Kentucky 4-H: Providing Unique Opportunities for Kentucky Students

4-H students from Caldwell County work on a project as part of the Science and Technology day held at Cloverville during the recent Kentucky State Fair.

4-H students from Caldwell County work on a project as part of the Science and Technology day held at Cloverville during the recent Kentucky State Fair.

With more than a quarter of a million members, there is a one-in-three chance any given Kentucky K-12 student is involved in 4-H through a variety of venues including local clubs, special interest activities, camps or school enrichment programs.

The organization has been helping build leaders and providing marketable skills to its members for well over a century, and, like its FFA cousin, has become as valuable extension to the classroom for students in both urban areas as well as those living in rural communities. Keith Rogers, who serves as the executive director of the Kentucky 4-H Foundation said the basic premise of the organization is to teach students through mentorship, although the subject matters have increased in numbers through the years.

“Science, engineering and technology have been growing over the last few years, so we keep looking at what subjects we can use. We keep moving as the students of today move,” he said. “That’s what’s unique about 4-H, we’re teaching the same basics we’re just using different projects and different opportunities to do that.”

Rogers pointed out, as an example, the performing arts troupe in which students can now participate. He said participants are learning about the industry and what it takes to become involved much the same way other traditional 4-H activities have been taught. Rogers also noted he learned how to “do life” through his own experiences with 4-H –including developing leadership skills he might not have otherwise learned had he not been involved in the organization.

Current State 4-H Vice President MacKenzie Jones said she feels the same way when it comes to developing as a leader.

“Growing up in Kentucky 4-H gave me the opportunity to learn not only life skills, but leadership skills that otherwise I wouldn’t have,” she said.  “It’s given me the confidence to speak in front of any group of people, large or small. Not many people realize how much 4-H can do for you and I wish that more people would take advantage of this opportunity!”

For the more than 600,000 visitors that made their way to this year’s Kentucky State Fair, they got that chance by getting a glimpse of just what 4-H is all about by way of visiting 4-H’s Cloverville. This literal town-square exhibit space is devoted to the many talents and activities in which state 4-H’ers are involved.

For nearly two generations Cloverville has been a part of the fair and Rogers said there’s nothing else like it anywhere.

“No other state fair has anything like it or rivals this,” he said. “My colleagues in other states are really impressed in what we have here in Kentucky at the fair. We have a tremendous 4-H organization in this state.”

Rogers added that Cloverville has always been somewhat of the finale of the year and is referred to as a grand tradition by 4-H veterans. He also pointed out the importance of sponsorships which help make activities like Cloverville possible. Those sponsors include Kentucky Farm Bureau, Kentucky's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, Limestone Farm Lawn Worksite, Kentucky 4-H Program, the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund and Jerry D. Westerfield, M.D. - State 4-H President 1960-61.

The 4-H Foundation is a partner of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Youth Development. For more information about Kentucky 4-H, visit its website at or contact your contact your county or local Extension Service.