From Ohio History Central
The 4-H Club originated in the first decade of the 1900s. Several people across the United States began clubs for farm youths. The goal was to provide these farming children with hands-on experiences with tools and farming implements, as well as to educate them about new discoveries and practices in the field of agriculture.
The 4-H Club originated in 1902, in Clark County, Ohio. That year, Albert Belmont Graham began a program for local farming youths to better prepare them for their lives as farmers. In 1914, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established its Cooperative Extension Service, which incorporated clubs, like the one that Graham created. These USDA clubs became 4-H, which stands for head, heart, hands, and health.
While 4-H originally began as an organization for farm children, today it emphasizes leadership and citizenship skills. Many of the participants come from agricultural backgrounds, but the organization is open to all children. The USDA also created an international 4-H program, known as the International Four-H Youth Exchange. In 2005, 4-H consisted of nearly nine million members spread between 100,000 separate clubs. Children between the ages of eight and nineteen years are permitted to participate in 4-H.