4-H History

National 4-H History

In 1902, school teachers in Iowa and Ohio recognized that their students were open to learning about and understood the benefits that new technology could bring to agriculture. The teachers connected with their state agricultural colleges to start a program to teach farm children the basics of home and farm management. This program would eventually be called 4-H, and groups that in 1912 came to be called 4-H clubs began to form in several states.

As the number of young people involved in 4-H clubs grew, they were eventually linked to the National Cooperative Extension Service system. The system had been formed in 1914 under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). By 1936, there were 1 million 4-H youth members nationally.

Today, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States. The organization offers programs in a diverse range of topics and interest areas. 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

Michigan 4-H began in 1908 with the creation of corn growing associations in Muskegon and Mason counties that prepared members to compete in a series of corn growing contests in western Michigan. The contests were set up by Muskegon Congressman James C. McLaughlin. 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. When the Cooperative Extension Service was created by the Smith-Lever Act in 1914, Eduard C. Lindeman was appointed Michigan’s first state 4-H leader.

By 1918, about 50,000 Michigan young people were enrolled in 4-H. Projects ranged from clothing, gardening, and canning to handicraft and livestock projects. 4-H also had a hot lunch project in schools to provide children with a warm meal to supplement the food that students brought from home.

Today, more than 200,000 young people 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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