South Dakota: 4-H parents fight for future of program | TSLN.com

South Dakota: 4-H parents fight for future of program

Photo by Amanda Radke"What's happening is counties are starting to pair up with other counties, and we want to act now or we will be on an island by ourselves," said County Fair Board Chairman and 4-H leader Brad Greenway in a May 17 meeting of county commissioners at the Davison Co. Courthouse.

The South Dakota State University (SDSU) Cooperative Extension Service (CES) in Brookings, SD, provides agricultural education across the state and provides operational services for state 4-H youth programs, but recent cuts have individuals asking the question, “What will happen to 4-H now?”

In courthouse meetings across the state, including one in Davison County, 4-H supporters testified to solicit support for a 4-H partnership. In Mitchell, 4-H parents pushed to team up with Hanson County.

County Fair Board Chairman and 4-H leader Brad Greenway led a group of 4-H supporters in the area, who shared why 4-H has had a positive impact on their own lives, as well as the lives of their kids.

“What’s happening is counties are starting to pair up with other counties, and we want to act now or we will be on an island by ourselves,” said Greenway to the Davison County commissioners on May 17, 2011. “We have been informally cooperating with this county for 26 years, but we need some extra dollars coming back to assist in this partnership.

Greenway and several other 4-H leaders presented the commissioners with budget options to pay for a 4-H adviser. In the first option, a full-time county 4-H adviser would cost Davison County $16,750 and SDSU CES would pay an additional $25,252. In the second option, a county 4-H adviser would be shared with another county and both counties would share a 10-week summer intern. That option would cost Davison County $10,537, and SDSU CES would pay $27,404. With concerns about budgets to maintain roads in the area, that’s a lot of money to spare in the county. 4-H youth know that and stepped up to share their stories.

“As I reflect on my 10 years of involvement in 4-H, I realize I have become a more confident speaker, a more responsible individual because of my show horses, a more giving person through community service projects, and a stronger person by serving as a role model for other 4-H members,” testified KayLa Gerlach, Mitchell. “I owe 4-H for the valuable experiences the program has given me.”

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The group had to wait a few weeks to hear the final decision to their proposal. The good news is at SDSU CES isn’t expecting Davison County to come up with any cash or space for a proposed regional Extension center in Mitchell.

SDSU has budgeted a total of $600,000 to establish all of the centers and $775,000 for operational costs at all of the centers, with a Oct. 21 deadline to have the centers up and running. The Mitchell center is expected to house ten employees. A total of 65 field specialists will be hired for the new centers, and current Extension educators are free to submit applications.

Although the details aren’t clear, the Mitchell area could have one full-time 4-H adviser, which is where the county’s involvement is being sought. The adviser’s annual pay would be in the $30,000 range with $16,750 split by Davison and Hanson counties, according to the proposal under consideration by both county commissions. The other half of the adviser’s annual pay, plus benefits, would be covered by SDSU CES.

“I was in 4-H as a kid, and it definitely helped form my life, for better or for worse,” added Denny Kiner, Davison County commissioner. “I know none of us needs to be convinced about how great 4-H is.”

“Synergies among counties makes a lot of sense,” said Davison County commissioner John Clagget. “I hope other counties think so too. We are in a unique and great position here in Mitchell. Our facilities are in a great location to help 4-H youth and community members.”

There are definitely no easy solutions to budget cuts and reorganization of the 4-H and Extension programs in South Dakota, but Davison and Hanson Counties are an example of how counties are teaming together to share resources.

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