Corn Clubs to 4-H

By Jean Woloshuk,

WVU Extension Specialist –

4-H Youth Agriculture

For more than 100 years, the 4-H program has emphasized agricultural science education through the “learn by doing” fundamental principle. One of the oldest and largest youth development organizations in the United States, 4-H began at the start of the 20th century with the work of people in various parts of the country. The focal point of practical and hands-on learning came from the desire to make public school education more connected to rural life. Early 4-H programs tied public and private resources together to benefit rural youth.

Researchers at experiment stations of land-grant universities and the United States Department of Agriculture discovered that adults in the farming community did not readily accept agricultural innovations; however, the researchers found that youths were willing to experiment with new discoveries. Then, they would share their experiences and successes with the adults. Hence, rural youth programs became a way to introduce new agricultural technology to the adults.

West Virginia’s first Corn Club originated with an idea from county superintendent C.A. Keadle, with support from West Virginia University agricultural dean T.C. Atkenson at Pickaway School in Monroe County. Events leading to the beginning of the Corn Clubs started on June 13, 1907, when the state Board of Agriculture completed arrangements to hold Farmers Institutes in Monroe County at Lindside, Greenville, and Pickaway.

In 1908, those conducting the Farmers Institutes from WVU arranged a plan of cooperation with publicspirited farmers of the community to hold a contest. The purpose of the contest was to improve the yield of corn per acre in the county by planting improved varieties. Seventy-one boys were given 100 grains of tested seed; on Saturday, November 7, 46 contestants exhibited their crops at the courthouse in Union, W.Va. Corn Clubs, later known as Agricultural Clubs, paved the way for today’s 4-H Clubs. 4-H programs are found in all 55 counties of West Virginia. To find a program near you, contact your county’s WVU Extension Service office. (See inside back cover for phone listing.)

Information about Corn Clubs adapted from materials placed on the web 11/2/09 by Helen Graves of Union. www.hmdb.org/marker.esp?marker-23998. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4H.

For more information, see www.ext.wvu.edu.

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