Like many societies, America was built on farming.
Without these people, our way of life would be much different and may not exist at all. That’s why it is so important that we always recruit young people to carry on the agricultural tradition of our country. Two of the top organizations making sure the young people stay interested in agriculture are the 4-H organization and the Future Farmers of America.
4-H is a nonprofit global youth organization which exists in more than 50 countries. Its name is derived from its original motto, “head, heard, hands and health.” The organization was created to provide instruction to rural youth regarding farming and other rural practices that they would encounter. Its foundations began in the early 1900s with the idea of providing hands-on learning which may not be provided by public school education. This is reflected by its slogan “Learn by doing.”
By the 1970s, the organization’s goal changed and now provides services to not just rural kids, but kids from all walks of life. In the United States alone, 4-H has approximately 90,000 clubs and boosts nearly 7 million members. But don’t forget this is an international organization and the United States is only one of the countries in which 4-H exists.
Like its counterpart, the Future Farmers of America, or FFA, was founded with interests of the rural youngster in mind. In the first quarter of the 1900s many young men were leaving the farm to pursue other areas of interest. The goal of the FFA was to keep these young men on the farm by allowing them to express themselves in other ways, while maintaining the rural lifestyle. Like the 4-H, the FFA strives to teach leadership skills to these young men and women. Of note, women were allowed to gain full FFA membership privileges in 1969. This was a long time coming, but it finally arrived.
“Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve,” is the motto of the Future Farmers of America.
Many people still see these organizations as exclusively for “farm kids.” However, you may be surprised by some of their past members.
Some notable past members of 4-H include actress Julia Roberts, funnymen Johnny Carson and David Letterman, astronaut Alan Shepard, and Vice President Al Gore. Sure there are plenty of folks you would expect to be 4-H alumni, like Faith Hill, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and Trisha Yearwood. As for the FFA, some of their famous members include Eagles band member Don Henley, pop super star Taylor Swift and Luke Duke himself, Tom Wopat. Others you might expect are Lyle Lovett, Tim McGraw and Willie Nelson.
The need for these organizations was strong in the past, but that need still exists today. The reason being is that they each instill qualities like leadership and self-growth. So the next time you hear about 4-H or the FFA, remember they are not just trying to keep kids on the farm, they are building our leaders of tomorrow.