More than a year ago western Kansas businessman Steve Irsik set about trying to figure out why so few of the children of Hispanic workers the dairy he owns, Royal Farms Dairy, were members of 4-H.
Irsik thought the commitment to education and family of the Hispanic culture was an ideal fit for 4-H.
In addition, he said, he wanted to see the Hispanic young people embrace a wider world of opportunity that they were being exposed to.
"I want these children to understand that they are part of the community as a whole," he said. "I want them to see themselves as community leaders and volunteers and elected officials in the next generation."
He said he has seen the children of immigrant workers go to college and come back to Garden City and Liberal and Dodge City to take jobs in those communities because they want to be close their family.
"They are committed to seeing children grow up with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins," he said. "That makes it really important to see that they get the experience and the exposure that will lead them to make the most of their talents and ensure that our communities get the benefit of that.
When he visited with the Kansas State University southwest area extension and research office in Garden City, he learned at Family and Consumer Sciences specialist, Debra Bolton and nutrition agent, Bertha Mendoza were already on the same wavelength.
The set up a pilot project to start a new bilingual, bicultural club that would help Hispanic families be part of 4-H. They soon discovered tremendous interest – so much at their goal of one club with 30 families turned into three clubs with 90 families and a big backlog of demand for more.
This summer the project is expanding to add clubs in Edwards, Barton and Stafford counties. You can find more on this story in the June Kansas Farmer magazine. At the end of the pilot last year, K-State made a video with some of the families who participated.