HEAD, HEART, HANDS, HEALTH...What does that mean to you? 4-H has existed in Pennsylvania for 100 years. But are you into it? Are you really into it?
For some, 4-H is associated with agriculture, and that is where it started. According to "4-H in Pennsylvania," a booklet by Jerry H. Reyburn, 4-H clubs got their start in Iowa in 1903, when O. H. Benson gave seed corn and flower seeds to school pupils. Following instruction, the students planted the seeds and tended their gardens. In the fall, they held rural day programs, exhibiting their crops and receiving prizes for their efforts. In 1912, Charles McBride, Extension Agent, held meetings to prepare for the first youth corn-growing contest in 1913. That is believed to be the first 4-H group in Pennsylvania.
This year, in time for the McKean County Fair, I compiled 100 pages of stories, photos, and articles from the Extension Archives to celebrate 100 years of PA 4-H. Our first Extension Agent came on board in 1916, but I haven't found (yet) when the first 4-H club was started in McKean County. This book is available for purchase from the McKean County Extension office, with the proceeds going toward the 4-H endowment. While the document is in print, with 50 copies for the first run, as new stories are sent to the office, the document will change and grow--just like 4-H!
Very early in their history, 4-H clubs expanded to include home economics--cooking, sewing, and child care. In McKean County, we also had capon (chicken), potato, and electric clubs. There were dozens of project areas from the beginning--and now there are hundreds. The purpose for all of these projects is not just content knowledge, however. Our goal is youth development. Through the planting of seeds, the care of swine, learning to ride horses, sewing a dress, or building a robot, 4-H members learn valuable life skills of goal-setting, decision-making, communication, problem solving, and more. Are you into it?