For over 100 years 4-H has been growing children. 4-H started out as Corn Clubs for boys that taught them ways to get more corn yield from an acre of land. The girls wanted to get involved too, so Canning Clubs were formed. The girls were taught the best and safest techniques for canning tomatoes.

The goal for Cooperative Extension, the umbrella organization for 4-H, was to get the most up-to-date information from N.C. State University to the people in the counties and working with the children proved to be a beneficial way to do this.

The 4-H logo, a four-leaf clover, appeared about 1908. In 1911 it was determined that the four H’s would stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Hustle. Eventually the meaning of the fourth H was changed from Hustle to Health. These remain the guiding principles of 4-H today.

The 4-H program still includes agriculture and home skills but has expanded to leadership, citizenship, science activities, healthy living skills and so much more. Last year 1,448 Jackson County youth participated in some kind of 4-H activity. There are short-term programs about nature, cooking, science or leadership.

We currently have six active 4-H clubs; Cloverbuds (ages 5-8), Explorers (ages 9-13), Youth Leadership Council (ages 14-18), Horse Bowl (all ages), Livestock (all ages) and STEM Club (ages (5-10). We provide learning experiences at some of the county schools, at the Rec Center and there are also opportunities to learn oral presentation skills, to participate in district activities, to attend 4-H summer camp and to submit entries in local fairs.

Thousands of youth are enrolled in 4-H in North Carolina and thousands of volunteers help run the educational programs for these youth. Volunteers are the backbone of the 4-H organization and teach sewing skills, how to raise livestock and ride horses, how to live a healthy life and how to be good citizens. These leaders take kids skiing, to summer camp, on outdoor experiences, and help build the leaders of tomorrow.

I know that we have many 4-H alumni and former leaders in Jackson County. We appreciate your involvement in the past and encourage you to reconnect with us again. Of course we also always welcome new 4-H members and volunteers and I’d be happy to discuss the current 4-H opportunities with anyone interested. You can contact me at the Cooperative Extension Office at 586-4009 or heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.

The roots of 4-H run deep in Jackson County and we will continue teaching skills to the youth of today in order to help create the leaders of tomorrow. As the 4-H motto states ... we’re working to “make the best better.”

Heather Gordon is Jackson County extension agent, 4-H Youth Development.