At the turn of the 20th century, like many other industries of the day, scientific changes in agricultural practices were coming fast and furious. However, these changes were simply theoretical and found mainly within academia.
It was noted, at the time, that the youth were willing to embrace the idea of new farming techniques. To precipitate the movement into the world of farming, groups began to arise around the country to teach this new “science” of agriculture to these eager young people.
Another aspect of this movement focused on developing leadership skills to positively impact the communities in which the young people lived. These groups began to unite and by the early 1900s, the 4-H Club was established.
4-H has continued under the umbrella of the university system. Emphasis has shifted somewhat from traditional agricultural science to Earth and Life Sciences; although, with the rise in Urban Agriculture, it may be beneficial for 4-H to reconnect with its roots once again.
In addition to teaching science and leadership skills, community service involvement is also stressed.
“The goal of 4-H is to help young people develop into productive members of society,” said Kimberly Taylor, 4-H County Extension Agent in Cobb. “4-H offers kids opportunities to develop life skills in leadership, decision making, and citizenship through situations that have real life value.”
Local and state public speaking competitions give these kids a head start on communication skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. For the competition, each kid chooses a topic of interest, gathers facts then, makes a 3-5 minute presentation (both verbal and visual), which is then judged on content, presentation, and educational value. The ratings and constructive criticism they receive helps them improve future presentations.
Other events designed to encourage and develop these kids into upstanding citizens can be found in programs like the Teen Leadership training (held once a year); Leadership Day at the State Capital - introduces the kids to their state representatives and the political process (all 4-H’ers are recognized on the floor of the Capital); and, the always fun and ambitious summer camp at Rock Eagle.
Fifth graders at Belmont Hills Elementary and King Springs Elementary in Smyrna attend 4-H meetings in school. Educators from the 4-H program at the Cobb County Extension Service come to the school and teach hands-on science curriculum.
If 4-H is not in your child’s school and they are interested in joining 4-H, there is a monthly meeting at the Cobb County Extension Service office and all kids in 5th grade or older are welcome to join.
So what does this have to do with fruit, other than metaphorically? Well, now is the time of year for the 4-H plant sale. This fundraiser is their largest of the year with all monies raised going back into the organization to fund the programs and activities – including scholarships.
Up for sale this year are four varieties of blackberries, blueberries (10) and raspberries (1); ground covers – Hellebores (3) and Heuchera (1); shrubs – native azalea (1), Camellia (1), Chrysantha - Edgeworthia (1) and viburnum (1); and crape myrtle trees (5).
Plants are ordered through the Cobb County Extension Service from now until March 4. An order form is available online to print and mail in with your payment (checks made payable to 4-H).
You can’t beat the prices and the plant quality is first rate. Pick-up for ordered plants is scheduled for Sat., March 19, at Jim Miller Park in Marietta.