July 24, 2002 | By: Aimee D. Heald

In 1952, cartoonist Jim Davis’ father started a 4-H club.  Now in 2002, the Garfield creator is helping Kentucky and National-4-H celebrate a centennial birthday.         

Davis is best known for his Garfield comic strip that began syndication in 1978 to a mere 41 newspapers. Today that number is closer to 2,600 worldwide.  Davis is also a 4-H supporter and has often woven agricultural and rural themes into the comics, taking readers to the farm and beyond with Garfield.

“I can’t speak for the first 50 years of 4-H, but I certainly remember the last 50,” Davis said.  “I grew up on an Angus farm and first showed an Angus heifer in 1955 and won the grand champion that year.”

Davis said that he got more out of 4-H than just winning a championship.  He said he learned to establish a good work ethic and how to keep good records.  He even got involved in forage programs and other activities outside of livestock showing.

“Those are the kinds of experiences that stick with me today,” Davis said.  “I enjoy going back to the farm to this day and (going) with Garfield and having a good time with it.”

To celebrate the 4-H Centennial birthday, Davis created a special cartoon.  From the original acrylic painting, 54 high-quality prints will be auctioned to the public on eBay each week until November.

“Each week a print is auctioned, one state is designated to receive half of the proceeds,” said Martha Welch, Extension associate for 4-H-youth development at the University of Kentucky.  “Kentucky’s week is August 18 to the 24, so we’d like for people to bid on our week so we will get a good profit.  The other half will go to the National 4-H Council.”

Welch said the prints have been going for an average of more than $800, with $250 being the minimum bid. She said anyone over 18-years-old is allowed to bid. 

The print depicts Garfield in four different frames reciting the 4-H pledge: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living.”

“Jim Davis is a very high profile individual,” Welch added.  “Maybe by him being so vocal about his support of 4-H, more youth and adults will want to be a part of the programs in the future.”

Welch said that because of the partnership between 4-H and Jim Davis, there are many Garfield items available in the 4-H catalog including stuffed toys, mugs, sticker sets, bookmarks, t-shirts, key chains, pens and others.

Welch said Garfield also will be visible in Clovervillle at the Kentucky State Fair August.  Officials at Cloverville will hold a daily drawing for a stuffed Garfield toy.

To bid on the Jim Davis Garfield print, go to http://www.4-hmall.org/garfieldprint.htm.   Remember that bidding during the week of August 18 to 24 ensures that proceeds will benefit Kentucky 4-H.


Martha Welch  859-257-5961