4-H today is more than farms and food

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

SALISBURY — 4-H is the youth development program of Cooperative Extension that strives to help youth develop leadership, citizenship and life skills. Even though it has been around for more than 100 years, many people are new to 4-H and do not realize what it is, what it has to offer or how to become involved.
Below are a few frequently asked questions that we have received at the Cooperative Extension Office about 4-H. Over the next several weeks, there will be more in-depth articles outlining some of the programs that 4-H offers.
Q: What is 4-H?
A: 4-H is the youth development program of Cooperative Extension for youth ages 5 to 18 that helps youth develop leadership, citizenship and life skills. It aims to assist youth in becoming competent, contributing citizens.
Q: I don’t live on a farm, how can I join 4-H?
A: All 4-H programs are open to any youth, regardless of membership in the 4-H program. Joining 4-H is as simple as completing the 4-H enrollment and 4-H medical release forms. 4-H has deep roots in agriculture, as it began with corn and tomato clubs in the early 1900s. Today in North Carolina, only 8 percent of youth live on farms.
Q: Isn’t 4-H just about cows and cooking?
A: While 4-H addresses these programs, the entire program is more diverse. Nationally, 4-H has three mission mandates: citizenship (civic engagement, service, civic education and leadership), healthy living (nutrition, fitness and social-emotional health), and science (animal science and agriculture, consumer science, engineering, environmental science and natural resources, life science and technology).
Q: What is the cost to join 4-H?
A: There is no fee to join 4-H. Some workshops and activities will have fees associated with them to help cover the cost of materials.
Q: When does 4-H meet?
A: 4-H is active year round. Typically, 4-H clubs have monthly meetings. In addition, there are county, district and state level 4-H events, activities and competitions throughout the year.
Q: What is a 4-H club?
A: A 4-H club is an organized group of youth, supported by screened, adult volunteers. The club meeting consists of a business meeting which is led by the youth officers, program and social time.
Q: At what age can my child join 4-H?
A: Youth can join 4-H at age 5. A youth’s age for 4-H is determined by their age on Jan. 1 of the current year. You may continue to be a member of 4-H through age 18. Youth ages 5 to 8 years old are referred to as Cloverbuds. Cloverbuds are non-competitive, and receive participation ribbons in any activity they participate in.
Q: What does 4-H stand for?
A: The four H’s stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health. Originally, there were only three H’s — Head, Heart and Hands. A fourth H, Hustle, was added in 1908. Hustle was changed to Health in 1911.
Q: As an adult, how can I become involved with 4-H?
A: 4-H is always looking for adult volunteers. There are many opportunities, depending on the amount of time you would like to donate. You can volunteer at a single event, such as a judge for our presentation contest or teaching a workshop. If you want a deeper level of involvement, you can become a 4-H club leader, which is a one year, renewable commitment.
For more information concerning 4-H opportunities, please contact Sara Drake, 4-H Extension Agent, at 704-216-8970 or sara_drake@ncsu.edu. For more information about 4-H or NC Cooperative Extension, call the Rowan Extension Office at 704-216-8970 or visit http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu.