Surpassing All Expectations: What 4-H Means to Families in Wayne County Today
4-H today is bigger and broader than anyone could have expected from its start in Ohio in 1902. Wooster sees this better than anyone; there are over 1,500 kids involved in 4-H across Wayne County.1 The county does have one of the largest numbers of youth enrolled in 4-H in all of Ohio's counties. However, Wayne County 4-H proudly has the second highest number of adult 4-H volunteers in all Ohio counties.2 There are over 50 clubs active, and each club has a variety of themes and projects. For example, kids in Wayne County 4-H can work on projects about anything from raising turkey to building rockets with aerospace science.3 Including diversified projects in 4-H clubs is a continuing project in Wayne County and across 4-H clubs nationwide. The addition of projects outside the field of agriculture is supposed to help direct kids in the urbanized areas of towns like Wooster stay involved with 4-H and therefore their town and county.4
Although 4-H has diversified since its humble beginnings with Graham in Springfield, OH, it is still working toward its original goal of keeping youth involved in agriculture. Groups dedicated to the kinds of projects the first 4-Her’s work on, like experimenting with the best kinds of way to grow corn and how to raise cattle, remain strong and influential well. The longest-running projects kids take part in involve showing animals at the Wayne County Fair, which has always had a close relationship with 4-H in Wayne County and the surrounding area.5 4-H organizes its own Junior Fair Board that helps organize each fair, give input in judging different competitions, and clean up when fair days are finished. More than 100 4-H volunteers meet and help clean up the Wayne County Fair on its last days.6
Nowadays, 4-H clubs are going above and beyond anything A.B. Graham or the Ohio State University’s extension office could have imagined. It is a strong program nationwide, with nearly 6 million kids under the supervision of 100 different universities.7 Today’s 4-H teaches about the agricultural policy and advocacy, leadership skills, and most importantly about staying involved in communities. What started in Ohio as a group to keep children on farms has grown into an organization active across the nation with the aim to teach young people life-skills and prepare them for engagement with their communities.8
1 Tami Lange Mosser, “4-H Is Good and Growing in Wayne County,” accessed June 23, 2017, http://www.woosterweeklynews.com/article/20140317/FEATURES/703179989/-1/wwn
2 Tracy Nider, “4-H Youth Devleopment 2016 Statistical Report” (ohio4h.org: The Ohio State University: College of Food Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, 2016), https://osu.app.box.com/s/eoa08agj25dloadsqqia3jutxjbntowb, 16.
3 “4-H Project Information | OSU Extension | Wayne County,” accessed June 20, 2017, https://wayne.osu.edu/projectinfo.
4 Roxie Hammill, “4-H Appeals to Suburban Kids, Not Just Country Kids,” Kansascity, accessed June 22, 2017, http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article52133625.html.
5 Mosser, “4-H Is Good and Growing in Wayne County”.
7 “History of 4-H Youth Development Organization,” 4-H, accessed June 12, 2017, http://4-h.org/about/history/.
8 Edmond P. Bowers et al., eds., Promoting Positive Youth Development: Lessons from the 4-H Study, Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development (Cham: Springer, 2015); Franklin M. Reck, The 4-H Story; a History of 4-H Club Work (Chicago: National Committee on Boys and Girls Club Work, 1951).