The 4-H Youth Development program began in 1902 as a method for teaching rural youth modern farming practices through corn growing clubs for boys and tomato canning for girls. The 4-H program started in Weld County on April 1, 1917. Five-hundred (500) youth were involved in Livestock and crop projects.
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 formed the Cooperative Extension Service under the direction of the Land Grant Universities. A partnership between clubs and local Extension agents resulted in 4-H becoming the official Extension youth development program. The 4-H project, teaching life skills (public speaking, record keeping and decision making) and community service taught by volunteer leaders became the foundation of the program.
The 4-H youth development method has been adapted to address the needs of a changing society for ten decades. The program evolved from a rural program to today's program which teaches life skills to 6.8 million youth from all walks of life. Currently less than 10 percent of 4-H members live on a farm.