4-H history spans over a century; it is the largest youth development and youth mentoring organization in the United States, with over six million young people as members.
From projects in science and engineering to rearing farm animals, the mentoring and education group 4-H teaches professional and developmental skills to children and young adults, building a foundation for their careers later in life.
4-H History: How It All Started
Founded in 1902, the organization began as a program to provide hands-on learning opportunities, connecting city children with knowledge about rural life. It later expanded beyond traditional farm work to include a wide range of professional interests.
A.B. Graham was the founder of one of the first clubs, known as the "Tomato Club." In 1910, the clover logo was introduced with an "H" on each leaf, standing for "head, heart, hands, and health;" the group became known as the 4-H Club.
It was notable for the time because it was one of the few clubs at the turn of the century that included both girls and boys in its activities. Over time, the 4-H Club grew to become nationally recognized.
4-H was most popular in the 1970s with its nutrition based television programs. The program then began to switch its primary focus on farming to include personal development and fulfillment.
While children still participate in the club with animal and crop-focused programs, the organization has many other programs too, including science and engineering clubs.
4-H is known for its large animal competitions, from horses to goats. One of the biggest categories is the sheep division. Kids don't have to have any prior experience in raising or caring for lambs; they just need to be interested in them. Participants raise the lamb, caring for it, feeding it, and grooming it. When the lamb ready, the child will show it at regional and state competitions.
While 4-H has changed a lot from its original roots, it still provides children with learning opportunities and a connection to animals.
From raising sheep to competing in barrel racing, the organization gives kids the chance to bond with their pets.