to new help from college departments, statewide literature committees were either expanded or appointed to aid in the development of new literature. As a result of this emphasis, committees for dog care and training, horses, conservation, woodworking and electricity and others put Kentucky on the road to providing much-needed new literature.
One additional force was working which encouraged the expansion of the 4-H curriculum. As new agents came on and urban work increased, there was more interest in nontraditional subjects. Career exploration became a highly sought-after program—particularly in eastern Kentucky where agents were placed as part of the Eastern Kentucky Rural Development program. The program, made possible by a Kellogg Foundation grant, included special emphasis on working with young people.
Participation of Black Youth
Although there was some work done to provide combined opportunities for youth of all races, Kentucky State University was still the site of separate activities for black 4-H’ers—a style revue, demonstrations and judging activities, etc. A special camp for black youth was held at Dawson Springs.
Upon enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Kentucky began making adjustments in its programming. Within a year or two, all programs were integrated, the special camp for blacks was eliminated and there were no more separate events at Kentucky State University. Black agents were integrated into the system as area agents.
By and large, Kentucky made a smooth transition from segregated to integrated activities. In fact, Kentucky was the first state to send a black 4-H’er to National Congress and was one of the first three states to send black members to the People-to-People program. (People-to-People was a program in which members, at their own expense, toured European countries. They went as U.S. youth ambassadors within the framework of 4-H membership.) 3
“Urbanization” of 4-H cannot be pinpointed as an event that occurred at any particular time in the history of 4-H. There were, however, circumstances evolving during the sixties that accelerated 4-H urban development.
Perhaps the most obvious was the natural evolution of rural people moving to cities. Many of these people had been involved in 4-H, and when they moved to urban areas, they wanted to maintain 4-H participation. Also, there was a strong statement from legislators nationwide that what is good for rural people is good for urban people. Legislators wanted all their clientele to have an opportunity to participate in 4-H.
By 1966, 39.4 percent of Kentucky’s 4-H members lived on farms, 37.3 percent in rural non-farm areas and 23.3 percent lived in suburban or urban areas. Many traditional projects—home economics, entomology, woodworking, electricity, recreation, grooming and horticulture—were appropriate for urban as well as rural members. New projects developed in the mid-sixties were also appropriate for both types of members: horse and pony project (membership in this project jumped from 500 in 1961 to 4,300 in 1966), health, conservation, photography, money management, automotive, community beautification, career exploration and the town and country business program.
4-H Becomes a Career
Another not-so-obvious set of circumstances that promoted 4-H urban development was the change taking place in the ranks of assistant agents who worked with youth development. To move up the career ladder, they had to move into positions in agriculture or home economics. In the mid to late sixties, with the full support of Dr. Ranta, a group of assistant agents asked administrators to change their title to county 4-H agent. The first professional conference for 4-H agents was held at the North Central 4-H Camp at Carlisle in 1967. More…
As this career emphasis developed, agents were no longer required to have degrees in agriculture or home economics; agents were hired who had degrees in education, counseling, sociology, etc. Many of these agents had urban backgrounds, which in itself enhanced urban work.
Kentucky 4-H Agents Association
Concurrent with the professionalization of 4-H agents, the Kentucky Association of Extension Agents was organized in 1968. The first president of this association was Paul Claiborne (4-H agent in Laurel County). The group affiliated with the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents. Since that time, 4-H agents have used their association to promote professionalism both at the state and national levels. Kentucky has had several agents to hold high office in the NAE4-HA; Jerald Rose of Scott County served as national president in 1978-79 and several agents have served as regional directors. Birth of KAE4-HA...
Traditional 4-H Programs
Although there was a positive attitude in Kentucky (and nationwide) to move 4-H into urban settings, the traditional agriculture and home economics programs and rural work were not slighted. There was perhaps a natural decline in agricultural projects—but not as a result of emphasis on urban work. In fact, Dr. Ranta and Robert Kelly of the Department of Vocational Education traveled across Kentucky in a concerted effort to understand how 4-H and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) could best work together. New ideas to enhance programming resulted in the first animal science camp at Dawson Springs and an entomology camp at North Central Camp in Carlisle.
Area Agent System
Late in 1965 and early in 1966, Kentucky Cooperative Extension made a change in the structure of the county agent system that affected 4-H as well as agriculture, home economics and community development. County agents became area agents—no longer serving one county. Instead, “each former county agricultural or home economics agent was assigned a subject-matter specialty on which to concentrate in the work across county boundaries…. In all the 120 counties the county appropriating body signed a Memorandum of Agreement specifically authorizing the Extension agents, formerly county agents, to work throughout an area.” 4
This change lasted until 1969, at which time agents were again assigned to counties. One major reason for the system’s demise was that many counties felt they didn’t have an Extension agent. General Extension support seemed to be eroding. In some counties where 4-H membership was low already, it went down even further.
