4-H More Than You Ever Imagined!!
Imagine a youth organization that spans all interests, all races and backgrounds, costs nothing to join and is great fun. That’s 4-H – more than you ever imagined.
FOUR-H isn’t just for kids who live on the farm. There are hundreds of clubs in urban areas that take part in activities ranging from recycling projects to public speaking, but if you’re interested in the farm, 4-H has lots of agricultural projects, too.
Volunteering is also an important part of 4-H. All across the nation, 4-H’ers are cleaning up trash in their communities, helping in literacy projects, and delivering food to hospice patients.
The 4-H program was founded sometime between 1900 and 1910 to provide local educational clubs for rural youth ages 9-19. It was designed to teach better home economics and agricultural techniques and to foster character development and good citizenship. The program, administered by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state land-grant universities and county governments, emphasizes projects that improve the four H’s – head, heart, hands and health.
The roots of 4-H began at the turn of the century when progressive educators started to emphasize the needs of young people and to introduce nature study as a basis for a better agricultural education. Boys and girls clubs and leagues were established in schools and churches to meet these needs. To spark the interest of young people, Farmers Institutes cooperated with school superintendents by promoting production contests, soil tests and plant identification.
By March 1904 several boys and girls clubs had already exhibited projects. Most states organized clubs outside the schools with rural parents acting as volunteer leaders and County Extension agents providing materials. Farmers saw the practical benefits, and public support and enthusiasm for 4-H grew throughout the nation.
The Morrill Act of 1862 provided federal lands to establish land-grant colleges and universities. In 1890, colleges and universities for black citizens established in the southern region to insure that all people were served. The state land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension Service of the USDA maintained close contact with the development of 4-H. Land-grant institutions recommended organizing a distinct administrative division in each land-grant institution to direct the many Cooperative Extension activities that were developing. By 1912, virtually all of the land-grant institutions in the southern states had signed cooperative agreements with the USDA and had organized Extension departments.
Congressional appropriations to the state land-grant institutions began in 1912 for development of early Extension work within the states. In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act established the Cooperative Extension System within the USDA, the state land-grant universities and the counties. Since early legislation, Congress has continued to support 4-H.
The first use of the term "4-H Club" in a federal document appeared in 1918 in a bulletin written by Gertrude L. Warren. By 1924, wider usage of the name 4-H was adopted. It has been used throughout the world ever since.
Through the years, the overall objective of 4-H has remained the same: the development of youth as individuals and as responsible and productive citizens. FOUR-H serves youth through a variety of methods: organized clubs, 4-H special interest or short-term groups, 4-H school enrichment programs, 4-H instructional TV, 4-H camping, 4-H activities, 4-H centers or as individual members.
The first emblem design was a three-leaf clover, introduced by O.H. Benson between 1907-08. From the beginning, the three H’s signified head, heart and hands. A four-leaf clover design with H’s appeared around 1908. Benson referred to the need for four H’s – suggesting that they stand for head, heart, hands and hustle. Head trained to think, plan and reason; heart trained to be true, kind and sympathetic; hands trained to be useful and skillful; and the hustle to render ready service, to develop health and vitality.
In 1911, 4-H club leaders approved the present 4-H design. O.B. Martin is credited with suggesting that the H’s signify head, heart, hands and health. The 4-H emblem was patented in 1924 and Congress passed a law protecting the use of the 4-H name and emblem in 1939. It was slightly revised in 1948.
The 4-H pledge reads: "I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." Otis Hall, state leader of Kansas, was responsible for the original wording of the 4-H pledge. State 4-H leaders officially adopted it in 1927. The pledge remained unchanged until 1973, when it was revised to include "and my world."