My Sixty Years with Rural Youth was first published in 1956. Reading this book will be like a personal visit and reminiscence for the thousands of persons, particularly in rural Minnesota and the Middle West, who have known the author affectionately as “Dad” Erickson. Mr. Erickson devoted much of his life to the 4-H club program for rural youth, serving as state 4-H leader in Minnesota for nearly 30 years. During that time, about half a million boys and girls became 4-H club members in the state and grew up to be better citizens, better farmers, and better homemakers because of “Dad” Erickson’s teaching and inspiration. Besides its warm, personal appeal, this book has another and perhaps broader significance. The story Mr. Erickson tells is, in large measure, a documentation of the development of 4-H club work. As such, it is an important chapter in the agricultural history of Minnesota and of the nation as a whole, since the 4-H movement has profoundly affected the course of agriculture in this country. One of the reasons for the founding of the organization was an alarming drift away from the farms of young people, half a century ago. Through the 4-H program, rural life was made more attractive, and farm youngsters got a more equitable share of America’s cultural, social, and economic opportunities and rewards. In his autobiography, Mr. Erickson covers a long life span that began on a Minnesota farm in the hardship and poverty that were common to the time and place. He tells how the people lived, how they farmed, and what their schools and churches were like. And, as his story advances through the years, we see the remarkable changes in rural living that have occurred in one lifetime.
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