4-H Youth Development

More than 100 years strong: National 4-H History

In the late 1890's and into the early 1900's, 4-H programs began throughout the country in response to young people and their need for a better agricultural education. New agricultural production technology was being researched, but the farming community did not readily accept new ideas or techniques.

Boys and girls clubs were established to meet this need. Young people taught their families new techniques of corn growing, sewing, raising livestock, gardening, and canning that they learned in their 4-H clubs. This community club model engaged youth through "learning by doing." Most states organized clubs outside of schools with parents serving as volunteer leaders and educators providing appropriate educational materials.

No one individual is credited with originating the 4-H program but rather the program was founded through collective efforts of several individuals over the course of a few years.

Nevada 4-H History

Historic 4-H photo

Historic Photo

  • Cooperative Extension was founded nationally in 1914 as part of the federal Smith-Lever Act. In Nevada that year, its first employee, Norma Davis, was hired to give home demonstrations and supervise 4-H club work. The first State Fair was held in Fallon that year.
  • By 1916, the present emblem, the 4-H clover, was well-known. Boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 20 were growing crops, raising livestock or poultry, making clothes, canning, keeping records and entering their projects for awards
  • During World War I, enrollment dipped slightly, but 4-H Club Achievement Days were still held in Reno. Members displayed their clothing projects on lines between trees. Then, war saving stamps were awarded as prizes.
  • In 1923, the first State 4-H Club Camp was held at the university's livestock farm south of Reno. Five years later, the first Junior Livestock Show was held near San Francisco, with Nevada beef as part of that event.
  • In 1938, with the help of Mr. and Mrs. William Rabe of Gardnerville and the Nevada Farm Bureau, a permanent state 4-H Camp was established at Lake Tahoe. One year later, the first annual Nevada Junior Livestock Show was held in Reno.
  • During World War II, 4-H club members joined the salvage campaign to help the war efforts. One club brought in enough scrap iron in its drive to build four tanks for the armed forces.
  • In the post-war era, 4-H clubs flourished, maintaining many of the original agriculture projects, but also adding projects of interest to many of our urban youth. Today, nearly 50,000 young people each year in Nevada learn life skills in clubs, school and after-school programs.

As one of the first organizations that focused on providing youth with hands-on, learning opportunities, 4-H has a rich history of helping young people gain skills that they use throughout their lives. In 4-H, young people have fun, explore, discover and learn. Nevada 4-H'ers make new friends, develop life skills, become leaders and change their communities.