4-H History

National 4-H History

In 1902, Iowa and Ohio school educators recognized their student’s receptiveness to new technology and understood the benefits it could have for building the future of agriculture. Educators connected with their respective agricultural colleges to start a program to teach young farm children the basics of home and farm management. This program would eventually be called 4-H; groups began to form and organize in various states and would become coined as clubs in 1912.

As the number of youth involved in clubs grew nationwide, they were eventually linked to the National Cooperative Extension Service system, which was formed in 1914 under the leadership of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). By 1936, there were one million 4-H youth members nationally.

Today, 4-H is the largest youth development organization that offers a diverse range of topics and interest areas. From program areas ranging from science and technology to clothing and textiles, and so much more, 4-H provides fun, educational opportunities that empower young people with skills to address the leading challenges of the 21st century.

Michigan 4-H History

Although 4-H on the national scale can trace its beginnings back to 1902, 4-H in Michigan began in Muskegon and Mason counties in 1908. These early roots began as corn-growing associations that were formed when Muskegon Congressman James C. McLaughlin founded corn-growing contests in western Michigan. These associations soon evolved into Michigan’s first 4-H clubs.

In 1913, Eben Mumford, state Extension leader for Michigan Agricultural College and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, held the first statewide corn-growing contest. With passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, Eduard C. Lindeman was appointed Michigan’s first state 4-H leader, and the Cooperative Extension Service was formed.

By 1918, 50,000 Michigan youth were enrolled in 4-H. Projects ranged from clothing, gardening and canning to handicraft and livestock projects, as well as a hot lunch project in schools to provide children with a warm meal to supplement what was brought from home.

Today, more than 200,000 youth are involved in 4-H programs statewide, with projects ranging from communication, health and citizenship, to the environment, science, engineering and technology.

4-H Clover History

The first clover was introduced by O.H. Benson in 1908. Originally a three-leaf emblem, the H’s stood for head, heart and hands. By 1911, a fourth H, originally hustle, had been added and the emblem changed to a four-leaf clover. O.B. Martin later suggested changing hustle to health, and in 1937, the 4-H clover was protected by congressional action as the national symbol for 4-H. Today, the 4-H clover emblem still stands for head, heart, hands and health, as evidenced by the 4-H pledge, adopted in 1927 and still recited regularly by 4-H club members.


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