What Is 4-H


4-H is a network of youth organizations based in the U.S. whose mission is engaging the youth to reach their fullest potential by advancing their field of youth development. The name ‘4-H’ is a reference to the letter H occurring four times in the original motto ‘head, heart, hands, and health’, which was later incorporated into the 4-H pledge officially adopted in 1927. In the U.S., the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is responsible for the operation. 4-H Canada is another independent non-profit organization operating in all its branches throughout Canada. There are 4-H organizations in more than fifty countries. However, the organization and administration of 4-H vary from one country to the other.


Goal and Mission

The goal of 4-H is to develop leadership, citizenship, life skills and responsibility of the youth through a positive youth development approach and an inspiring learning program. Although generally thought of as an agriculture-focused organization due to its history and past activity, 4-H focuses on healthy living, citizenship, engineering, technology and science programs. Clubs in the 4-H world today consist of a wide range of options, each one of them allowing for personal growth and career success. The motto of the 4-H organization is “To make the best better”, whereas its slogan is “Learn by doing”, sometimes re-phrased as “Learn to do by doing”. By 2016, the organization had nearly six million active participants and over twenty-five million alumni.

The 4-H Emblem

The emblem of the 4-H program is a green four-leaf clover having a white H written on each leaf. Each H stands for Head, Hands, Health and Heart. The stem of the clover in the emblem always points to the right. Making use of the four-leaf clover as an emblem for the 4-H program was the idea of Oscar Herman Benson of Wright County, Iowa. He used to award three-leaf and four-leaf clover pendants and pins to students for their domestic and agricultural science exhibits at school fairs.

The 4-H emblem and name have U.S. federal protection under federal code 18 U.S.C. 707. This federal protection makes it an emblem unto and of itself and has protection superseding the limited authorities of both a copyright as well as a trademark. The Secretary of Agriculture is given the stewardship and responsibility for the 4-H name and emblem at the U.S. Congress’s direct request. These protections put the 4-H emblem in a category of the most protected symbols, which is very rare. This meant that it has the same level of protection as the Red Cross, U.S. Presidential Seal, the Olympic rings and Smokey Bear. These protections, with the exception of the Presidential seal, were revoked by Division O of the Consolidated Appropriations Act in 2021.

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