4-H: Past, Present and Future

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

JACKSON — The 4-H Club Centennial Celebration continues to roll on.

On Saturday, it was Northampton County 4-H Club’s turn to host a celebration in honor of the organization’s 100th year.

In 1909, the Corn Club was created in Ahoskie, a town in neighboring Hertford County. The formation of that group eventually led to the development of the 4-H Club in North Carolina.

The 4-H Club is boasted as the largest youth organization in the world. In Northampton County, approximately 200 young people are involved with 4-H.

Northampton County and Cooperative Extension officials joined current 4-H’ers and their families at the Cultural and Wellness Center to mark the milestone. The night was filled with speeches, food and entertainment provided by 4-H Club members Ashley and Jasmine Harris, Sarah Taylor Best and TLC 4-H Club.

Interim Cooperative Extension Director Craig Ellison welcomed the crowd. Former Cooperative Extension Director Rose Massey retired September 30.

Coletta Edwards, District Career Manager and Instructor at Northampton County High School-East and also a former Northampton County 4-H’er, emceed the program.

“4-H is 100 years old. That’s something many of us could never, ever fathom,” she said to the audience. “Can you imagine 100 years old? Think about how 4-H has evolved and changed over the past 100 years.”

Lifelong 4-H’er Marshall Grant of Gaston reflected on his own memories of the organization as well as the club’s roots that were planted in the area one century ago.

The 85-year-old said he has a great opportunity to look back at the impact of 4-H through the years.

“I grew up being involved with 4-H, I went to 4-H Camp, I went to 4-H Short Course in Raleigh and I was involved with a lot of things” he said. “I met a lot of young people from Short Course and Camp. …That’s where I fell in love for the first time was at 4-H Camp, Camp Millstone.”

Grant, who owns and operates a family farm, spoke about how the beginnings of the 4-H Club had its roots in the education of farmers. He said as far back as the mid-1800s agriculture made up 90 percent of the economy in the nation.

“Unfortunately, most of the people involved in agriculture were uneducated, they grew up on the farm, knew nothing but farming,” he said. “And unfortunately, thought they knew everything there was about farming.”

Grant continued by saying as the government began to realize the farming industry was not progressing, Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Act in the 1860s, which established money for agricultural colleges, hence, the creation of Agricultural and Mechanic (A&M) Arts College, what is now known as North Carolina State University.

“That was the beginning of trying to educate farmers to make them better farmers and to try to make progress,” he said.

With the passage of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 so began federal funding of Cooperative Extension Offices.

“Those agents that were sent out to work with farmers learned real quick they had more success with young people than they did with the parents,” he said.

Dr. I.O. Schaub, an Extension Agent based in Hertford County, began a Corn Club for boys, what is now recognized as the beginning of 4-H. One year later, a Tomato Club for girls was organized as well.

Grant shared that the ensignia for the 4-H Club was a three lead clover standing for the three “Hs”: hands, heart and head.

A fourth “H,” health, was added in when the national 4-H organization was formed in 1914.

Another former 4-H’er, Tim Gubitz who grew up in Conway, shared his thoughts and experiences in Northampton County 4-H Club while serving as the guest speaker.

“It rings true with the holistic approach that they (4-H) take; the head, the heart, the hands and health,” he said.

The senior at North Carolina State University noted one of the first things 4-H teaches through the 4-H Pledge is using your head to think clearly.

Though he grew up in Conway, Gubitz did not grow up on a farm. He said the organization challenged him in many ways, with his first test coming at 4-H Skill-a-thon at the North Carolina State Fair.

“I was challenged to compete against these other young adults that had been on farms their entire lives,” he said. “With the program I was doing, the Livestock Club, I was very prepared for that.”

He continued by saying that the experience challenged him to think clearly, use his intelligence and to judge the quality of meat.

“I don’t raise cattle, but it taught me how to a pick steak and now I know how to pick a good one,” Gubitz joked.

He credited the organization for preparing him for the little things in life including knowing what to pack when to leave home. Gubitz said “thinking clearly” also helped him in his college career.

Next, he said, 4-H teaches youth to pledge their heart to greater loyalty.

“My personal belief is that it’s our hearts that must be changed for us to be able to live out a life that is actually worth something,” he said. “And 4-H goes right at that.”

Gubitz said the organization encourages its members to work with people and serve their communities. He added many of the activities 4-H have young people take the time to help their communities and have compassion for others who are less fortunate.

Gubitz said when people read the next part of the pledge, “my hands to larger service,” they often think of community service.

“As Mr. Grant told us earlier, 4-H first started out as young adults bringing new technology to rural communities,” he said.

Gubitz said the organization gave him a great opportunity through the Electric Program, and he attended Electric Congress many times. He is majoring in electric engineering and once he graduates will be employed by one of the sponsors of the 4-H Electric Congress.

The last pledge, Gubitz said, is health.

“It’s kind of funny this was added last because we can’t do much without our health,” he said. “4-H has affected my health, it has encouraged me to live a better life.”