FRESNO — The 4-H clubs in the nation's richest farming county remain virtual enclaves of white, middle-class children, Latino speakers told a University of California task force Wednesday.
Much more needs to be done to encourage Latino, black and other minority youth to join the agricultural-oriented youth organization first formed in 1914, said Ventura Huerta, a 4-H volunteer in Clovis, Calif.
"I am appalled by the absence of minorities in 4-H programs," said Huerta, adding that he believes 4-H programs could serve a valuable social function in inner-city areas.
Huerta also complained that 4-H literature and films are frequently outdated and rarely show role models for minority youths.
The 15-member task force, chaired by UC assistant vice president Eugene Cota-Robles, was formed to review affirmative-action policies and programs in the university's Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources. The division includes the UC county cooperative extension programs, which administer local 4-H programs.
Of the more than 1,000 youngsters in 34 Fresno County 4-H clubs, more than 84% are white, Latinos are at 9.3% and Asians are at 4.1%. Blacks make up less than 2%, American Indians less than 1%.
Minority representation in 4-H clubs in other San Joaquin Valley farming counties is even smaller, UC officials said.
The UC Task Force plans to hold further hearings in Pomona on May 10, in El Centro on May 20 and in West Sacramento on June 10.