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WHat is 4-H?

Massachusetts 4-H is part of the University of Massachusetts Extension Programming. The 4-H program is open to youth ages 5-18 throughout Massachusetts. No matter where you live or what you would like to explore, Massachusetts 4-H has something for you!

The 4-H Youth Development Program offers many projects, activities, and programs where young people can explore, learn, and grow. You can choose from many areas, including robotics, foods, consumer science, career exploration, community service, photography, leadership, and animal science projects.  See a more complete listing of potential projects.

4-H programs can take place in a variety of locations. These include community clubs, 4-H clubs or groups at community centers, in schools, and in after-school programs. 
Massachusetts 4-H is part of the University of Massachusetts Extension System. Founded in 1908, 4-H is the largest youth development program in the country reaching more then 27,000 youth in Massachusetts and 6 million young people annually throughout the country.


In 4-H, youth members participate in activities which are called projects. These are grouped by topic, such as foods, robotics, computer science, animal science, and so on. All 4-H members must be enrolled in at least one project. When you choose a project, you will learn a lot of things that there is to know about that topic and participate in a variety of hands-on activities. In 4-H, members “Learn By Doing” which means you will be an active participant when learning new skills, participating in community service, and more.

Think about what interests you or what you would like to learn more about. Once you select a few projects you are interested in, contact your local 4-H Extension Office to see which of those projects are offered where you live.

Join 4-H

  • Youth can join for $40 for the year. Younger ages, 5-7, are enrolled as 4-H Cloverbuds. This group focuses on exploring a variety of projects but is not allowed to participate in competitions. Those who are ages 8-18 before January 1 can join 4-H and focus on specific projects as well as competitions. Visit Youth section to learn more!
  • Adults can apply to be part of 4-H in many ways. Adult volunteers can have roles as judges, mentors, chaperones, or as 4-H club leaders. As a volunteer leader, adults mentor youth, lead a local club, and assist with organizing and running events. Applications and background checks are required. Training is provided for all adult volunteers. Visit Volunteer section to learn more!


National and State 4-H sites

  • Massachusetts 4-H Foundation
    The Massachusetts 4-H Foundation is committed to the enrichment and advancement of 4-H programs throughout the commonwealth.
  • National 4-H Council
    National 4-H Council is a partner with 4-H at all levels. Stop by here to shop the 4-H Mall, research about 4-H Alumni or find out more about 4-H.
  • 4-H Name and Emblem
    Official guidelines for the name and use of the 4-H emblem and other 4-H programatic guidelines can be found here.
  • NIFA (Formerly CSREES)
    National Institute of Food and Agriculture formerly known as Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service programs.
  • CYFERnet
    The Children, Youth and Families Education and Research Network contains a wealth of information for youth, parents and others working with children, youth and families.
  • Ag in the Classroom
    Resources for teachers and other educators that teach youth about agriculture.
  • MA 4-H SET Now on Facebook

University of Massachusetts

  • Stockbridge School of Agriculture
    The Stockbridge School of Agriculture has national recognition for providing a quality educational experience that integrates applied techniques and academic knowledge for those interested in a two-year education, prepares students for satisfying careers in today's agricultural industries and boasts a 100% job placement rate!

