4-H is an organization for any youth ages 8-18. Currently, there are 264,169 Illinois youth in the 4-H program. This organization was started over 90 years ago and has grown into the world's largest youth program. It is still really unclear who can be claimed as the founding father of the 4-H program. Several states claim different founding fathers. The 4 H's stand for head, heart, hands, and health. These are the things needed in a true 4-H'er.
4-H is not just for farm kids, though many of the projects are ag/farm related such as beef, sheep, swine, dairy, goats, rabbits, poultry, crops, plant and soil science, and chick embryology to name a few. 4-H is also available in the heart of Chicago and many other large and small cities and towns, as well as all 50 states. Johnna Jennings, the Extension Unit Educator of 4-H and Youth Development in DeKalb County told us that other parts of the world also have similar youth organizations. In Japan, it is called LABO.
4-H is known for offering hands-on opportunities for youth to participate in. In Illinois there are over 170 different projects for youth to choose from. These projects all offer opportunities for youth to explore areas of interest and to actually learn new things by putting their hands to work.
4-H does not only assist the agricultural community, but all communities as a whole. With 4-H clubs in area communities, they are all hopefully participating in community service projects, which benefits the community as a whole. The other thing and the most important is we are developing our future leaders. The 4-H program has a strong history of developing outstanding community leaders.
Here is a typical meeting of a 4-H group in Kendall County located in Northern Illinois. Groups can set how often they meet and on what days. My group meets once a month.
To begin, the president, along with the adult group leader, calls the meeting to order. Then the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge are recited. After that they would talk about the last meeting's minutes or a record of the last meeting. Then the president would ask for any new business. It is then discussed. If there is no new business, the dues (optional) are collected. Then they go to have refreshments and the meeting is over.
Sometimes a club member brings in a project and discusses what they have done so far. Each member of the 4-H club chooses a project or projects to study and work on during the meeting year. 4-H'ers show their projects at a county 4-H fair in August at the county fairgrounds. The project can be anything from growing vegetables or baking food to working with electricity, rocketry, and woodworking to showing livestock like sheep and lambs, beef and dairy, and hogs.
The easiest way to become a member is to call or visit your local county Extension office.