4-H Youth Development

What is 4-H?

4-H is the only university based youth development program in the nation. It is an educational activity for youth sponsored cooperatively through the US Department of Agriculture, the University of Florida, and Manatee County.

4-H is a fun, educational program for young people ages 5-18. 4-H provides educational experiences through a "learn by doing" approach and helps young people acquire knowledge, develop life skills, and form attitudes to enable them to become self-directed, productive, and contributing members of society.

Since 1902, the 4-H program has been geared toward the positive development of the "Head, Heart, Hands, and Health" of our youth. The 4-H program is the largest educational youth organization free to all participants.

There could be a 4-H club in your neighborhood....or you could start one yourself. To learn more about being a member of 4-H or being a leader of a 4-H club, give us a call at (941) 722-4524 any weekday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

What's so Special about 4-H?

In 4-H young people have the opportunity to "experience" through "hands-on" learning and discovery in project areas such as foods and nutrition, sewing, hiking, citizenship, community service, photography, large and small animals, lap animals, horses, and more. Older 4-H members develop leadership skills by assisting and instructing younger 4-H members under the guidance and leadership of volunteer adult leaders. 4-H is also a family affair, involving the total family in the various 4-H projects, events, and activities.

Youth Get Involved

Youth get involved in 4-H through a variety of avenues. There are traditional 4-H clubs that meet around the county in leaders' homes, community recreation centers, schools, churches, and the 4-H Center housed at the Fairgrounds in Palmetto. Clubs are organized by volunteer leaders, youth officers are elected and run the club meetings. Other volunteer leaders serve as project leaders and resource leaders to help the members learn about their project areas.

Materials developed by the University of Florida are provided by the County 4-H Office to schools and teachers as part of the school enrichment program. These include programs such as the 4-H/Tropicana Public Speaking Contest and Ag Venture, as well as other curriculum in environmental education, clothing, foods and nutrition, and much more.

Older 4-H members have the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and learn more about their community through citizenship projects. Travel experiences include three week long programs - State 4-H Congress at the University of Florida, State 4-H Legislature at the state capitol and Florida State University in Tallahassee, as well as Washington FOCUS in Washington, D.C.

Clubs and Projects

There are approximately 25 4-H clubs in the county ranging from beef, swine, horses and goats, to poultry and rabbits. Other clubs include citizenship, dog obedience, foods and nutrition, clothing, and hiking.

There are several hundred different project areas that youth can participate in - citizenship, communications and expressive arts, performing arts, visual arts, photography, child care and babysitting, natural resources and environmental education, recycling, gardening and ornamental horticulture, and much more.

Click here to view a list of current Manatee County 4-H clubs.


Adults gain leadership experience and training when they become 4-H leaders. Adults interested in serving as club leaders go through an extensive screening process - application form, background check, interview, reference check, and orientation before becoming involved with youth. A yearly mandatory leader training is conducted at the county level. Adult volunteer leaders are encouraged to attend the State 4-H Leader Forum as well as the Regional 4-H Leader Forum to increase their leadership skills, gain ideas from other leaders, and get reinvigorated in the program.


Funding is multi-faceted. Manatee County 4-H is a part of the Cooperative Extension Service and receives funds for programs, support materials and staff from the US Department of Agriculture, the state land-grant university - The University of Florida, and the Manatee County Board of Commissioners. The Manatee County 4-H program is a not-for-profit organization with the
Manatee County 4-H Club Foundation, Inc. providing financial support for youth and leaders to attend educational programs.

Staffing of the Program

The Manatee County 4-H Program has a paid staff of one full time Program Coordinator, Dr. Diana Smith, one full time Program Specialist, Angelita Ortiz, and one full time Office Specialist, Wendy Henry. There are over 150 volunteer leaders working with the program through the club program.

For More Information

Contact us at the Manatee 4-H Office any weekday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at (941) 722-4524 or e-mail us.  The office address is 1303 17th St. W, Palmetto, FL 34221.