The Eighth Decade

Coleman White served as Assistant Director of Extension for 4-H during the 1980s. The decade began with Kentucky ranking number one in volunteer leaders in the Southern region. At the national level, Kentucky continued to rank high in communication skills, including computer, consumer education, horticulture and engineering. 1

Nutrition, Health, and Safety

Expanded Food Nutrition Programs which started in the late 1970s flourished in the 1980s. The main goal was to improve the nutrition of youth in families with limited income. In 1982 over 69,000 youth were involved in nutrition education. Over 25,000 were involved annually through “Mulligan Stew” via Kentucky Educational Television and local school systems.

Improving health, nutrition and safety was identified as a critical concern of the 1980s. The food nutrition forum was an opportunity to give concentrated emphasis to this area. In 1986 the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) reached 52,398 economically disadvantaged youth. Food and nutrition projects involved 35,238. Day camps taught valuable lessons regarding food and nutrition, safety, grooming and community awareness information and skills to 7,140 youth assisted by 1,483 volunteers.2

Volunteer Leader Forum

In 1982, a statewide forum “4-H Leader-to-Leader” was held in Louisville. Over 750 adults and teens attended the two-day training. Thirty sessions were offered on a broad range of topics, such as “Working with Handicapped Youth,” “Volunteers Enjoy Camping, Too,” International Programs” and “Using Computers to Teach Youth.” Focused volunteer forums were held on foods and nutrition projects and Kentucky hosted a national natural resources forum at the Kentucky Leadership Center.

Teen Leadership

Kentucky teens have taken advantage of the opportunity not only to develop their own skills, but help others do the same. In 1982, 750 teens helped with 13 teen leadership workshops and also provided officer training to younger 4-H’ers.

Community Service

Kentucky has a long and rich tradition of community service projects. 4-H’ers became more aware of others in the community, learned to share and develop their talents and resources and became active citizens at an early age. Youth identified and carried out “real” improvement projects in the community; they involved both adults and youth and many times, youth of a variety of ages. They learned about basic decision making and program planning and put their developing leadership skills into action. “Community Pride” projects instilled a sense of accomplishment and interest in the community which continues to grow throughout a lifetime. In 1982, 29,204 youth participated in community development programs such as building nature trails, planting trees in a local park and taking pets to the nursing home to visit residents.


Young people who went to 4-H camp in the 1980s were some of the first youth to see and experience a computer. Computers donated by Radio Shack gave 4-H’ers an experience not yet available through schools. Besides computer, classes in safety, swimming, archery, rifle, crafts and natural resources were popular. Day camps, usually with educational nutrition programs, were held in many counties. In 1982, 21,275 youth were involved in these resident camp and day camp programs. Throughout the 1980s, Kentucky continued to rank at the top nationwide in camping.

75th Birthday in 1984

The 75th birthday of Kentucky 4-H in 1984 gave the program a boost and an opportunity to reflect and look forward. This milestone year saw two major grants received for the construction of a 4-H Leadership Center adjacent to the Lake Cumberland 4-H Camp—a grant for $950,000 from the Economic Development Administration of the Department of Commerce and a grant for $125,000 from the James Graham Brown Foundation. These grants allowed the construction to begin on the $2.5 million year-round center. The center was proposed to help meet community needs across the state in educating youth and adult volunteer leaders and community officials in leadership skills.3

Counties held special birthday celebrations throughout the year. 4-H members in each county prepared a birthday card and traveled to the state fair on August 9, 1984 to present it to Clover Cat, Kentucky 4-H’s larger than life mascot. Adair County presented the first card at 11:00am and Woodford County wrapped up the event at 6:06pm.

TV Programming

Beginning in the 1960s television became a 4-H delivery method. The first project taught via television was electricity, followed by a nutrition series called Mulligan Stew. These ran on commercial television and later aired on educational channels. A popular program of the 1980s was “Blue Sky Below My Feet”. This series featured information on science, food and clothing used in outer space and how the information is similar or different from what we do on earth. With the advancement of video technology and development of supplemental materials, the use of video tapes soon replaced public airing.


Handicapped young people are no different from any others in their need for experiences to help them develop their potential. Helping other youth and adults understand feelings and answer questions about variations in abilities was accomplished through “Kids-on the-Block.” The set of life size puppets helped youth see, in a graphic way, specific feelings and concerns of a person with a disability. Teens presented puppet shows to younger 4-H’ers. 4-H’ers learned limitations of different handicaps, aids to assist individuals and how they might be of help to someone with a disability.

Collegiate 4-H Clubs

Collegiate 4-H saw an upsurge with five new clubs on campuses throughout the state. These clubs were service organizations and provided continued educational opportunities for its members.

