Way, way back at the turn of the last century, 4-H clubs were seen as a way to introduce new agriculture technology to otherwise stubborn farmers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the feeling at the time was that rural youth would embrace the new agriculture technology being developed at land-grant colleges. Then, through their enthusiasm, they would draw their parents into it too.
And so when the USDA's mission was expanded in 1914 to include the Cooperative Extension Service - an outreach program to send agents into rural areas to carry word of new agriculture technology - the legislation included creation of what became 4-H clubs.
In New York, the land-grant college was Cornell University. Its familiar Cornell Cooperative Extension has provided the home base for 4-H clubs throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties ever since.
This explains why, of all of the youth-serving clubs and organizations, 4-H has relied on government funding from the very beginning. It has always been, in essence, the 4-H model.
Until now. In recent years government funding has dried up for all sorts of worthy things, and, as you have read, Chautauqua County's support for 4-H has disappeared altogether.
We do not doubt that the 4-H is as important to our county and country today as it was a century ago. The focus has long-since shifted and today centers on the personal growth of the children who belong to it. The 4-H locally is still essentially aimed at rural lifestyles - think of the 4-H farm animal competition at the county fair.
The worthy goal today is to help young people grow into adults who are productive and contributing members of society.
We need more of that, not less, and so we heartily applaud the adults involved in the local 4-H organization for looking at raising an endowment that would provide enough interest income to enable the program to go on forever without government funding.
And how like the 4-H to decide to work toward being self-reliant - that is exactly what the program aims to teach our children.
Emily Kidd, 4-H director, said the goal would be to raise $2 million by 2017 for an endowment. That's a mighty sum and we know folks would rather donate money that will be spent right now on things they can see.
But, remember, this is the 4-H. Do not ever underestimate what this extraordinary organization can accomplish.
If the decision is made to go forward with the fundraising for an endowment, we look forward to partnering with the 4-H to help with the effort and, eventually, to announcing the goal has been reached.