Before I started working at UF/IFAS, I didn’t realize the role Florida 4-H has in the land-grant university. I knew that 4-H existed, but never quite understood why it was affiliated with UF. There are lots of wonderful youth development programs out there–including Girl Scouts (I was a Junior/Cadette/Senior AND Campus Girl Scout!), Boy Scouts, FFA, and many more–but 4-H is different due to its history. 4‑H began more than 100 years ago, and its goal is to “help young people and their families gain the skills needed to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy.” 4-H is for kids 5-18 years old.
The 4-H National Headquarters is located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 4-H is a national program but it is delegated through federal law to each state’s land-grant university to its Cooperative Extension Service. In 1914, The Smith-Lever Act created the Cooperative Extension Service as a partnership between USDA, the land-grant university (LGU) system, and local governments. Read more here about how 4-H is implemented nationally–it involves all levels of government, including federal, state, and local county governments.
Accordingly, Florida 4-H is run by UF/IFAS Extension for the whole state of Florida. There is a huge range of programs and events, including Florida 4-H Legislature, Florida 4-H University, and many more. I can’t even begin to do the programming justice with a listing of activities, but you know them from livestock judging, county fairs, the state fair, civics activities and so on.
In addition to the tons of 4-H clubs all across the state (we have about 200,000 Florida youth in a 4-H) we also manage three 4-H camps. This is where I intersect with Florida 4-H. We have three camps: Cherry Lake, Timpoochee, and Cloverleaf. The camps are part of UF’s educational facilities just like other classrooms, research labs, and greenhouses. Camp Cherry Lake (1946) in Madison has 30 buildings; Camp Timpoochee (1926) in Niceville has 25 buildings; and Camp Cloverleaf (1948) has 32 buildings. Just like our other UF/IFAS facilities, each of these have aging buildings which are impacted by hurricanes, deferred maintenance issues, and regular needs. Our limited facility dollars include supporting 4-H camps.
So when we start talking about 4-H, don’t think we’ve strayed from our mission of educating UF students; supporting Florida youth through 4-H is part of our mission too as a land-grant university.
I should add that I am a HUGE fan of Jennifer Nettles–she was named a national 4-H spokesperson in 2016. Next time you see me, ask me about the dozens of times I traveled around the southeast to see her rock and roll band play in small clubs back in the day.