Road marker in Dinwiddie County celebrates origin of 4-H in Virginia

The historical highway marker, S-86, denotes a Dinwiddie site where one of the first Boys Corn Club meetings was held in 1909. Pictured from left: Michael Parrish, senior agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for Dinwiddie County, and Hannah Robbins, associate 4-H youth development Extension agent for Dinwiddie County.

The historical highway marker, S-86, denotes a Dinwiddie site where one of the first Boys Corn Club meetings was held in 1909. Pictured from left: Michael Parrish, senior agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for Dinwiddie County, and Hannah Robbins, associate 4-H youth development Extension agent for Dinwiddie County.

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources recognized Dinwiddie County for its historic roots and pivotal role in developing the first 4-H clubs administered by Virginia Cooperative Extension with a historic highway marker. The Virginia road marker, S-86, can be found at the intersection of routes 40 and 610 in McKenney, Virginia. The marker highlights a Dinwiddie site where one of the first Corn Club meetings was held and the inception of 4-H in Virginia.

Mike Parrish, Virginia Cooperative Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Dinwiddie County, worked with Jennifer Loux, historian and coordinator for the Virginia Department of Historical Resources Highway Marker program, and the Dinwiddie Historical Society to research the first farm demonstration club in Virginia, called the Boys Corn Club.

The first farm demonstration agent for Southside Virginia was Southall Farrar from Amelia, Virginia..  Farrar worked with boys from both Dinwiddie and Chesterfield counties trying to educate the participants while helping their family’s farm production.  In 1908, Southall Farrar began his work by meeting with local school boards, principles and teachers to introduce them to the Corn Club concept and ask for their help with student recruitment.  The program required that student participants be enrolled in school and had written permission from their parents to take part.  Parents had to agree to give the student an average quality acre of land to plant the corn on.  Once the recruiting was complete, 75 boys from Dinwiddie and 25 from Chesterfield formed the first club in Virginia during the spring of 1909. This club evolved into what is known today as 4-H.

On June 25, 2015, Virginia Cooperative Extension in Dinwiddie County held a dedication ceremony for the Origins of 4-H in Virginia road marker at the Historic Dinwiddie County Courthouse in Dinwiddie. Several keynote speakers attended the dedication including Kevin Massengill, Dinwiddie County administrator, who offered a welcome at the ceremony. He introduced the Board of Supervisors and talked about the relationship between the county and Extension.  Mike Parrish presented the history of the first Corn Club and the significance of the road marker. He then proceeded to present the national award-winning video that was made last year to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Extension.

Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H Youth Development at Virginia Tech, Dan Goerlich, Virginia Cooperative Extension Central District director, and Hannah Robbins, 4-H youth development agent in Dinwiddie County, shared their comments regarding the importance of the marker. Lena McDonald, historian for the Virginia Department of Historical Resources, and Mike Parrish unveiled the marker.  A cake and punch reception was held after the ceremony in the lobby of the Dinwiddie Historic Courthouse where commemorative coins were handed out to the attendees.  The coins were designed to commemorate the first Boys Corn Club as well as the road marker dedication.

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