Some might think that 4-H is representative only of the Ag community. It may have started out that way. A gentleman named B. Graham is said to have started the program in Clark County, Ohio in 1902. The first club traces back to two names The Tomato Club or the Corn Growing Club.
According to history, “when Congress created the Cooperative Extension Service in the USDA in 1914, it included boys’ and girls’ club work.” These soon became known as 4–H clubs; the four H’s standing for head, heart, hands, and health. A 4-H club is a comprised of five or more youngsters, guided by one or more adult volunteer leaders.
Now, 4-H is much more than just Ag-related projects, although there continues to be an agricultural theme, especially in the Central Valley. However, club members may have no interest in agriculture and still become active.
For example – a lesser known area is Civic Engagement which includes projects of citizenship, domestic exchanges, economics & marketing, International exchanges, service learning and community pride & community service.
In leadership, members learn about leadership for an individual, group and organization. They build their own leadership skills through public speaking, project management, communication, organization, and negotiation.
More common projects lie in the area of Communications & Expressive Arts which includes Beginning 4-H, Primary Members, arts, crafts & hobbies, communications, cultural arts, graphic arts, leathercraft, photography, scrapbooking, sign language and record keeping. Beginning 4-H is for first-year members in the 4th – 6th grades. Primary Members is for children from age 5 to those in Beginning 4-H.
Health is also popular especially in the areas of food preservation and cake decorating. Likewise Consumer & Family Sciences including clothing & textiles and fashion revue are in demand.
Technology & Engineering has some of the most popular projects including a variety of shooting sports, computers & internet, aerospace & rocketry, and automotive.
Members can learn the care and maintenance of ATV’s and dirt bikes, as well as safety practices in another project. This may include the planning and implementation of an excursion. Information on California ATV age and safety laws may be found at http://groups.ucanr.org/ehs/files/34244.pdf. The National 4-H ATV Safety Curriculum is available at http://www.atv-youth.org/
In Electricity & Electronics members can learn the fundamental of electricity and its application as a source of energy and power. They may also learn to build and maintain electronics of varying complexity.
Plant Science projects offered include vegetable gardens & crops, indoor & mini gardens, and sugarbeets.
Environmental Ed and Earth Sciences offers outdoor adventure, camping, and wildlife.
And, then there are the animal projects – these include pets and small animals, dogs, cats and exotic birds. Also available are therapeutic animals, guide dogs & service animals, and veterinary science. But, do not forget the farm animals, which there is a project for most, if not all, and even bees.
All of these projects and more are offered in Tulare and Kings Counties. Many are offered by individual clubs; others may be countywide projects such as dogs, and horse & ponies in each county. A countywide llama project has begun in Tulare County, and Pygmy Goats is a countywide project in Kings.
In some instances, 4-H members can cross county or even state lines for a project. According to 4-H rules:
4-H members may participate in projects offered by a neighboring club, county or state if the primary club does not offer the 4-H project a member is interested in. The community 4-H club and project adult volunteers in both clubs and 4-H Youth Development Program (YDP) staff in all counties and states involved must approve the participation.
It is the responsibility of the 4-H member and their parent/guardian to acquire the signatures of the home and host community 4-H club and project adult volunteers. The completed request/agreement form must be returned to the home county 4-H office for verification and approval. The county 4-H YDP will contact the host county 4-H staff for approval.