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Raise: What 4-H Teaches Seven Million Kids and How Its Lessons Could Change Food and Farming Forever

With photographs by Rafael Roy
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    When city-dwelling journalist Kiera Butler visits a county fair for the first time, she is captivated by the white-uniformed members of the 4-H club and their perfectly groomed animals. She sets off on a search for a "real" 4-H'er, a hypothetical wholesome youth whom she imagines wearing cowboy boots and living on a ranch. Along the way, she meets five teenage 4-H'ers from diverse backgrounds and gets to know them as they prepare to compete at the fair. Butler's on-the-ground account of the teens' concerns with their goats, pigs, sheep, proms, and SAT scores is interwoven with a fascinating history of the century-old 4-H club as it solicits corporate donations from top agribusiness firms such as DuPont, Monsanto, and Cargill. Her quest takes her from California's cities and suburbs all the way to Ghana, where she investigates 4-H's unprecedented push to expand its programs in the developing world-and the corporate partnership that is supporting this expansion.Raisemasterfully combines vivid accounts from a little-known subculture with a broader analysis of agriculture education today, using 4-H as a lens through which to view the changing landscape of farming in America and the rest of the world. Lively, deeply informed, and perceptive in its analysis,Raiseprovides answers to complex questions about our collective concern over the future of food.Photographs by Rafael Roy.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95898-2
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    One sunny day in May, two roommates and I drove out to a farm in the country to pick up a couple of three-week-old turkey poults. The farmer raised her eyebrows when we told her that we planned to raise them in our urban neighborhood in Berkeley, California. But we assured her that our turkeys would have a good life, and she relinquished the apple-sized birds to us. They chirped plaintively throughout the entire hour and a half of our drive home.

    But it didn’t take long for our turkeys to get used to their new life in Berkeley. Until...

  5. CHAPTER ONE “I Wanted to Be a Cowgirl”
    (pp. 13-31)

    A confession: I reached the age of thirty-one without ever having darkened the doorstep of a county fair. I was living in Berkeley, California, where we had street festivals, which I studiously avoided on account of the annoying naked people who always showed up. Where I was raised, in the unleafy city of Somerville, Massachusetts, we had yearly carnivals with rides and maybe a depressing pony or two. Fairs, I had long believed, were a treat accessible only to people who lived in the country.

    So when I happened to see a sign for the Alameda County Fair, just a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Learning by Doing
    (pp. 32-48)

    I ask around and learn that Pleasant Hill, a suburb just northeast of Oakland, also has a 4-H club with livestock projects. So on a cold January evening, I hop in my car and head east, through the tunnel under the Oakland hills. In about half an hour I arrive at Foothill Middle School’s combination cafeteria-auditorium for the Pleasant Hill 4-H Club’s first meeting after Christmas break. Right away, I notice two things:

    1. All of the thirty-odd kids seem to be wearing pajamas.

    2. A woman who appears to be dressed as some kind of crustacean is standing near...

  7. CHAPTER THREE “I Do Sheep the Way Other Kids Do Soccer”
    (pp. 49-64)

    Having made up my mind to look for 4-H’ers in California’s farm country, I decide to visit the Greenfield 4-H club in the fertile Salinas Valley, which begins inland from Monterey and stretches ninety miles down to just north of San Luis Obispo. Flanked by two mountain ranges—the Saint Lucias to the west and the Gabilans to the east, the region was made famous as the setting of many John Steinbeck novels. Today it produces more than $4 billion of fruits and vegetables every year, including 80 percent of America’s lettuce.¹ Greenfield, a town of sixteen thousand in the...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Bringing Up Baby
    (pp. 65-78)

    On the Sunday that the baby goats are scheduled to arrive, I get to Borges Ranch about half an hour before everyone else. It’s an unseasonably warm February day—bright sunshine, birds rioting in the blue oaks, cows grazing on the hillside. A minivan finally pulls up, and all the members of the goat group—Allison, Sydney, and Erika, along with the younger girls, Alyssa and Kayla—tumble out of the car. Allison and Sydney are holding two toy-poodle-sized baby goats, both black with white faces. They’re ten weeks old, says Allison. Axel, the bigger of the two babies, belongs...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Big Business of 4-H
    (pp. 79-92)

    The Nasco clinic that I visited opened my eyes to the perspective of the companies that sell showing supplies: they have correctly surmised that 4-H’ers are a valuable market—as showers of animals now, and even more so as farmers in the future. That kind of thinking isn’t new. The connection between 4-H and the business world has deep roots.

