The origins of 4-H in the U.S. can be traced back to 1902 and the national organization was formed in 1914.

Since then, 4-H has steadily grown into global network of organizations in about 50 countries dedicated to “engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development.”

Locally, 4-H in Texas County has enjoyed a long and rich history, with numerous clubs coming and going through the years and past rosters featuring thousands of members. County 4-H currently includes 155 youth members and close to 50 adult volunteers, with two clubs in Houston and one in Licking, as well as the popular Texas County 4-H Shooting Sports club. Cabool also has an unofficial group and a club in Plato recently transferred its base to Laclede County.

For the past three years, Texas County 4-H activities have been overseen by Janice Emery-Weddle, University of Missouri Texas County Extension youth development specialist. Emery-Weddle said county 4-H members are involved in more than 30 different “projects,” with robotics and shooting sports being the most popular.

Clubs typically meet about once a month, she said, while the shooting sports group meets almost every week.

“4-H can be as much of a commitment as you want it to be,” Emery-Weddle said. “The 4-H requirement is that a kid spends at least six hours on one project, but most spend a lot more than that.”

Multiple businesses and organizations offer space for Texas County 4-H clubs to use for meetings. Currently, the Licking club meets at the Licking Elementary School cafeteria, while one of Houston’s clubs meets at the USDA building and the other at the United Methodist Church.

Emery-Weddle said 4-H has always had – and still has – a lot to offer.

“It’s a family affair,” she said, “so it allows the parents and kids to get involved in something together. It’s also heavily researched, so it’s going to give kids positive youth development that other programs might not.

“And it allows kids to find their interests, so when they become an adult they might have a pretty good idea of what they like and what they want to do.”

The expense to be in 4-H is minimal, Emery-Weddle said, at only $25 a year per kid.

“It’s still pretty much a bargain,” she said.

The name, “4-H,” stems from the organization’s original motto, “head, heart, hands and health.” Next week (Oct. 1-7) will mark annual National 4-H Week, and Emery-Weddle said some members of county clubs will participate in a 4-H Week kick-off event Sept. 30 at Silver Dollar City.

There were only 30 kids and five adult volunteers enrolled in Texas County 4-H when Emery-Weddle began her duties here three years ago.

“I really want to say ‘thank you’ to all the volunteers who have helped it grow and made it strong over the years,” she said. “I’m a resource for the volunteer leaders, but we have great leaders who are always out recruiting. And the word of mouth among the kids is always great when they’re involved in something cool, and of course other kids then want to do it.”

Emery-Weddle has in her possession several containers full of historic documents and other items regarding Texas County 4-H, including club rosters and information dating back as far as the 1930s.

For more information about 4-H in Texas County, call Emery-Weddle at the MU Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545. The Missouri 4-H web address is 4h.missouri.edu.

Texas County 4-H in 1940

Texas County 4-H in 1958

Texas County 4-H in 1974

Old 4-H news clipping 1

Old 4-H news clipping 2

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