I admit, I have really dropped the routine of making sure these are published to our site and social media pages. Here’s to a very late New Year’s Resolution of making sure you can read these here every week!

This week’s Member Spotlight is on the Johnston County OSU Extension Center. 4-H began in the state of Oklahoma over a decade before it was given that name in the 1920s. In 1908, W. D. Bentley, a pioneer of university extension work, set up headquarters in Tishomingo to help young farmers and ranchers improve their harvest of quality corn and cotton. Bentley enrolled 50 local boys from across Johnston County to be a part of Boy’s Corn Club in 1909, and the idea of 4-H was born. “The next year Sen. Thomas P. Gore offered an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to the Oklahoma champion corn-growing boy. Floyd Gayer of Ardmore prevailed with a yield of more than ninety-five bushels per acre at a time when experienced farmers were averaging only forty-five.”

That same year, girls established tomato and canning clubs. Early extension agents made their way to the area by horse and buggy to visit the corn and tomato plots, visiting about the projects and teaching along the way. The agents believed in helping young people gain knowledge through hands-on experiences that they could use throughout their lives. In 1914 the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to take an interest and the Smith-Lever Act authorized the federal government to help fund university extension work as well as the youth clubs. “Enrollment skyrocketed, growing from those first fifty members in 1909 to almost twelve thousand in Oklahoma by 1915. Not until the 1920s did the clubs adopt the name 4-H and the ideology of pledging their “head to clearer thinking . . . heart to greater loyalty . . . hands to larger service and . . . health to better living.” (Oklahoma Historical Society)

Currently the Johnston County OSU Extension Center operates with an Agriculture/4-H Agent (Keegan Varner) serving education in these areas, as well as a Family and Consumer Science/4-H Agent serving education (Sara Randolf), and an Administrative Support Specialist (Sharyne Pitmon).

Upcoming events include the Johnston County Junior Livestock Show this week; Keegan will be holding a poultry meeting coming up in April for ag producers that need get licensed to spread chicken litter; Sara has a cooking school coming up in April to teach people how to use an electric pressure cooker; and 4-H members are working on raising money for the “Change for Change” charity which helps the Children’s hospital.

“For the future I see that we will be getting more innovative with the delivery of our educational programs such as using more social media and the internet, but we are not forgetting our roots of hands on learning,” says Varner.

The OSU Extension Center is located at 1301 S. Airport Road and you can reach Keegan or Sharyne at 580-371-9533.

Read next week for a Spotlight on Echo Canyon Resort & Spa!

-Jordyn Frazier

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