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History of 4-H

1908 The foundation of what was to become 4-H Club work in Massachusetts was laid during a six-month period in 1908. Boys and girls enrolled for a potato project throughout schools in Hampshire County. They received instructions on procedure, reported on yields, had an opportunity to exhibit and received recognition for their achievements.
1908 - 1916 The trend of events between 1908 and 1916 gave 4-H work its general direction. Leaders “playing by ear” discovered which methods brought the best results.
1916 - 1941 From 1916 to 1941, 4-H Club work was guided by George L. Farley. As school superintendent in Brockton, he had been instrumental in developing a school garden program, which attracted statewide attention. Two 4-H clubhouses on the University of Massachusetts campus are monuments to the vision of Mr. Farley. Club members, leaders and friends donated a large portion of the materials and labor for the Farley 4-H Clubhouse, dedicated in 1933.
1955 To channel all financial support for 4-H activities through a central organization, the Massachusetts 4-H Foundation was incorporated in 1955.
1956 A fast-growing activity was the 4-H horse project, which made its initial appearance in Massachusetts in 1956. This was the first large-scale 4-H livestock program with a recreational rather than an economic approach.
Early 1960s In the early 1960s, Camp Howe in Goshen, which serves Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, expanded. The Worcester County 4-H camp in Spencer was renamed Camp Marshall in honor of retiring County 4-H Agent Leon Marshall. Camp Middlesex in Ashby, Camp Leslie in Georgetown and Camp Farley in Mashpee hired full-time directors for the first time.
Mid 1960s The mid-1960s brought an expanded program that led to the National 4-H Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland and the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program, in which twenty to thirty older teens live abroad for six to nine months and also host a visiting youth.
1966 Along with the emergence of television came a 13-week electrical club series, aired in Boston; 3,500 young viewers participated in 1960. This led to a science series in 1966 that was watched by 15,000 viewers.
Late 1960s By the late 1960s, the emerging pattern of state 4-H work included cooperation with other educational organizations, emphasis on new rural area programs utilizing non-traditional experimental activities, and greater use of the mass media as a tool to educate large numbers of young people.
Early 1970s Urban programs continued to grow in the early 1970s. The Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) bill, which earmarked $7.5 million for 4-H, was followed by an additional $5 million designated to expand the general 4-H programs in urban areas. By the mid-1980s, almost half of the 5 million 4-H members across the country were from urban and suburban areas.
1980s The end of the 1980s saw the 4-H program lose 55 percent of its staff through planned layoffs and retirements.
1992 In 1992, Family Life Education, 4-H Youth Development, and the Youth at Risk programs joined to form the 4-H Youth & Family Development Program, based in Skinner Hall within the Department of Consumer Studies at the University of Massachusetts. With the dissolving of Consumer Studies, 4-H moved out of a department and under the umbrella of UMass Extension.
2003 2003 was a tumultuous year for the 4-H program, which was again downsized. The University of Massachusetts sustained a massive state budget cut and half of the state funding to UMass Extension was cut. Some 4-H Educators were laid off and others transferred to a new Communities, Families and Youth Program. A transition team worked throughout 2003 to complete a business plan that bases support for the program on corporate and individual donors, foundations, and participation fees.

For several years the UMass Extension youth program operated as two separate programs, the 4-H program and the Communities, Families and Youth program. The 4-H program established focus areas of communication skills, animal science and citizenship (leadership and community service). Emphasis was placed on the 4-H club model for delivery of programs and school enrichment declined. For the first time in the history of 4-H in Massachusetts, a participation fee of $25 was charged to join 4-H; it has since increased to $60.

The Communities, Families and Youth Program focused its work in urban areas and building connections with UMass Amherst. The program became part of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and its division of Community Health Studies in 2004.


A 4-H Benchmarking study which benchmarked 4-H best practices in ten states was conducted in 2005. As a result, 4-H established a strategic plan, “New Directions in 4-H” with specific goals highlighted in eight areas including urban programs, curricula, volunteer recruitment and strengthening the partnership with the 4-H Foundation. In 2006, the Communities, Families and Youth Program was eliminated and staff were merged back into the 4-H Program.

