4-H gets ready to celebrate 100 years of youth service

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development is celebrating 100 years growing young leaders.

Hitting the 100-year mark is certainly a proud moment in the history of 4-H. To celebrate is exactly what they plan to do statewide and locally throughout the year and they encourage county residents to join them.

In Wisconsin, 4-H youth development is part of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, and 4-H programs are delivered in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal, state and local (county) government.

4-H has its roots in agriculture which helped researchers at the UW-Extension share the latest agriculture developments with farmers by teaching their children new and positive ways to farm.

In Sheboygan County we have an active and cooperative program with the University of Wisconsin - Extension that includes staffing outreach within an active 4-H youth club system along with adult volunteers. Its 4-H membership is one of the largest in Wisconsin.

Besides the 4-H outreach, the University of Wisconsin - Extension provides a major range of strong agriculture support to the area farming community. That partnership staffing is paid 60% by the University of Wisconsin and 40% by Sheboygan County.

The Sheboygan County Board oversees the University of Wisconsin - Extension activities through its Planning, Resources, Agriculture, Extension Committee, which I have the honor and pleasure of serving.

Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development will celebrate the 100-year centennial with a number of statewide events this year.

There will be a 4-H Day at the State Capitol on March 19; April will include a Statewide Service Month and later a Wisconsin 4-H Day at the State Fair.

You can also look forward toward the Sheboygan County 4-H to celebrate its Centennial at local events including:

1. Developing a burial of a Centennial Time Capsule featuring the first 100 years of 4-H in Sheboygan County;

2. Displays and demonstrations in cooperation with the Sheboygan County Historical Museum;

3. Creation and posting of billboards along Hwy 23 in March, June and October; and

4. A number of 4-H clubs will likely hold their a celebration to promote the Centennial in their own communities.

4-H started as an effort by the University to bring education and science to the farm and farm families around the state.

Ranson Asa Moore, director of the UW-Madison college of Agri- culture Short Course, in 1904 held the first countywide roundup corn show at Richland Center. This small start is credited as the beginning of UW-Extension.

By 1910, 45 fairs in Wisconsin had corn growing contests; that year the Short Course had 44 girls in attendance. In 1912 The first county Cooperative Extension agent was hired in Oneida County.

Then in 1914, passage of the Smith-Lever Act by Congress made possible the Cooperative Extension Service funding by federal, state and local (county) governments that included, along with programs supporting agriculture and home economics, staff funding to promote boys’s and girls’ club work.

On October 30, 1914, Linn 4-H club began under the guidance of Thomas L. Bewich, who had recently been appointed Wisconsin’s first State Leader of the Boys’ and Girls’ (4-H) Club Work Program with the new Cooperative Extension Service, became Wisconsin’s first State 4-H Leader. He served for more than 40 years.

It was the beginning of 100 years of youth educational training along with strong adult 4-H volunteering. From early on, Sheboygan County has had a long and rich history of working with the University of Wisconsin-Extension through its Sheboygan County Board, a cooperative effort that includes strong support for 4-H clubs, its youth, and its leadership.

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