Ohio 4-H membership is based on a child's age and grade as of January 1 of the current project year. Eligibility for Cloverbud participation begins when a child is enrolled in Kindergarten and is five years old. Eligibility for participation in 4-H projects and competitive events begins when a child is age 8 and in the 3rd grade. Any youth age 9 or above is eligible for project membership, regardless of grade level. Membership requires enrollment in an authorized Ohio 4-H club or group under the direction of an OSU Extension professional or an approved adult volunteer. A youth’s 4-H eligibility ends December 31 the year he or she turns 19. Joining Ohio 4-H is a privilege and responsibility for individuals and is subject to the Ohio 4-H Code of Conduct and applicable policies of The Ohio State University.
Cloverbuds are younger youth that meet with the 4-H club. They complete leader-driven group projects in a non-competitive environment, whereas older 4-H members choose 4-H projects, complete their projects by participating in county judging, and may participate in a competitive nature against other youth at the county or state level. Cloverbud groups are part of a larger 4-H club. They often participate in the "business" that is run during the 4-H club meeting but then will split off into their own group to work on group activities. The Cloverbud program is a great way to help younger 4-H members begin to get an understanding of the larger purpose of the 4-H program, while also making new friendships, and learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
4-H projects are specific areas of planned experiences, such as training pets, making clothing, growing plants, and building rockets. 4-H projects are in-depth learning experiences for 4-H members. Approximately 200 projects are currently available, with project literature written by The Ohio State University faculty members.
4-H members usually participate in a combination of business, educational, social, and service activities during their 4-H experience. During the course of a single meeting the club may vote on upcoming events or fundraisers, may do a group project with the entire club, and then may split up to work in smaller groups on their specific projects with an advisor or parent support.
Mahoning County 4-H's open enrollment period is January 1 to March 15 of each year. During this time all members, volunteers, and clubs must submit new enrollment or re-enrollment information to the Mahoning County Extension Office online at v2.4honline.com. By April 1 all 4-H members must submit their completed enrollment paperwork, permission forms for any required activities (dogs, horses, shooting sports), information as to which club(s) they are enrolling in, and a selection of project(s) for that year.
Members are always welcome to join 4-H, no matter what time of the year it is. However, full membership rights are only conferred on members who join before the enrollment deadline for that calendar year. Members who join after the enrollment deadline cannot be voting members, cannot take 4-H projects, and cannot compete at the county or state level as a 4-H member. However, these members can still participate in club meetings, club activities, club fundraisers, etc.
Once members are registered with a club they are required to complete that 4-H year with that club. In rare cases, club members may be allowed to transfer membership; for instance, if the member's original club goes inactive. In that case, the 4-H Extension Educator would work with the youth to get them and their projects transferred to a new and appropriate club.
Some clubs meet every week for several months while some meet once or twice a month all year long. This depends on the club, what its members want to do and the time advisors have available. The most important thing is to schedule meeting times so members and their families can remember and include them in their schedules.
4-H is a youth member-driven organization. Each club has a board of executive members, elected by the club each year. The executive board, with help from the advisor group, will lead the club towards making decisions about the club's activities and events.
Advisors provide a link between the county 4-H program (and County Extension Office) and youth members and their families. Advisors should assist in organizing club activities and events, including securing a meeting location, communicating meeting and activity dates with members and their families, overseeing financial and other decisions to be sure that they follow state 4-H guidelines, and providing feedback to youth as they progress through their projects, and much more. Advisors should be in the background at meetings to advise and provide support for members as they conduct their activities.
There is a small charge for project books. The total cost to complete a 4-H project varies a great deal. A member enrolled in a food and nutrition project might use supplies from around the home to practice the skills being learned, and therefore have no direct expense. A member who buys and keeps a saddle horse might invest hundreds of dollars. Advisors, parents, and members should discuss costs when projects are selected. Costs should be realistic for the family budget.
Many 4-H members exhibit their projects at the county fair, which is the Canfield Fair. This includes most livestock projects, many non-livestock animal projects (pocket pets, horses, dogs), and many non-livestock projects (also known as still projects).