A movement began in the early 1900’s through the United States Department of Agriculture to use the Land Grant College System to train and educate young people in the best techniques available for success in agriculture. The leadership in USDA reasoned that change in agriculture in America would occur more rapidly if youth were trained, thus establishing the basis for youth agriculture clubs. Today, the South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program uses a learn by doing approach, the involvement of caring adults, and the knowledge and resources of Clemson University and the land grant university system to empower youth to become healthy, productive, and caring members of society.
In 1908, A.L. Easterling, Superintendent of Schools in Marlboro County, organized the first Boys’ Corn Club. In 1910, Miss Marie Cromer, an Aiken County school teacher, organized the first Girl’s Tomato Canning Club. These clubs were the forerunners of the 4-H clubs in South Carolina. Teaching others and becoming involved in the community were part of these early clubs, and are still major expectations for 4-H club members as seen by today’s definition: 4-H is a community of young people across America who are learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills.
In 1911, Mrs. Dora D. “Mother” Walker was appointed “County Tomato Club Agent” in Barnwell County. She became the first county home demonstration agent in the world. Today, almost every county in South Carolina has a Clemson University 4-H Agent to organize and implement positive youth development programs and activities. In addition, hundreds of trained 4-H volunteers work in partnership with youth through a variety of 4-H projects including agriculture, animal science, natural resources, technology, engineering, healthy lifestyles, leadership, citizenship, and personal development.
By the early 1920’s, the youth education program was recognized nationally as 4-H, with the cloverleaf emblem symbolizing Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.
Detailed History of 4-H in South Carolina (109 KB, PDF)