Under the leadership of the new dean and director of Extension Charles E. Barnhart, area agents were once again assigned to counties and “High priority should be given to 4-H programs.” (5) Dean Barnhart’s support for 4-H never wavered.
The Era of Camping
Of all the progress made in 4-H under Ranta’s leadership, the progress in camping consumed the most effort of the 4-H staff. It was the “era of camping.”
In 1962, there were three functioning 4-H camps: J.M. Feltner Camp at London, the Dawson Springs Camp and the Bingham Camp in Washington County. (In addition, there was an outdoor camping facility in Paintsville—also called J.M. Feltner Camp—that was due to be demolished for a dam in August 1975.)
The North Central Camp site of 344 acres in Nicholas County had been purchased in 1962. Work actually began in April 1963 with grading of the site. By the end of 1964, most of the $295,000 allocated to be raised by the counties was in hand and major construction was under way. Governor Bert Combs was very supportive of this project, allocating money for the building of a road and two small lakes. Governor Combs dedicated the camp July 10, 1966.
By 1964, land had been acquired from the Corps of Engineers, as well as land from private individuals, to build the Lake Cumberland Camp near Jabez. This camp was to replace the Bingham Camp, which had seen its better camping days. (The Bingham Camp facility was returned to the Bingham family with appreciation for its use.)
About this time work was also done on the Feltner and Dawson Camps to upgrade the facilities.
Kentucky 4-H soon found its camping facilities greatly improved and gave considerable effort to their maximum use. As a result of improved facilities, new opportunities in programming became possible:
- Camping was available for older 4-H’ers.
- The camp counselor system was initiated.
- Agents became involved in planning camping programs.
- Special camps in various subjects were possible.
- Leader training was offered at camps.
- Camp committees were named for each camp.
- Swimming was in pools instead of rivers.
- New craft rooms provided better opportunities for craft activities.
Throughout the history of 4-H, local, national and even natural events have influenced its programming; e.g., the depression, two world wars, drought and floods—to mention a few.
The Radiation Project—The radiation project of the mid-sixties sheds light on the mood of our country concerning the possibility of radiation fallout. The advent of the atomic bomb and the confrontation in the early sixties with our close neighbor, Cuba, over the placement of Soviet missile sites created a public concern over protecting our population and our environment from excessive radiation.
While the radiation project was classified as a science project, 4-H’ers also “learned some basic facts about the safe use of nuclear energy and the need for protection from fallout in case of nuclear war.“ (6) The project consisted of planting okra and corn seeds which had been exposed to different levels of radiation. The 4-H’ers were to grow the seed and keep careful records of growth. The results clearly illustrated to the 4-H’ers the effects of levels of radiation on living organisms. Through the project, 4-H members learned something about the world in which they were living—the dangers of nuclear fallout and the significance of making certain decisions in case of such an event.
Participation in the radiation project in 1966-67 was a somewhat phenomenal 75,000.
The Pig Chain—Another event that appeared around this time was the 4-H pig chain, a program to scatter good breeding stock over the state. The program operated by an arrangement through which 4-H’ers were given a pig and agreed to return two sow pigs to the donor.
Citizenship—While not new in the 1960s, citizenship was very visible at this time. The Older Youth Conference, a follow-up to the adult Leadermete at the National 4-H Center, provided selected 4-H delegates training in citizenship and leadership. Boys and girls were selected to attend regional orientation to prepare the 137 delegates for a six-day conference in Washington, D.C.
American Private Enterprise—The American Private Enterprise program began as a joint venture of Extension and the Kentucky Cooperative Council. The UK Department of Agricultural Economics played a vital role in getting this project under way. The goal was to teach young people about business and economics. Youth Scholars were chosen and several were awarded all-expense-paid trips to a national meeting. More History…
The State Fair—The 4-H exhibits at the State Fair were a real showcase. The sixties saw the moving of several activities such as demonstrations from the University of Kentucky campus to the Fair. This move was instigated to encourage member participation. In addition, the state 4-H horse show and the rabbit and dog shows were started in the 1960s. The result of these changes included more agent involvement, more space allotted to 4-H at the State Fair and overall an upgrading of 4-H participation.
4-H Week—This program continued as a highlight for members and attendance seemed to hover around 1,000. In the mid- to late sixties the point system through which members were allowed to attend this event was eliminated. The point system was one in which 4-H’ers received points for certain accomplishments: attendance at club meetings, demonstrations, etc. This system was seen as too limiting to members whose accomplishments sometimes did not fit into this system.