The following is a condensed history of what is probably Jamaica’s most prolific youth organisation, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs. It is hoped that this will assist you the visitor to the website understand the inception and achievements of this August organisation which is now in its 77th year. This revised extract was adapted and revised from The History and Philosophy of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs by late 4-H stalwart Harold E. Folkes.
The Pioneer Years
The genesis of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs is strongly linked to that of its parent body, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) as it was during the JAS’ era of growth and development, that this baby was born. That was over 77 years ago. Today, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, which now has over 110,502“ members”, is a force to be reckoned with, as it is highly considered as the leading youth organisation in the island. The JAS in the 1940’s declared as its major objective the training of farmers in good farming techniques.In its efforts to achieve this, a staff comprising of agricultural instructors and supervisors was created, which would become responsible for training and encouraging farmers to adopt new, improved and modern techniques and skills in various farming practices. This however, would be an uphill task. In most cases, new ideas were not readily accepted and old habits died hard. Against this background, pioneer instructor, O.P. Martin created the idea of branch nurseries or “Juvenile Branches”. Rural areas such as Brown’s Hall, Macca Tree and Ginger Ridge in St Catherine were selected for the burgeoning experiments. Martin also sought co-operation and support from school principals in these districts, particularly from T.A. Golding, John Thompson and F.R. Ricketts, all of whom were deeply involved in the JAS, agriculture and youth. Juvenile Branch members were selected mostly from elite schools and its meetings were patterned from those of its adult branches. Principals became self-appointed leaders and directed agricultural programmes such as the school gardens and vegetable or animal projects at members’ homes. Accompanying displays and exhibitions staged in tandem with these activities soon followed. The Juvenile Branches also formed the catalyst for a new breed of agricultural training, aimed at developing skills and techniques in practical tasks at a time when there was constant deterioration of recreational and social amenities in rural areas. This initiative also found favour in Clarendon, where several Juvenile Branches were also formed under the stewardship of principal of the Red location for promotional agricultural training. The school and its curriculum were soon introduced to the neighbouring community. A small committee comprising three vice presidents J.W. Maxwell, O.P. Martin, H.G. Dunkley, and secretary Captain Arthur Thelwell was subsequently named by the JAS Board of Management to make recommendations for the extension of work done among the youth.