International Exchange

4-H or programs similar to 4-H have been established in over 80 countries around the world. International exchanges became popular. One program known as International Farm Youth Exchange was later renamed International Foreign Youth Exchange.

In the 1980s, Japan began a program known as LABO to improve English language skills among youth. A highlight of that experience is for Japanese youth to spend three or four weeks in the United States with a host family. LABO offered a reciprocal experience to American youth. As many as seventy youth and chaperones have visited the United States per year. Kentucky 4-H’ers also visited Japan, sometimes staying with the family of the Japanese youth who had lived with them in the U.S. It was an opportunity to learn about Japanese customs, history and language.

In 1983, eight members (including one IFYE) traveled to Japan. Kentucky families hosted 40 Japanese youth and chaperones, eight members from Luxenbourg and one from New Zealand.

The Kentucky Leadership Center

The proposal to build a center where volunteers could develop leadership skills became a reality in the 1980s. After several years of fund-raising, site preparation began on the Kentucky Leadership Center in 1982. Water and sewer systems were installed; the foundation was poured; framework was completed; blocks and stones were laid; and wooden siding was installed.

Throughout construction, fund-raising continued. Counties were asked to contribute funds equal to $3 per 4-H participant. Despite controversy over the “Fair Share” approach, most counties eventually raised the funds. As counties completed their goals, the county name was added to the wooden map of the state on display at the center.

The center was dedicated on June 25, 1987. More than 700 people from across the state attended. Lynwood Schrader, president of Friends of Kentucky 4-H, Inc. and senior vice president of Kentucky Utilities Company, delivered the keynote speech. Other speakers included Dr. David Roselle, president of the University of Kentucky; Charles E. Barnhart, dean of the UK College of Agriculture; and Coleman White, assistant director of Extension for 4-H. More...

Impact of 4-H

While Kentucky 4-H objectives do not necessarily aim toward making farmers out of its members, it is gratifying to learn that 4-H has made a significant contribution to the well-being of Kentucky farmers who were involved in 4-H. A 1980s study of Kentucky farmers showed that over one-fourth of them were 4-H members. Farmers who were in 4-H have higher gross farm sales and higher net incomes from farming than do farmers who were not 4-H’ers. They are also much more likely to use more innovative farm methods. For example, nearly half (48 percent) of former 4-H’er farmers have used reduced-tillage or no-tillage techniques on their farms, while less than one-fourth (22 percent) of non-4-H’er farmers have used reduced-tillage or no-tillage techniques on their farms. Those farmers who belonged to 4-H tend to have higher levels of education than farmers who were not 4-H members.4

According to Richard Maurer, “The farmers themselves gave 4-H credit for contributing to their current farm operations. This reinforces the conclusion that long-term benefits of 4-H do exist.”5

Issues Conference

Becoming a productive citizen not only involves learning life skills for a career and managing resources for the home and family, but extends into the community. Citizenship skills learned in the 4-H Club and in project activities laid a foundation for youth to make contributions to the improvement of their communities. In the 1970s and 1980s several issues also increased the need for youth to have assistance in dealing with concerns in their communities, such as teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol use and school dropout. The first “Issues” conference was held in 1989 at the Kentucky Leadership Center. Some of the objectives of the conference were: 1) to provide delegates with the foundation skills needed to plan, implement, and evaluate programs designed to help address these issues, 2) heighten delegates’ awareness of community service organizations and agencies available to assist them in addressing contemporary issues affecting youth, and 3) provide a forum for youth to communicate concerns to key decision makers.

1980s Statistics

During 1989 Kentucky 4-H reached 224,772 young people with 508,708 recorded learning opportunities that directly related to their abilities to play a productive role in society.

The 4-H club structure continued to offer Kentucky’s youth the opportunity to learn leadership and citizenship through holding an office or committee membership. They also learned parliamentary procedure and how to effectively function in groups. In 1989, 83,549 youth participated in club experiences.

Kentucky ranked number 1 nationwide in expanded food and nutrition, industrial arts, community development, citizenship, international study, energy and health programs.

Kentucky ranked in the top five states in communication skills--public speaking, graphic arts and displays, photography and computer study. 6

1 1982 Statistical Summary.
2 1981 Kentucky 4-H Annual Report.
3 1984 Kentucky 4-H Report.
4 1984 Kentucky 4-H Report.
5 Maurer, Richard C., and Janet L. Bokemeier, “4-H Makes Better Farmers,” The Ambassador, Winter (1987), 2.
6 1989 Kentucky 4-H Annual Report.