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After a report on the contributions of the local 4-H, and an outpouring of support from the community, Lancaster County Council decided to fund the county’s 4-H agent position on Monday night, April 23.
The unanimous vote to approve funding the position, which provides a 4-H agent through the Clemson University Extension Service, came three weeks after council members discussed whether to renew a $35,000 contract for the agent.
As part of the agreement, which was set to end June 30, the county's sole 4-H agent is responsible for planning, conducting and marketing a 4-H youth development program. The agent also recruits volunteers, promotes service learning projects and obtains grant funding.
Before voting, council heard a presentation about 4-H contributions to the county from Brian Beer, Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service agent for Lancaster County, and Steve Hucks, the county’s 4-H volunteer coordinator.
Hucks told council he’s participated in several local 4-H activities since he was hired last fall, including chicken, goat and swine projects, as well a horse club, gardening contest and a teen council. One of the most notable projects, he said, is a pullet club where several youth raised chicks from one-day-old all the way to egg-laying time. Through the club, 458 chickens were raised and about 119,080 eggs were produced in the county.
As an extension of the club, Hucks also mentioned the “Flock Project,” which teaches children to market and sell the eggs produced, and to track costs and manage bird health.
Hucks was also proud of an embryology program he brings into local classrooms, which has reached 987 students over the last few months. He said every public elementary school in the county, except for one, has signed up for the program, as well as Carolina Christian Academy.
He wanted council members to know the good the 4-H does for local youth as council made its decision whether to fund the position.
“It’s not about the position. It’s not about me. It’s about the kids,” Hucks said.
Hucks also referenced a comment made by Councilman Larry McCullough during the April 2 meeting, who had asked for “some success stories” from the program before making a decision on funding.
“These are all success stories,” Hucks said. “You want to hear the real success story? It’s not always the kid who is on top in class. It’s the kid where it’s always been tough for him and he gets involved in 4-H and he comes out of his shell.”
McCullough said he asked that question because he felt it was important to know both the rewards and problems associated with the program.
“We as council have limited funds and almost unlimited opportunities to spend the funds,” McCullough said. “I was not aware of what you have here. This was an excellent document to showcase all you’ve done.”
Hucks encouraged council to fund the position and continue 4-H activities in the county.
“The 4-H program is so important and I ask that we continue our relationship with each other,” Hucks said.
At council’s previous meeting, council chairwoman Kathy Sistare and councilwoman Charlene McGriff asked Beer for more information about the 4-H position’s salary, as well as total funding provided to the Clemson service.
The requested funding for the position includes $27,135 for salary and benefits, $5,765 for materials and supplies and $2,100 for travel costs, for a total of $35,000.
The county regularly provides an additional $10,400 to Clemson for additional services in the county, including soil testing. The county also provides office space, with utilities, in the county's extension office on S. French Street.
Beer was asked to prepare an overview of the service, including where the county's dollars are allocated, and present it at Monday’s meeting prior to the vote.
McGriff said Monday she wanted a full account of what the position does for the county.
“It was never a question to fund you guys, just what you guys did,” McGriff said. “We wanted to see more of what you guys do and you sure presented what you did.”
Councilman Rudy Carter reiterated the importance of the position, recalling a conversation he overheard several years ago where a child was asked where milk and eggs come from, and the child replied “Walmart.”
“I grew up in 4-H. It was just a part of life,” Carter said. “I learned how to do these things. It was simple and now it’s going away.”
Hucks agreed and said it’s crucial children learn about agriculture and the environment.
“The kids have lost their connection to the land,” Hucks said.
Council later approved funding the annual agreement.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416