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La. 4-H History

As early as 1908, 4-H could trace its roots in Louisiana to the boys' corn club, which began in Avoyelles Parish with the help of Mr. William Freshwater from Illinois. The first parishwide meeting was held in an old schoolhouse in Moreauville; more than 300 attended. The parish superintendent of education, V.L. Roy, and the dean of the College of Agriculture, Dr. W.R. Dodson, were instrumental in the development of clubs across Louisiana. By 1909, a membership of 1,129 was recorded in the boys' corn clubs of the state.

With program growth, the need for a more-effective organization was necessary. Agreements were signed between Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College and the United States Department of Agriculture. The possibility of educating rural boys and girls to improve practices of agriculture appealed to Dr. Seaman A. Knapp with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was then that the agricultural college offered cooperation in supplying direct financial and administrative assistance.

The U.S. Smith-Lever Act (1914) established the Cooperative Extension System within the USDA, the state land-grant universities and the parishes (counties). Since the early legislation, Congress has continued to support 4-H.

The role of state club agent was created under the joint sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Louisiana State University and the Department of Education. The work was channeled through the public schools. Membership continued to grow, and by 1910, enrollment was 4,672 boys. The economic significance of the plan was felt by merchants, who soon offered awards for the best displays in clubs and individual members. Success of the corn clubs led to the development of pig clubs and tomato clubs. By this time, the girls of the state were becoming involved in their own clubs.

The state's first 4-H Club Short Course was held in 1915 in connection with the adult short course. Thirty-eight club members attended the first short course, which was open to all members. Short Course continued to grow in popularity, with 610 boys and girls attending in 1921. Short course soon outgrew available housing, and attendance had to be limited. In 2004, the 90th year of the statewide event, Short Course took on a new look and expanded educational programs. It is now known as 4-H University. More than 1,500 4-H'ers attend 4-H University in June on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

The Louisiana 4-H Youth Development program continues to expand to meet the needs of youth, with participation exceeding 226,000.

Last Updated: 2/27/2015 3:01:46 PM

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