4-H Glossary

4-H Club A 4-H club is a group of 5 or more young people who meet reguarly to conduct business, learn about projects, take part in community service events, and enjoy recreation. These groups may have elected officers, a set of bylaws and a treasury maintained by fund-raising efforts. Most 4-H clubs meet monthly. Members plan a yearly program for meetings and events in advance with their club leader. All 4-H members, volunteers, and parents of the club attend to share information about club, regional, county, state and national 4-H events.
4-H Educator An employee of The University of Massachusetts or of Plymouth or Barnstable Counties. The 4-H Educator specializes in youth development, agriculture, animal science, nutrition, SET, or urban education. The 4-H Educator manages the 4-H program for the region or county.
4-H Emblem (Clover) The 4-H emblem is a green four-leaf clover on a white background. There is a white H on each cloverleaf. This was adopted as the national symbol about 1911.
4-H Impact Program The UMass Extension 4-H Program partners with libraries, youth centers, recreation departments and others to bring high-quality, experiential learning programs to young people not currently enrolled as 4-H members. 4-H Impact programs consist of 6-10 sessions on a single topic such as Babysitter Training, Critter Care, STEM, and more.
4-H Member Any young person who is 5 years old but is not yet 19 may become a 4-H member. A member may remain active in 4-H until the end of the calendar year in which he or she becomes 19 years old.
4-H Motto "To Make the Best Better"
4-H Pledge I Pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.
4-H Year In Massachusetts, the 4-H Year is September 1 through August 31 of the following year. All 4-H members and leaders must re-enroll online at the beginning of each year to remain active.
Achievement Night An event where 4-H members and volunteers are recognized for their work in a project or leadership area
Achievement Pins Pins are awarded at the Achievement Night to members who complete a project.
Camp 4-H summer camps provide outdoor educational activities and a time for summer fun. 
Cloverbud 4-H members ages 5-7 (generally grades k-2). These members may participate in learning experiences and activities that are age appropriate. They do not participate in competitions. 
Club Leader A Club Leader is a screened and registered volunteer who is willing to assume the responsibility of helping a group handle the administrative tasks that must be done if the group is to be effective. A volunteer in this leadership role helps with planning, organizing, communicating, coordinating, and directing the work of the 4-H club. The club leader assumes the responsibility of helping 4-H members acquire knowledge, attitudes, skills, and habits through the activities associated with a specific project.
Club Assistant Leader An Assistant Leader is a screened and registered volunteer who is willing to assume the responsibility for handling short-term assignments and assist the main club leader. 
Club Officer Many 4-H clubs have 4-H members who are officers for the club. These usually consist of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary.  Some clubs may also have additional officers. Officers are elected by the club members annually and are each responsible for a particular part of the club's function. The officers are under the guidance and mentorship of the club leader.
Community Service A project or event undertaken by a club, project group, or individual 4-H member which helps make the community a better place in which to live
Cooperative Extension or Extension An organization established May 8, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act, which directed Cooperative Extension "to aid in diffusing among the peoples of the United States . . . useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture and home economics" by means of "instruction and practical demonstrations." Congress clearly intended to create an educational program, and wanted it to include work with young people. This educational program is a cooperative effort between the United States Department of Agriculture at the federal level and the University of Massachusetts at the state level. 
Event A planned, educational opportunity for 4-H members to learn through group participation. Events are held at the club, county or region, state, and national levels. Examples of club and county or regional events are camp, fairs, exhibits, judging, visual presentation, achievement nights, and other similar events. 
Fair An event where 4-H members may exhibit their projects. Informaiton about county or regional fairs can be obtained from your local 4-H office.
Juniors 4-H members ages 8-12
Junior Jeader A Junior Leader is a 7th, 8th, or 9th grade 4-H member who is enrolled in the leadership development project. Junior Leaders carry out planned leadership responsibilities under the supervision of volunteers.
Land Grant University (LGU) A land grant university is an institution of higher education in the United States designated by Congress to receive benefits of the Morril Acts. The original mission of a land-grant was to establish a public institution where students could receive an education in agriculture and other subjects. Land grant universities are the home of 4-H Programs throughout the United States. The University of Massachusetts is the land grant affiliated with Massachusetts 4-H. A land grant university may also be called a land grant college or land grant institution.
Learn By Doing/ Experiential Learning  A hands-on approach to learning. 4-H projects are designed for members to experience something with minimal guidance from an adult. Instead of being given all the directions, they are presented with a problem or activity which they solve for themselves. Experiential learning allows members to learn from experiences. 
National 4-H Council A non-profit organization that uses private resources to assist Cooperative Extension advance the membership, leadership, and influence of the 4-H Youth Program. It was organized in 1976 when the National 4-H Service Committee and the National 4-H Foundation merged to form the National 4-H Council. The Council carries on a board range of educational, information, and technical functions to aid several million 4-H members, volunteers, and 4-H Youth Advisors. The Council’s services are made possible through the generous support of hundreds of public-spirited donor organizations and individuals.
National 4-H Week A nationwide observance held in the fall. Clubs are encouraged to participate by having displays, conducting the National Science Day experiment, or participate in special programs publicizing 4-H
Medals Medals reflect project work and are symbols of work well done
Meeting A project meeting or club meeting is where 4-H members learn specific knowledge or skills about a particular subject
Premium Book A publication associated with a fair, a premium book lists the competition classes that are offered and the prizes available for each class. 
Project A planned unit of work, using the learning by doing concept in a specific skill or interest area carried out by a member or group of members with the supervisions and guidance of a volunteer or a Teen Leader.
Record Book A written record of project work, training, achievements, leadership, and community service presented in a specific format. 
Seniors 4-H members ages 13 and older
VP's V.P's are Visual Presentations, or public speaking. VP's consist of demonstrations, illustrated talks, or speeches.  4-H members may first present their VP at their club. They may also present at the county or regional level, and from there move on to the state level VP event.
Volunteer A screened, registered, non-paid position for an adult working with a 4-H group. Volunteers may be a club leader, project leader, member of an advisory or fair board, judge or serve in other roles