Editor's note: This is the second in a six-part series about the 4-H program in Wayne County.
— It began more than 100 years ago.
And has it changed.
"Even in the last two years, so much has changed," said Jessica Scull, cooperative extension agency in Wayne County.
For many people, 4-H means livestock and the county fair.
Though the county fair is certainly a central part of the 4-H program, the things which have changed are major and the program appeals to youth of all ages.
During the late 1800s, researchers at public universities saw that adults in the farming community did not readily accept the new agricultural discoveries being developed on university campuses.
However, they found that young people were open to new thinking and would "experiment" with new ideas and share their experiences and successes with adults. In this way, rural youth programs became an innovative way to introduce new agriculture technology to their communities.
The seed of the 4-H idea of practical and "hands-on" learning came from the desire to make public school education more connected to country life. Early programs tied both public and private resources together for the purpose of helping rural youth. Building community clubs to help solve these agricultural challenges was a first step toward youth learning more about the industries in their community.
A. B. Graham started one such youth program in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, which is considered the birth of the 4-H program in the United States. The first club was called "The Tomato Club" or the "Corn Growing Club."
T.A. "Dad" Erickson of Douglas County, Minnesota, started local agricultural after-school clubs and fairs also in 1902. Jessie Field Shambaugh developed the clover pin with an H on each leaf in 1910, and by 1912 they were called 4-H clubs.
When Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 and created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA, it included work of various boys' and girls' clubs involved with agriculture, home economics and related subjects, which effectively nationalized the 4-H organization. By 1924, these clubs became organized as 4-H clubs, and the clover emblem was adopted.
Today, the offerings in 4-H are almost mind boggling.
Here are just a few examples of some of the project areas which can be taken by youth:
• Competitive trail riding
• Backyard poultry care
• Entomology (Creepy Crawlies)
• Water conservation
• Fire safety
• Babysitting beginnings
• Maple Syrup
• Microwave Magic
And that is just a very short list of the possibilities.
Scull said the majority of the program are developed through Penn State Extension, the program which operates 4-H on the county level.
But she also said there are "a handful of county projects" which are specifically tailored to certain areas.
On Feb. 23, there will be an open house for Wayne County 4-H. She said now is the beginning of the "season" for enrollment and they hope to get as many people interested in the program as possible.
"We want to bring them here and make them aware of 4-H," said Scull.
The event will be in the old cafeteria at 4-H headquarters on Park Street in Honesdale. It will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and everyone is invited to attend.
Scull firmly believes that once students enroll and get involved in 4-H, there is a major interest.
"The kids keep coming back every year," she said. "Once they realize what it is, they keep going with it."
Scull emphasized that unlike many years ago, 4-H has evolved into a program for youth from all walks of live — and geographical locations.
She said many of the youth are from the towns in the county, including Honesdale, Hawley, Lake Ariel, Newfoundland, Beach Lake, Waymart and more.
There are projects geared for those youth, she said, including some in the animal sciences where they can do backyard projects like raising a rabbit.
Members can also utilize technology by doing research and even keeping connected with their freinds and fellow club members.
The local program has a Facebook page and Scull said it is utilized greatly for communication.
In fact, between Facebook and email, Scull said paperwork is slowly being eliminated, at least when it comes to contacting members and leaders.
Scull said over the past five to 10 years, attendance in 4-H has fallen off slightly.
That's why she is organizing the signup event.
"I think the interest is there," said Scull.
If you are interested in 4-H and would like more information, you can contact Scull at 253-5970 or send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit wayne.extension.psu.edu.