handbook logo

Organizational Overview

Organization of Extension

There is an Extension office in almost every county in the United States. The Extension system is the outreach link between local communities, the educational base of the land-grant universities, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). In 1914, this educational system was developed to assist in the well-being and productivity of people throughout the United States. This link was designed to transmit information from the university to the people where they live, work, and play.

To effectively meet the immediate needs o f citizens, Extension staff work with community advisory groups. These groups help establish local operating procedures which are in line with state and federal guidelines. This process assures that the mission of Extension is effectively achieved. The County Extension Program Organization and Plan Chart  shows the organizational arrangement of various groups that function in Indiana counties. All Indiana counties are not organized exactly the same, but the chart shows a typical arrangement. It is through this arrangement that local residents communicate needs, create a working relationship with Extension staff, and help establish a list of local priorities.

Extension Organization and Environment

Purdue Extension Mission

We deliver practical, research-based information that transforms lives and livelihoods.

Purdue Extension Vision

We will be a leader in providing relevant, high-impact educational programs that transform the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities in Indiana and the world.

County Extension Board

Policy established by the director of Purdue Extension, based on the Clore Act of 1911, gives local Extension boards the responsibility to guide the local Extension program.

An Extension board's primary function is to assure that the mission of Extension is met in the local community. Hence, Extension boards review local needs, evaluate program achievements, participate in the employment process of salaried staff, and seek necessary funds from county councils.

Because taxpayer appropriations and private contributions support Purdue Extension, local people have the right to participate in and benefit from the Extension Service. County Extension boards and their related advisory groups help assure the usefulness of their county's Extension program and that there is local input and local access to it.

Organization of Indiana 4-H Youth Development

The 4-H Youth Development Program in each state is organized and administered by the land-grant university. In Indiana, Purdue University, through Purdue Extension, has that responsibility.

Indiana 4-H Mission

The Indiana 4-H Youth Development mission is to provide real-life educational opportunities that develop young people who will have a positive impact in their communities and the world.

Indiana 4-H Vision

Indiana 4-H Youth Development strives to be the premier, community-based program empowering young people to reach their full potential.

The Character and Design of 4-H

  • Positive youth development education is the central focus of 4-H.

  • Subject matter from the land-grant university system is used to enhance 4-H Youth Development.

  • 4-H is a nonformal education program emphasizing experiential learning, providing youth with hands-on learning experiences and application to real-world situations.

  • Youth, parents, and families work cooperatively to encourage learning in 4-H.

  • 4-H utilizes a variety of delivery methods, including community clubs, project clubs, after school programming, school enrichment, and camps.

  • 4-H Youth Development Programs are designed to meet significant community needs through input from the local citizens involved.

  • Approved adult volunteers work with staff to extend the program to youth throughout the state.

  • Direct interaction of youth and adults provide positive role models.

  • Rewarding educational growth opportunities are provided on an ongoing basis.

4-h youth development handbook elm model

Essential Elements of 4-H Youth Development

The elements included in the table below are ones that research has shown contribute to the positive development of youth. We strive to include each of these elements in some way in each 4-H opportunity provided to our youth.


  • Positive Relationship with a caring adult

  • An inclusive environment

  • A safe environment


  • Engagement in Learning

  • Opportunity for Mastery


  • Opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future

  • Opportunity for self-determination


  • Opportunity to value and practice service for others

4-H Youth Development Councils

The 4-H Youth Development Program is designed to assist in carrying out the mission of the Extension Service. In carrying out that mission, the program vision is always evolving, and that vision must be shared at the local, state, and national levels. The Indiana 4-H Youth Development Program established the following goals that will guide and create the reality of that vision.

Goals of Indiana 4-H

  • To use the subject matter of Purdue University and the land-grant system to teach young people the life skills that are necessary to function effectively in the rapidly changing world.
  • To disseminate the knowledge and expertise of the land-grant university to willing adults who function as teachers, leaders, and role models for young people in communities across Indiana.
  • To educate 4-H adult and youth participants through practical, hands-on methods (experiential education).
  • To be recognized as the state's highest quality community-based, nonformal educational program for youth.
  • To foster maximum youth participation in planning, conducting, and evaluating 4-H educational programs.
  • To identify priority youth development issues within the context of Purdue Extension's efforts and to develop educational programs consistent with the 4-H mission and goals to address these issues.
  • To significantly increase private support to 4-H at all levels of the program.

Source: A Vision for 4-H: Purpose, Mission, and Goals, 1989

Through 4-H Programs, Youth...

  • Set and achieve goals
  • Develop life skills such as, leadership, responsibility & community service, public speaking, and many others
  • Gain experiences in the National 4-H Mission Areas of Science, Healthy Living, and Citizenship
  • Are involved in the planning process
  • Serve as officers and committee members
  • Receive recognition for efforts & accomplishments

It is by working together that 4-H Youth Development Councils, salaried county Extension professionals, volunteers, state Extension specialists, national program leaders, and 4-H Foundations will create and accomplish a healthy, viable, relevant, and meaningful 4-H Youth Development Program. It is important that each of these groups accurately and carefully assess the needs of people at the local level, use the resources and information available from the land-grant system, and systematically design local programs directly related to issues. The vision, consistent with the mission, will lead to making individuals, families, and communities better places to live and work.

Each Indiana county will have an established, functioning group such as the 4-H Youth Development Council to advise and support the overall 4-H Youth Development Program. The Council will ensure that the 4-H Youth Development Program continues to evolve in ways that meet the current needs of the people in communities throughout Indiana.

4-H Youth Development Councils may be incorporated with the Indiana Secretary of State. 4-H Youth Development Councils may receive both public and private money to support the operating expenses of the 4-H Youth Development Program. The 4-H Youth Development Council members have the responsibiltiy of advising, planning, and implementing an educational program in their community. They have been empowered and positioned to help carry out a public trust. A recommended role description for a 4-H Youth Development Council member can be found here.