4-H and the Great Depression of the 1930s


Wisconsin State 4-H Band and Chorus in 1939.

Learn more about 4-H programs developed to cope with the Great Depression in this new segment. One of the major objectives during the Depression years for the 4-H Extension office of USDA and the National Committee on Boys’ and Girls’ Club Work, in Chicago, was “to try to make life a little richer, a little more fun, for rural America.” With the dust bowl and lower prices for their commodities, life was tough for farming families.

The National Committee published a National 4-H Songbook in 1929 which was widely used throughout the decade of the 1930s. They published a series of 4-H skits and plays, particularly adaptable to 4-H club meetings or community events. Radio programs and music appreciation were being carried through network 4-H to thousands of 4-H families and clubs.

Not only was 4-H fortunate to be able to retain almost all of their national awards program donors during these Depression years, but even more were added, particularly in areas relating to the needs of the farm family. The 4-H Farm Accounting program and the 4-H Rural Electrification program were two main ones.

The Farm Accounting program, sponsored by International Harvester, encouraged youth of the “dust bowl era” to work with their parents in a more business-like approach to farming. It promoted sons and fathers, working together, to set goals, keep track of expenses and profits and to maintain accurate farm accounting record books. To put it bluntly, it often meant “save the farm.”

In 4-H Rural Electrification was supported by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. The program enabled young and old to intelligently participate in the era of rural electrification expansion. Through the program Westinghouse pioneered the concept of encouraging local power suppliers and Westinghouse employees to serve as resource people in the local communities training volunteer leaders.

While these were major thrusts at the national level during the 1930s, other areas of 4-H strength at the state and local levels included an increase in 4-H camps for summer activities and organized sports teams and competitions at the club level, particularly in baseball and basketball.

Whereas the decade may have been a challenge, there were many positives with new opportunities arriving throughout these years. To read the entire segment on 4-H and the Great Depression of the 1930s go to: