“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.”
A simple saying with a powerful message the message of youth and 4-H.
This upcoming week of Oct. 7-13 is National 4-H Week, a celebration of a great organization that traces its roots to “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Growing Club” in Clark County, Ohio in 1902. These organizations for youth are
The predecessors of today’s 4-H Clubs. The familiar four-leaf Green Clover emblem was created in 1910 by Jessie Field Stambaugh in a country school house near Clarion, Iowa, and by 1912, the 4-H Club was growing across the nation, fostered by the desire to connect public school education to the rural lifestyle.
Early supporters of the effort were the nation’s public universities, who understood that farmers would not readily accept the new agricultural discoveries coming from the universities. To bridge that gap, the support of public universities, such as the land grant universities like Iowa State University, embraced 4-H. The creation of the Cooperative Extension System of the US Department of Agriculture meshed perfectly with what 4-H clubs were teaching youth agriculture and home economics – on a national level.
In Iowa, 4-H has been a steady part of life for countless rural youth over the years, but the focus has gradually changed to meet changes in society and demographics as well. While still association with Iowa State University Extension, 4-H in Iowa is not just for farm kids anymore. 4-H has grown to reach out to youth in rural, urban and suburban locations.
4-H isn’t all about cows and cookies anymore. Today, 4-H teaches youth about topics that affect us all global food security, sustainable energy, climate change, food safety and even childhood obesity. There are opportunities for agriculture, animal sciences, home economics, environmental protection, child care and technology, such as rocketry and computer sciences, just to name a few.
Remember that last part of the 4-H pledge about “My World?” 4-H in the United States has gone global through the International Farm Youth Exchange, where 4-H members from the United States have traveled abroad to visit and interact with their peers in over 80 countries around the globe, and inversely, brought many foreign youth to our land to see American agriculture and life.
In a rural area such as Palo Alto County, the term 4-H is still equated with livestock and home economics, but there are so many other offerings, such as a rocketry club, the LEGO club, Shooting Sports and the traditional Dog club, to name a few. And, Palo Alto County has become very active in the “CloverKids” program, designed to bring a taste of 4-H activities to children who are not old enough for actual 4-H membership. With CloverKid groups in nearly every community in the county, younger children are able to experience some of the aspects of 4-H; with many following older brothers and sisters into 4-H when old enough to do so.
The mission of 4-H has never really changed since those humble beginnings back in 1902 in Ohio. The simple goal of 4-H has been to help young people and their families gain the skills they need to be proactive forces in their communities, as well as to develop ideas for a more innovate economy. By learning leadership skills and exploring ways to give back of themselves to their communities, 4-H youth have proven the value of the organization time and time again through their hands-on learning experiences outside any classroom.
4-H has changed and adapted over 110 years and will continue to do so into the future if you don’t believe that, just remember the words of the 4-H pledge: “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.”