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Arkansas 4-H History

Black and white photo of youth working on a tractor talking with an older man
Throughout the years, Arkansas youth have been involved with the community in many ways, including agriculture and farming.

4-H youth development in Arkansas is more than a 100-year old tradition. In October 1908, a group of about 65 boys formed the White County Corn and Cotton Club as a way to learn the latest in agricultural technology and enjoy being with friends during the rare times they weren't required to tend the chores at home.

The seed planted by that first club provided the roots for a program that today touches more than 133,000 youth ages 5-19 across Arkansas including rural, suburban, urban, and military-connected youth. The activities that our 4-H'ers enjoy may have changed in the last 100+ years, but our mission to help our youth learn to be productive citizens has not changed. 4-H is the only informal education program with a direct connection to the University of Arkansas. The 4-H program is science based and designed to shape future leaders and innovators.

4-H is based on experiential learning – learning by doing. Administered by the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H is offered in all of the state's 75 counties. In addition to the traditional clubs and camps, 4-H is also offered in-school, on military installations, and through after-school programs.

  • 1908-1938 -- Arkansas joins a movement to teach rural youth the skills they need to manage a farm and home. Corn and canning clubs sprang up in Arkansas counties.

  • 1939-1958 -- During World War II and the time that followed, 4-H continued to grow and prosper. Winners of state level contests were rewarded with regional and national trips. Due to the large numbers of youth joining 4-H, the three tiered age system--5-8 years old are Cloverbuds, 9-13 are Juniors, and 14-19 are Seniors--that is still applied today was installed.

  • 1959-1978 -- America entered decades marked by protests over civil rights and war. 4-H continued to offer stability and growth, expanding its programs to urban youths.

  • 1979-Present -- 4-H moves beyond the home and farm by adding programs essential to life and business, such as communications, leadership, career development, and technology, while still maintaining its agricultural roots.