According to the Florida 4-H website, the roots of 4-H go back to the early 1900s, “when progressive educators started to emphasize the needs of young people and to introduce nature study as a basis for a better agricultural education” (at http://florida4h.org).
“Four-H began as a simultaneous response to needs throughout the country, rather than as the idea of one individual,” it states.
Educational activities were provided in cooperation with the state’s land-grant institutions as early as 1909, the website states. Initially, separate programs were conducted for boys and girls, as well as black and white youth, which was typical in the southern U.S. of that time.
“The boys participated in corn clubs and the girls were active in tomato clubs,” reads the website. Most clubs met in schools in which agricultural agents taught agricultural projects to boys, while girls met with home economics agents and focused on projects pertaining to the home and family.
More than a century later, 4-H falls under the umbrella of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension and is no longer segregated.
“Four-H has something for you whether you are a parent looking to (send) your child to camp, a teacher looking for sound educational research-based curricula or a youth worker who wants to partner with 4-H to reach more youth,” the website states.
The 4-H logo is a green four-leaf clover, with each leaf bearing an H representing the organization’s focus on four areas of personal development: head, heart, hands and health. The goal is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills in America’s youth through experiential learning programs and a positive youth development approach, the website states.
When farmers saw the practical benefits of 4-H, public support and enthusiasm for its programs grew throughout the nation into what it is today.