Community Agriculture Alliance: The untold impact of 4-H

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Six months until fair time, and Routt County 4-H is going strong.

Already, we have more than 270 local youths involved in 4-H traditional learning projects in the county, not to mention the hundreds of kids who participate in our other 4-H youth development activities.

4-H is not just about livestock and the fair. 4-H youths are involved in community service and learning projects ranging from sewing to rocketry, cake decorating to shooting sports as well as livestock. We also have 70 adult leaders who help lead our 4-H youths.

So what other community benefits come from 4-H in Routt County?

Community Agriculture Alliance

This weekly column about agriculture issues is written by area farmers, ranchers and policymakers. It publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Not only does 4-H strengthen our youths, but a recent statewide report shows that 4-H brings an economic benefit, too. Every dollar that county, state and federal agencies invest in the Colorado 4-H program is returned to the state’s economy six times over. That’s one of the findings of a new Colorado State University study evaluating the economic contributions of the youth development program.

“This is a conservative estimate of the contribution of 4-H,” said Rebecca Hill, a CSU extension research economist and author of the study. “In addition to the monetary benefits, there are other benefits that are not easily quantifiable.”

Hill analyzed 4-H member record books completed during the 2012-13 4-H year to compile expenditures made by participating families. She found that Colorado’s 4-H families spend $22.5 million per year in their communities supporting their children’s projects. When secondary effects spending are calculated, the program’s statewide economic contributions swell to $45 million.

“Taxpayers contributed approximately $7.3 million to the Colorado 4-H program during the same time period,” said Jeff Goodwin, Colorado 4-H director. “This investment in Colorado 4 H is leveraged to contribute a sixfold return to the Colorado economy.”

The Colorado State 4-H Program asked Hill to study the program’s economic benefits so county, state and federal officials had accurate information on which to base their budget decisions. The Colorado 4-H program serves more than 110,000 youths annually with 14,000 in organized 4-H clubs.

“We have always known that 4-H is good for kids, families and communities,” Goodwin said. “Here is strong economic evidence to support that fact as elected officials get ready to tackle tough budgetary issues.”

Are you interested in getting involved in 4-H as a youth member or an adult leader? Call your local extension office to learn what 4-H has to offer at 970-879-0825 or visit www.rcextension.colostate.edu.

Tami Thurston is the 4-H and youth development extension agent for the CSU Routt County Extension.

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