    In part, 4-H is a federal government program, housed in the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Every year, NIFA earmarks funds—in 2012 it was about $ 341 million—for Extension activities, including many of the programs that...

  10. CHAPTER SIX “We Are Praying That DuPont Will Continue to Provide for Us”
    (pp. 93-106)

    Reader, I went to Ghana. Now, you may be thinking: what a strange place to look for authentic 4-H’ers. And it’s true—had I wanted to find more of them, I probably should have headed somewhere like Iowa or Nebraska, not Africa.

    But to tell you the truth, the more actual 4-H’ers I met, the harder it became to conjure that original wholesome youth of my mind’s eye. I wondered whether a 4-H’er in Ghana would have anything at all in common with Chloe, Serena, Allison, Anthony, Randy, or Kelly. I knew that the 4-H program in Ghana was very...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Winning Champions Love Root Beer
    (pp. 107-121)

    So what did 4-H’ers in Ghana and California have in common? On the surface, not much. After all, it would be hard to find two places more different than Francis Baah’s small village and the tree-lined streets and strip malls of the suburbs where many of my 4-H’ers lived. The stakes of 4-H in the two places were different, too. While my California crew merrily obsessed about trivial things like Rabbit Bowl and master showmanship and plaques that said “champion wether dam,” Francis Baah and his classmates were focused on expensive new seeds that could change the way their families...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Grow ’Em Big
    (pp. 122-135)

    Five days before the fair, it’s time for the kids in Anthony’s pig project group to weigh their pigs. They’re supposed to keep track of their animals’ weight throughout the project, but not all have regular access to a scale. Every few weeks, Sally (the pig group’s leader), her father, and another helper have put a livestock scale in a pickup truck and driven it around to each place where the members of the group keep their animals.

    Pigs of any size are allowed to compete at the fair, but in order to qualify for auction they must weigh between...

  13. CHAPTER NINE The Contra Costa County Fair
    (pp. 136-156)

    Fair season has finally arrived. June 1 is the opening day of the Contra Costa County Fair, where Allison will show her pygmy goats and Anthony will show his pigs. Three weeks later, Chloe, Serena, and Kelly will head to the Alameda County Fair.

    Because of different fairs and different species, none of my 4-H’ers will be competing against one another. But how will they—and the rest of their groups—fare against the other competitors? By this point, I know the crew well enough to make a few predictions. At the Contra Costa County Fair, I guess that Allison...

  14. CHAPTER TEN The Alameda County Fair
    (pp. 157-173)

    Two weeks after the Contra Costa County Fair ends and Allison and Anthony are done with their 4-H season, it’s time for the Alameda County Fair, where Chloe and Serena will show their goats and Kelly and her brother, Kyle, will show their lambs. The Alameda County Fair is especially exciting for me, since it was where I discovered 4-H last July. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the afternoon when I wandered transfixed through the Amador Livestock Pavilion. I imagine myself confidently striding through the rows of pens this year, speaking in 4-H jargon with...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN “It’s in My Blood”
    (pp. 174-185)

    A few weeks after the fair, I pay a visit to the Castello sisters, hoping to figure out how they became so good at showing. As I drive out to the family’s cattle ranch, I remind myself that these girls are just 4-H kids, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to meet celebrities—the rock stars of Alameda County Fair.

    The Castellos live in the unincorporated community of Mountain House, on the eastern edge of Alameda County. Farms dot the fl at landscape, and cows graze on either side of the country road that I turn onto...

  16. Conclusion: After the Fairs
    (pp. 186-192)

    One evening a few weeks after the Alameda County Fair, I drive up to the Hawkeys’ house in the Oakland hills. Chloe is leaving for college tomorrow, and her parents have invited their friends and her friends to gather on the deck for a party. When I arrive, a spread of tomatoes and ricotta, pasta, and homemade bread is arranged on a table. Teenagers and adults cluster around, and I recognize a few 4-H kids and parents among them.

    Andy gives me a big hug, offers me a glass of wine, and tells me that Chloe has been trying to...

  17. Afterword
    (pp. 193-194)

    When I try to imagine my original ideal 4-H’er now, I fi nd that I can’t do it. She has been replaced by all the actual 4-H’ers I know. Luckily for me, they’re much more interesting:

    As this book was going to press, Chloe Hawkey had transferred from Whitman College to Barnard College, where, as a sophomore, she was studying hard and exploring New York City. Serena Hawkey, a high school junior, was juggling AP classes and her many other activities—among which was her latest 4-H project of bringing goats to schools in some of Oakland’s urban neighborhoods. After...

    (pp. 195-196)
  19. NOTES
    (pp. 197-205)