Utah 4-H is holding a centennial celebration this week in Logan. Kerry Bringhurst speaks with Ross Jacobsen, who has dedicated 32 years of his career working with Utah State University as part of what has become the nation's largest youth development organization, 4-H.
The extension system is made up of teaching, research, and youth development. 4-H is the youth development arm of this important part of the state's education system.
Jacobsen started as a USU extension agent in 1975 in Tooele County. 4-H has been a part of his life since he was a young boy growing up in Randolph, in Rich County, starting in the mid-1950s when he was in a beef club and a cooking club that taught him how to cook. "I even sent muffins to the state fair and got sweepstakes," says Jacobsen.
"My mother wasn't able to help me at all. When it came to putting shortening in the recipe I couldn't remember what shortening was so I put bacon grease in it. I took sweepstakes for blueberry muffins with bacon grease in them!"
Jacobsen was also instrumental in organizing a Japanese exchange program: "We had sent people to England Scotland but not on the scale that we sent students to Japan and we hosted as many as 25 youth n a summer with their families here in Cache County."
4-H started out as "cows and cooking," but has come a long ways since. The programs promote gardening, health, and personal enrichment.
"I had a boy that just couldn't wait to collect bugs. He learned every bit of that bug from top to bottom. Then, he got into fly fishing and tying his own flies. He got so good at it, that with that background, which was a 4-H program, he put himself through college tying flies. He was a professional. Still is. That's a success story."
The 4 H's stand for Head, Heart, Health, and Hands.
"It's changing a lot. There's a lot of science things. A lot of day camps. A lot of short-term things. I was more of a hometown basic club type. It was these basic 4-H clubs that brought this program into existence. Clear back as 1896 these home clubs were there for young boys and girls to learn and grow and help their families. And it was a way for the university to bring education and research into those farm families."