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4-H: It isn't just for kids

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By Misty Wilmoth

There may be some confusion related to the history of 4-H as we celebrate the 100 years since the establishment of the Cooperative Extension Service. 4-H in Kentucky celebrated 100 years back in 2009. 

4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service, however 4-H in Kentucky began in 1909 with the organization of the Fayette County Corn Club. In just eight years, the organization spread to 42 counties and included 3,887 young people. 

Since its inception in 1909, the 4-H program in Kentucky has helped shape the state’s youth into productive, contributing members of society. Over the years, the organization has transformed to meet the needs of generations of young people. National 4-H was formed to fill the needs of practical education and advancing agricultural technology in rural areas. The participation in 4-H has steadily increased over the years. Last year, 238,538 Kentucky youth were involved with 4-H. This is about one in every four of the state’s young people.

4-H prides itself on being a very inclusive organization. While 4-H’s beginnings are in agriculture, as early as the 1930s the organization offered programs to young people who had no agricultural background or experience. Today, many of 4-H’s programs have strong ties to the organization’s agricultural beginnings, but there are just as many programs that do not. 4-H offers youth opportunities in communications, leadership, career development, livestock, home improvement, and computer technology.

Despite which programs 4-H’ers are involved with, the purpose of 4-H is to help its members with personal growth. Life skills are built into most 4-H projects, activities and events. These skills help participants become contributing, productive, self-directed members of a forward-moving society.

In addition to the traditional 4-H community club model, youth may participate through urban groups, community resource development, special interest groups, EFNEP nutrition programs, school enrichment, camping and interagency learning experiences.

Many people do not realize the diversity of programs that 4-H has to offer, and also that it isn’t just youth oriented. There are plenty of mentoring opportunities for adults.

For more information about opportunities through 4-H, contact the LaRue County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-358-3401.