Have you ever met someone who was “stuck in their ways”? This was the case with adults in agriculture back in the 1800s. Universities found young people to be more open and accepting of new research and agricultural developments. The thought to bring life in the country and education together
was a brilliant idea by A. B. Graham. He originally created a program for youth using this idea in 1902. In 1910, a clover pin with an H on each leaf was designed by Jesse Field Shambaugh. By 1912 the youth program was officially known as 4-H. Then, 1914 came around and the Cooperative Extension Program was created by the Smith-Lever Act. (That is a whole other blog post for another day though.)
Fast forward to 2022. While the times have changed and we have a greater wealth of research, knowledge, and information, the basics are still the same. We, as adults and leaders, have valuable knowledge to pass on to future generations, and we are passionate about the youth of tomorrow.
Today when you walk into any 4-H club meeting, this is the pledge you will hear recited. “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living. For my club, my community, my country, and my world.” These words help our young people, ages 5-18, remember what their purpose is and why they are in this program. In 4-H, youth are able to explore a vast variety of subjects. For example, when you go to https://shop4-h.org/, you can find numerous curriculums and project books for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, Animal and Agricultural Sciences, Business and Citizenship, Creative Arts, Diversity and Inclusion, Environment and Outdoor Sciences, Healthy Living and Foods, Practical Skills, and Professional Development.
Therefore, if you want to know about cooking, we’ve got you! Maybe you want to know how milk is turned into other products, we’ve got you! Perhaps you want to learn robotics or how to fly a drone, we’ve still got you! It could be that you want to know the basics about farm animals. Maybe you want to know everything about farm animals. We have got you covered in 4-H! Some kids choose to focus on one specific project book with their club each year. However, there is no limit to what else they can learn in other projects if they choose to do more. 4-H helps today’s youth learn life sustaining skills. It even helps them tap into unknown talents and passions. Kids discover things they may have never encountered outside of 4-H.
As valuable volunteers lead 4-H clubs across the world, they help children find their “spark”. Their spark may be agriculture, leadership, public speaking, robotics, child development, flying a million dollar drone, or anything else your mind can imagine. These sparks lead kids into an area they are passionate about. Then, one day it turns into a career for them. What seems like a simple spark, can help our youth to become productive, responsible citizens.
So when you ask a 4-H member what their spark is or what they are passionate about, and they begin to overload you with information, you know 4-H has done its job. These 4-H youth are well on their way to earning a paycheck without feeling like they’ve worked a day in their life. They’ll be doing what they love all because they have found their “spark”.
If you have read this and find that 4-H has sparked your interest, reach out to the UF/IFAS Putnam County Extension office at (386)329-0318. We can help you find a nearby 4-H club where kids can ignite a spark and turn it into a brightly burning fire for a lifetime.
The author is employed by UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agriculture – An Equal Opportunity Institution.