Mississippi’s claim as the birthplace of 4-H

From press reports

4-H grew out of the progressive education movement in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rural school principals and superintendents wanted to teachtheir students about the material they would need to succeed in the business world.

3-26 Progress-Extension-4H logoAt the same time, agricultural colleges and experiment stations were accumulating scientific knowledge that could improve productivity and the standard of living for farmers, but farmers showed little interest in these “book farming” methods. These professors thought that teaching farmers’ children improved agricultural methods might allow the information to reach the farmers.

Rural school principals and superintendents teamed with agricultural college researchers to form corn clubs in most eastern and southern states at this time.

W. H. “Corn Club” Smith was instrumental in forming Mississippi’s first corn clubs. In 1907, Smith received a franking privilege and a salary of $1 per year from the United States Department of Agriculture. This was the first time the USDA had been involved in a youth program and established a three-way partnership of county, state, and federal governments working together. While other states had corn clubs before Mississippi, none had the federal partnership Mississippi had. This is the basis of Mississippi’s claim to be the birthplace of 4-H.

4-H works with youth ages 8-18 to provide hands-on educational programs for leadership development, life skills training and development of positive self-esteem. A pre-4-H group, Cloverbuds, reaches children 5-7 years of age. There is no charge to join 4-H.

Choctaw County has recently had an increase in youth joining 4-H. These youth are involved in Cloverbuds as well as projects such as forestry, pet care, interior design, clothing selection and shooting sports. Currently, we have four 4-H clubs and are in the process of organizing a horse club in French Camp and two clubs in Weir. The 4-H program can’t exist without volunteers. Adult volunteers are needed as club leaders/assistants, to help 4-H’ers prepare for contest in specific project areas, fundraising and more. After being under a moratorium for the past year, we are now able to enroll new volunteers.

For more information on joining 4-H as a member or volunteer, contact the Choctaw County Extension Office at 285-6337 or stop by our office in the Courthouse Annex in Ackerman. Email:

Juli Hughes, Family & Consumer Science Agent/4-H jhughes@ext.msstate.edu

Darrell Banks, Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent/4-H dbanks@ext.msstate.edu