A new book re-examines the 100-year old 4-H program…and comes to some unexpected conclusions.

Kiera Butler’s Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids—and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever hit the shelf late last year. You’ll enjoy traveling with the author on her two-year journey chronicling the program.

Butler says this:

“When I first learned about 4-H, I thought I had found a genuine American relic, a throwback to a simpler time…I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

Butler’s interest in 4-H was piqued after a visit to the Alameda County Fair in Northern California. Raised in an urban setting, Butler is engaged by the local food movement and urban agriculture.

While most of the book centers on the 4-H program in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is an interesting chapter on 4-H in Africa. While traveling there on a grant, Butler met a young man who had received hybrid corn seed from DuPont.

“The superiority of the crop amazed local subsistence farmers, but gave rise to new problems. The seed cost 10 times more than their traditional seed, and, because it is a hybrid, cannot be collected and held over to plant the following year.”

4-H is one of the nation’s largest youth development programs. Its headwaters lie in the USDA, and it is run by the land grant institution in each state. In California, 4-H is affiliated with the University of California. Learn more about Butler and her book by reading Jeannette Warnert’s UC Food Blog piece.