January 16, 2009

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of 4-H's beginnings in Kentucky. To celebrate this milestone, past and present 4-H members are celebrating the youth organization's past, relishing in the present and setting goals for the future.

"In my judgment, 4-H was America's most successful leadership development program in the 20th century," said Scott Smith, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"Our future depends on continuing to grow the reach and impact of 4-H for the decades to come."

Kentucky 4-H began in 1909 with a corn club in Fayette County. In this club, a group of boys each grew one acre of corn with the goal of growing corn more efficiently. At the end of the season, they reported the yield and operation costs of the project. What began with this Fayette County group rapidly spread to include agricultural-related specialty clubs in other counties. By 1939, 4-H had clubs in all 120 counties and listed 42,180 young people as members.

While 4-H's beginnings are in agriculture, programs and projects for young people with no agricultural background were offered as early as the 1930s. Today, 4-H'ers can participate in clubs that explore everything from rocketry to communication skills. In 2008, 233,423 young Kentuckians participated in 129 different 4-H programs, projects and camps.

"There is a tremendous reservoir of goodwill toward 4-H across the state's 120 counties that is built on a solid foundation of hundreds and thousands of youth in each county who have benefitted from 4-H clubs, 4-H camp, fairs and trips to the state's two land-grant universities, and the many local programs that make up 4-H in each county," said Joe Kurth, assistant director of Kentucky 4H Youth Development.

Even though programs were added and changed over the years to meet the needs of Kentucky's youths, 4-H's mission of shaping young people to become future leaders and responsible, productive citizens has remained the same.

"Ultimately 4-H is a way to build a strong community by building our future resources, which are our young people," said Jimmy Henning, UK associate dean for extension and associate

director of the Cooperative Extension Service. "It's a way to influence the community and develop a generation of confident leaders that will provide the answers to future problems."

Kentucky 4-H has planned several events to honor this milestone and will kick off the celebrations with a birthday bash open to all past and present 4-H'ers and volunteers Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Lexington.

"While birthdays are a cause for celebration, a 100th birthday is an event that deserves a yearlong celebration, and that is exactly how 4-H plans on celebrating our centennial", said Stephanie Blevins, 4H Youth development specialist.

Other centennial events include tree plantings, honorary awards, commemorative quilts and a clover that will travel to every county in the state. Current 4-H'ers will be able to participate in several different centennial-related competitions and exhibits at Cloverville during the 2009 Kentucky State Fair. 4-H'ers and adult volunteers have been challenged to complete at least 100 hours of service in their communities during the year in honor of the centennial. Supporters of 4-H can join other 4-H members in showing their support for the organization by wearing green on the fourth day of every month during 2009.

Each county also will have special events and programs related to the centennial. For more information about local centennial events, contact the county 4H Youth development agent. To register for the kick off celebration or for more information on statewide centennial events, visit the Kentucky 4-H Centennial Web site at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agcollege/4h/centennial/ .