COUNTY—March 17-23 was Pennsylvania 4-H Week this year, a time to reflect on and celebrate the ag-minded community youth program and all it's accomplished in its time as an organization.
This year is particularly fortuitous in that 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the 4-H program in Wayne County.
“4-H started as what they would call a corn and tomato growing club,” explained Jessica Scull, Wayne County 4-H Extension Educator. “It has evolved greatly since then.”
Originating as a club organization at the turn of the century to educate rural youth on the agriculture in their areas through hands-on experiences, 4-H today has blossomed into a program that focuses on both education and community service to help the next generation develop pertinent skills in a variety of fields.
Scull noted, “It's meant to be an educational program to teach kids the basics of what they would need throughout their life, whether it be responsibility, raising projects...down to the home economics with cooking and sewing.”
She later added, “It instills a lot of family values and really, it teaches them a lot of life skills. It's not just about raising an animal and selling that at the 4-H livestock auction. It's about learning those responsibility skills and time-management skills, finance management, commitment, those types of things.”
Educational programs held throughout the year include 4-H youth day camps, livestock workshops, a special project members present each year, and all the work that goes into the annual Wayne County Fair.
Members must also complete a project each year, furthering their knowledge of a topic of interest, keeping a record book along the way.
Projects are presented each year at the Wayne County Fair.
“We really pride our 4-H program on responsibility,” said Scull.
With the onset of technological advancement and modernization, much of the education materials learned in the club have taken on STEM components, most notably seen in the Science of Agriculture Challenge program started two years ago.
In the spirit of spreading education to others, 4-Hers spent this week reading to elementary students for Ag Literacy Week.
Partnering with Honesdale FFA and the Wayne/Pike Farm Bureau, 4-Hers are reading to students in Grades K-2 in 74 classrooms across Wayne County, Scull explained.
Titled “Right this Very Minute,” this year's book is “...about this little girl learning farm-to-table food and farming,” said Scull. “Where does their food come from, how it's grown, all the different people that are involved with growing the food and how it makes its final destination on the table.”
In honor of Wayne County 4-H's centennial, clubs will choose a benefit organization of their choice and collecting 100 items to donate to that organization.
“We are looking for possible suggestions on local organizations in need of such donations and even better exactly what they need,” said Scull in an email. “There are no guarantees of these organizations to receive these donations but it will give us a better idea of what is needed in the community. This will help our clubs spread their centennial community service across the county and give what is needed.”
Scull noted the organization is also looking to collect photos from 4-H history to display later this year.
Pictures can be emailed to Scull at email@example.com or brought into the Extension Office in the Park Street Complex (648 Park Street, Honesdale).
“We are partnering with the Wayne County Historical Society,” said Scull, “They have chosen us for their ornament of the year...We are in the developmental stages of the design...at the moment.”
Ornaments will be available for purchase later this year.
Scull noted other centennial celebrations are still in the works for later this year, encouraging hopeful celebrants to keep watch for more information as it becomes available.
Wayne County 4-H at a glance
Wayne County currently has around 300 4-H members in 15 clubs across the county.
These include the Achievers, Bethany, Calkins, Cherry Ridge, Creamton Area Ag, Explorers, Horse Lovers, Laurella, Painted Ponies, Pleasant Mount Go-Getters, Saddle & Skedaddle, Tri-Gal, Up North Crew, Waymart Horizons and Wayne County Highsteppers 4-H Clubs.
In addition to their individual clubs, 4-Hers also have the opportunity to join county-wide specialty clubs including the Dairy Judging Team, the Horse Judging/Hippology Team, Livestock Judging Team, Science of Agriculture Challenge Team and the Wayne County 4-H Teen Council.
Kids can join the program as early as five years old, as “Clover buds,” and stay in the program until they turn 18.
“I started 4-H when I was 8,” Scull explained. “My family, my sisters and I, have always participated in it. My dad's very involved with the program now on the livestock side of things.”
Scull noted she and her sisters began working with rabbits in the program, gradually moving on to larger and more care-intensive animals.
She explained her time in 4-H, “really inspired me as to what I wanted to do,” informing her choice to study animal science in college.
Looking back now as a 4-H Extension Educator, Scull noted it's both “pretty cool” to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the program, as well as rewarding to work with 4-Hers going through the program.
“Working with the youth...that's the fun part of this job is getting to do hands-on things with the youth and it really makes your day.”
In addition to furthering their education and skills, 4-Hers also provide an external county-wide impact.
In 2018, members performed a total of 6,500 community service hours and held 200 community service events.
Some of this includes holiday food collections, roadside cleanups, visiting nursing homes, making and donating blankets to Project Linus, donating money to local organizations and animal shelters, planting flowers and trees across the county, collecting and donating non-perishable food items, collecting and donating gifts at Christmas, collecting soda tabs for dialysis and used stamps for glasses, and others.
Scull noted in an email, the estimated cost savings to the community is $15,000-$20,000, and club members reached over 15,000 individuals doing so.
Wayne County 4-H is in open enrollment until April 1.
Those interested in joining can contact Jessica Scull at the Penn State Extension Office 570-253-5970 ext. 4110 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.