The history of 4-H

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2002

No one individual is credited with founding the nationwide 4-H program. From the mid 1890’s to the early 1900’s several individuals responded to the call for better agricultural education for young people. Boys and girls clubs were established with the goal of &uot;learning by doing.&uot;

O. H. Benson designed the first national emblem in 1907. The three-leaf clover decorated with white H emblems stood for head, heart and hands. Later a fourth H was added standing for hustle. O. B. Martin modified the slogan, replacing hustle with health. By 1912 almost 100,000 children were enrolled in club work, that same year uniform reporting forms to show what each member was learning and doing were adopted.

In Freeborn County, a group of leading farmers and representatives from 11 organizations formed the first Farm Bureau in December of 1917. J. Franklin Hedgecock was hired as the first county agent. Early efforts included encouraging farmers to produce more food for the war, importing cattle to improve herds, and educating women in canning, packing and baking. Early children’s groups were organized around activities rather than the area where they lived.

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The term &uot;4-H Club&uot; was coined nationwide in 1918, the national pledge and motto were adopted at the first 4-H camp in 1927.

In 1932 club work in Freeborn county involved 775 children. 21 clubs held monthly meetings with specialists from the University of Minnesota in topics like swine sanitation, pork production, agricultural outlook, weed control, soils and fertilizer.

4-H expanded to over the years from traditional livestock and canning projects to a wide variety of projects including anything from clothing to wildlife.

4-H contributed to the war effort, not only producing food and materials, but helping young people define their citizenship responsibilities. Most of the programs we recognize in 4-H today were developed from 1943-1952. Contests and award programs were developed and age categories were specified.