Cooperative Extension Resources

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Last summer, my oldest daughter took a beginning sewing class through the local Cooperative Extension office. For only $10, she received sixteen hours of instruction over four days. The classes were taught by Master Clothiers, and the teacher/student ratio was excellent -- only three students per teacher. If you live in the United States, try calling your local County Extension office and asking about their various programs for the public (they're affiliated with one of your local state universities and the US Department of Agriculture).

I'm always impressed with the excellent (and highly affordable!) resources available through their offices. They often have articles, pamphlets, classes and other resources for minimal cost.

Many of the Cooperative Extension publications are also available online. I've been especially pleased with the wide range of articles provided on the North Dakota Cooperative Extension web-site. If you'd like to browse some of these free resources, go to:

Foods, Nutrition and Health Publications
Family Resource Management Publications

Family 4-H Clubs

Speaking of Cooperative Extension, materials for 4-H projects are also available through Cooperative Extension offices.

What do you think of when you hear, "4-H"? County fairs? Goats? Cats? Poultry? Gardening? I find that most people associate 4-H with livestock, but the 4-H programs offer a wide range of educational and fun projects for all ages and interests. Several years ago, we had a small neighborhood 4-H Club which originally started with two other families (nine children total). When the other families moved, we began doing Family 4-H with just our immediate family.

During the course of our 4-H Club, we worked on several projects (none of our projects were related to livestock or gardening). One project was, "Foods of the Pacific Northwest" -- the children learned about the history of local foods, where and how they're grown, nutritional information, and at each meeting we prepared food items using local products (beans, apples, beef, wheat, etc.). Another project our family completed was, "Adventures in Family Living." The children learned basic craft techniques, the making of simple room furnishings (a bulletin board and waste basket), and basic sewing skills (hand and machine). Throughout our time with 4-H, the kids also learned to run simple business meetings and explored the basics of Parliamentary Procedure.

In Family 4-H, we used actual 4-H materials and were registered as an official 4-H Club. Our local 4-H organization (King County, Washington) allowed for Family 4-H Clubs to participate in the County Fair, etc., just like any other 4-H members. We used the booklets and other materials published by the state 4-H department from Washington State University.

Although 4-H has project materials for Primaries (K - 2nd Grade), the younger kids in our club weren't able to participate in any official contests or enter anything in the County or State Fair (although our local County Fair decided to let the younger kids enter one thing in several categories just for the joy of participating. The younger kids were given participation ribbons, but no competitive- type awards.)

If you're interested in a Family 4-H Club (or finding an already established regular club to join), call your local County Cooperative Extension Office. Or for more information:

Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of the bestselling Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity. She also edits the Simple Times email newsletter. To subscribe, visit Debi online at:

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