4-H – More than Just Cows and Corn in Palm Beach County
When the name 4-H comes up in conversation or someone see its trademark clover, most people immediately think of kids raising cows or growing corn. Another misconception is that 4-H is only prevalent and relevant in rural communities. While 4-H is rooted in agriculture and farming, the truth is, 4-H offers kids ages 5-18 so much more and there is a lot more to the 4-H story than most people know.
Photo courtesy of https://4-h.org
So where did 4-H begin?
4-H originated more than 100 years ago as the land grant universities tried to share their evidence-based knowledge and scientific advances with farming communities. Many of these farms were run by the same families for generations and were hesitant to implement new techniques. It became evident that youth were the forces of change in their homes and communities and more willing to consider and try new methods. In 1902, In Clark County, Ohio, A.B. Graham started a youth club which is considered by many to be the very first 4-H Club in the United States. The idea spread into other communities and schools and more clubs developed. In 1910, Jessie Field Shambaugh developed the well-known 4-H clover image with the H on each leaf and by 1912, these youth clubs were calling themselves 4-H clubs. Photo courtesy of http://4-hhistorypreservation.com/History/Hist_Nat/
So what does 4-H do now?
The core of 4-H today is still our belief in the power of young people. We see that every child has valuable strengths and real influence to improve the world. Today, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the nation and has clubs across the United States and throughout the world, in countries like Canada, Sweden, Kenya, Japan, and Jamaica. 4-H enables youth to learn by doing. Youth participate and complete hands-on learning projects in many areas including citizenship, agriculture, STEM, workforce development, and healthy living. What makes 4-H different from other youth programs and so successful is its focus on creating safe and inclusive places where youth can learn and grow while being mentored and guided by positive and constructive adults.
So what does 4-H do in Palm Beach County?
While many locals do not know about 4-H in Palm Beach County, it is an extremely active program reaching over 16,000 youth per year. Palm Beach County 4-H reaches youth through community clubs, afterschool clubs, in-school enrichment programs, camps, and events. Community clubs are run by screened and trained volunteers and cover a wide variety of topic areas for kids of many ages and interests. Palm Beach County currently has horse clubs, STEM and robotics clubs, citizenship and leadership clubs, photography clubs, gardening, and archery clubs to name a few. Palm Beach County 4-H also reaches youth in schools directly and hosts camps, events, and other activities during the year that helps youth learn and refine critical life skills, such as teamwork, effective communication, and leadership, that will help them become successful adults and members of the workforce.
4-H is also extremely active in both the rural and urban communities in Palm Beach County. Many youth still participate in traditional programs such as animal science as well as new subject areas like STEM. In the rural areas, youth will raise steer and hogs and participate in the South Florida Fair and many urban youth are joining animal science clubs and raising backyard chickens, goats and rabbits. Many 4-H members in both rural and urban areas are involved in STEM projects. STEM applications teach youth many practical workforce development skills in farming communities (i.e. soil science and drone crop monitoring) as well as urban employment skill development in the areas of engineering and computer and software coding.
So how do I get involved in 4-H?
There are many ways for youth and adults to participate in 4-H clubs. We are always in need of positive adults to lead clubs in the county. While leading a club may sound time consuming and intimidating, the 4-H staff is a constant source of support and guidance to help your club be successful and enjoyable for youth and leaders alike. Palm Beach County 4-H also needs judges for 4-H events, chaperones for 4-H trips and out-of-county events, and general office assistance.
Youth can get involved starting at the age of 5 (as of September 1) up to 18. Youth can join local clubs as space is available or complete 4-H curriculum as an independent member. Independent 4-H members are still able to participate in all county activities. So Get Involved! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
For more information about getting involved, please contact the Palm Beach County 4-H office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-233-1731.