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Break out the candles and party hats.
The 4-H program in Kentucky is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Starting in 1909 with the organization of the Fayette County corn club, 4-H spread to 42 counties and included 3,887 people in its first eight years.
Last year, 229,126 Kentucky youths were involved with 4-H.
“It shows you how beneficial 4-H is,” said Joyce Doyle, Grant County extension agent for 4-H Youth Development. “Most things come and go, but with 4-H it has lasted. I think that is really due to our community. They want our children to learn and be a part of something. If they’re engaged in positive things like this, they’re not going to be doing the things they shouldn’t be.”
A local celebration will be planned in the future.
While the program’s beginnings are in agriculture, the organization began offering programs as early as the 1930s with no agricultural background or experience.
Youth now have opportunities to join a variety of clubs, including archery, electricity, photography, robotics and childcare.
The biggest difference in 4-H since she was younger is the offerings, Doyle said.
“We sewed. We made an apron and then a skirt,” she said. “Never was it to the extent of today. You have to add the technology today. You have to keep up with the times. At that time, we had a livestock club, but now we have nine species and each one has their own leader. There’s something for everybody.”
One negative change in the times has been the fact that youth do not stay with the program as long, said Doyle, who added that high school students tend to work rather than join 4-H.
As 4-H turns 100, the Grant County program has many new developments on the horizon.
Currently housed in a less-than-ideal space on North Main Street in Williamstown, the Grant County Extension Office, which 4-H is under, is scheduled to move into a new facility March 14.
The new building at 105 Baton Rouge Rd., Williamstown, will include a large, 200-seat capacity meeting room that can be divided into three smaller rooms.
The plan for the property also includes a collaboration with the Grant County Board of Education and the soil conservation district for three wetlands for educational use.
One wetland would be located on top of a hill with no shade while the other two will sit at a shady area at the bottom of the hill.
“A lot of great educational things are going to occur there,” Doyle said. “They’re going to be able to compare and contrast the difference in a shady and a sunny wetlands. It will be filled with all Kentucky native plants and creatures.”
A grant also was written for funding for a garden on the land that community volunteers would plow.
If all goes as planned, each vegetable in the garden would have two children tending to it beginning this summer.
“They’re going to plant the garden, completely take care of it and then do a farmer’s market,” Doyle said. “We’re doing a complete consumer education lesson with that. They will share in the profits.”
In all, 4-H has 42 project clubs, all with community volunteer leaders.
To be able to last 100 years, the program had to have help from communities, Doyle said.
“4-H without volunteers would be non-existent,” she said. “Without the help of our community, 4-H actually would have died.”
To learn more about 4-H and its clubs, call 824-3355 or go to http://ces.ca.uky.edu/Grant.