4-H, the iconic rural youth program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has enrolled more than 70 million Americans over the last century. As the first comprehensive history of the organization, The 4-H Harvest tracks 4-H from its origins in turn-of-the-century agricultural modernization efforts, through its role in the administration of federal programs during the New Deal and World War II, to its status as an instrument of international development in Cold War battlegrounds like Vietnam and Latin America.
Organizers believed the clubs would bypass backward patriarchs reluctant to embrace modern farming techniques. In their place, 4-H would cultivate efficient, capital-intensive farms and convince rural people to trust federal expertise.
Gabriel N. Rosenberg provocatively argues that public acceptance of the political economy of agribusiness hinged on federal efforts to establish a modern rural society through effective farming technology and techniques as well as through carefully managed gender roles, procreation, and sexuality. The 4-H Harvest shows how 4-H, like the countryside it often symbolizes, is the product of the modernist ambition to efficiently govern rural economies, landscapes, and populations.
The book is published by University of Pennsylvania Press.
"Original, surprising, deeply-sourced, convincing, and a delightful read." (James C. Scott, Yale University)
"This beautifully crafted study offers a braided history of the state, the body, and the countryside… The 4-H Harvest is an absorbing and utterly original read." (Margot Canaday, Princeton University)
"Gabriel N. Rosenberg's masterful history of 4-H is the first in-depth study of an institution that every historian of agriculture, not to mention every rural American, recognizes as an essential component of the modern rural landscape." (Shane Hamilton, University of Georgia)