Support for 4-H is a top priority for the Michigan Division and its Branches. We have a long and storied role in the development of this important organization in our state.

Farm & Garden’s history with the 4-H organization reaches back to 4-H’s earliest days, when Miss Gertrude Warren was hired by the USDA in 1917 to organize a food canning and other related home economic programs. By the time she retired in 1951, she was known as the “Mother of 4-H Clubs,” having grown the concept to more than 85,000 clubs and two million participants. Miss Warren helped establish the National 4-H Foundation and Council, the National 4-H Center (named in her honor), and the National 4-H Leadership Forum. With Miss Grace Frysinger, a Farm & Garden member from the Washington, DC area, Miss Warren founded the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program, still active today. Miss Warren served as National WNF&GA president 1952-54.

In 1924, a group of Farm & Garden branches pooled their dollars and gave a 4-H scholarship to an incoming Michigan State University student, and a tradition was established. In 1926, after the Michigan Division was founded, the scholarship was formalized. In 1948, the Division funded the first IFYE student to England, Dr. Russell Mawby, who went on to become the state leader for 4-H and executive director of the Kellogg Foundation. He remains one of 4-H’s greatest fans and one of the truly great philanthropists in Michigan, dedicated to education and scholarship for youth.

In 1951 Mrs. Lyle Slaybaugh, an Farm &Garden member from Climax, Michigan, was instrumental in forming the Michigan 4-H Foundation. The first board included only men, executives from Detroit Edison and Farm Bureau Insurance, etc. Minutes from an early board meeting state that the “endorsement and commitment from the Michigan Division was crucial to the foundation’s early success.” Mrs. Slaybaugh served as a charter member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees beginning in 1956, and we have had a representative on the Board since then. Farm & Garden member Claudia Scioly served three three-year terms on the Board of Trustees (9 years) and was the first F&G representative elected to serve as president of the Foundation in 2012-2014. During her tenure, which coincided with the WNF&GA’s national Centennial, the Michigan 4-H Foundation endowment topped $100,000 for the first time. Sheila Kneeshaw of the Indian Village Branch currently represents the Michigan Division on the Foundation board.

The Michigan Division is the longest continuous, consecutive donor in the Michigan 4-H Foundation’s history (among the esteemed company of Detroit Edison, Farm Bureau Insurance, Dow Chemical, Chemical Bank, Michigan Milk Producers, etc.), and is recognized among the top ten donors in life time giving.

The Michigan Division 4-H Endowment was established in 2006 by Molly Hammerle, Division President, and Jeannette Matyn, 4-H Foundation Trustee. Through their vision and persistence we formalized our 4-H support and ensured our legacy. The Division has twice received the Michigan 4-H Citation Award, the highest recognition presented by Michigan 4-H, honoring individuals and organizations whose contributions to and support of 4-H programs have significantly advanced the work of Michigan 4-H on a multicounty, regional, statewide and/or national basis.

While many people hear “4-H” and immediately think of farm animals, a look at the organization today reveals it has a much broader scope and far-reaching impacts. 4-H is located in every corner of Michigan. Each year, more than 200,000 youth and 20,000+ adult and older teen volunteers from major cities, suburbs, towns and rural communities participate in 4-H, second only to the public schools in terms of numbers impacted. Nationally, 4-H youth programs involve more than 5 million young people from all 50 states and many U.S. territories.

In 2011, the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, a longitudinal study conducted by the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University, found that youth engaged with 4-H are:

  • Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school;
  • Nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college;
  • 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors; and
  • 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.

The list of programs 4-H offers is extensive, and includes everything from animal science, environmental education, community service, health and nutrition, science and technology to money management, entrepreneurship, and global and cultural education. In Michigan, activities such as the award-winning 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp, Exploration Days, and Capitol Experience provide both education and inspiration to the students who participate.

To learn more:
National 4-H Website