Seeking 4-H inclusion

Fred Groverman, with 30 years of dedication to program, works for more Latino membership

By ROBERT DIGITALE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Thirty years ago veterinarian Fred Groverman helped found the Sonoma County 4-H Foundation as a means of expanding opportunities for youth dressed in uniforms of white shirts and green cloth hats.

Fred Groverman

Today, as the foundation president, the 78-year-old Groverman has taken on a new effort: to encourage more Latino youth to join 4-H.

“I’m giving back because it worked very good for my children,” Groverman said.

The efforts to increase 4-H’s diversity are fledgling. But Groverman, a Petaluma resident, is credited with pushing to give more young people the opportunity to learn about leadership and agriculture.

“Fred’s just been an incredible individual,” said county Supervisor Efren Carrillo. “What’s he’s done is he’s really reached out to various leaders in the Latino community.”

Groverman, 78, recently suffered the loss of his wife of 54 years. Patricia Groverman died March 5 at the age of 74.

The couple have been described as the epitome of volunteer leadership in the farm community. In 2006 the county Farm Bureau inducted the Grovermans into its Agriculture Hall of Fame.

A Petaluma native, Petaluma High grad and graduate of the UC Davis veterinary school, Fred Groverman’s involvement in the community has gone far beyond his veterinary practice.

His past titles include Petaluma Hospital District president, Waugh school board member and county fair board member. He continues to raise Shropshire sheep, which have been on his family’s ranch since 1934, as well as to judge the breed in shows.

But the Grovermans’ legacy will certainly include 4-H.

They volunteered when their four children went through the program. Patricia Groverman served a quarter century as coordinator for the Sonoma-Marin Replacement Heifer Project, which gave 4-H youth the chance to raise and show dairy cows.

And Fred Groverman has been on the 4-H Foundation board for all its 30 years. The group helps raise funds and provides grants to the local clubs. And with the help of developer Hugh Codding, the foundation in 1994 built a facility in Rohnert Park for 4-H meetings and other gatherings.

“Fred is tireless,” said Stephanie Larson, county director of the UC Cooperative Extension. “He has dedicated a good portion of his life to educating youth.”

Susan Hansen, the foundation’s executive director, said “You can’t think of 4-H in Sonoma County without Dr. Fred Groverman. When there’s a need or an important event, he’s always been there for the program and the kids.”

While 4-H is often associated with showing lambs, hogs and other animals at the county fair, individual clubs can take on a variety of projects, from gardening to web design. It’s boosters said the organization is really about developing young people.

“We can teach these kids to be leaders in their community, no matter what project they’re in,” said Larson.

Groverman said he hopes 4-H in the years ahead will reflect the great diversity of the county’s youth.

“It gives them a direction to go to be successful,” he said. “It seems to me we don’t have enough organizations like that.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.