4H was created in the early 20th century in the United States as a response to youth unemployment and waves of migration from rural to urban areas. 


The aim of the actions at that time were to provide young people with a set of practical skills related to entrepreneurship, working and everyday life to enable them to succeed in society, and particularly on the countryside, through their work. At the same time, the aim was to disseminate information on modern working methods in agriculture to young people in rural areas. 

Activities started in agricultural clubs, but very soon the program also included gardening, preserving, baking and sewing clubs. Club activities were soon so active and well-established, that the state got involved in financing the activities. The clover leaf was patented in 1924 as a symbol of the club work. 4H’s basic ideology was coined as learning by doing”. With the spread of 4H activities to Europe, clubs wanted to connect young people from different countries, and so an international youth exchange was established. 

The idea of a Finnish 4H came after certain individuals visited the birthplace of the organisation and found the need for similar actions in Finland. The launch of 4H was influenced by a number of major Finnish organizations, the most important of which were the League for Child Welfare founded on the initiative of General Mannerheim, agricultural organizations and the Martha Association. 

The first local 4H associations were formed in the mid-1920s as agricultural clubs. The Finnish Federation for Agricultural Clubs was established as a national federation in 1928. In its first years of operation, funding was received from abroad, the largest contributor being the Rockefeller Foundation. Government funding increased gradually but was also conditional on obtaining funding locally. From the start, businesses have been supporting 4H in Finland. 

From the beginning, Nordic cooperation was a strong part of 4H operations in Finland and at that time, the Nordic 4H camps began. An important body for European cooperation was the European Committee of 4H Organizations, founded in 1956, to which Finland joined in 1960. Finland joined the international exchange program in 1948, when the first 4H youths left for the United States and England. 

Activities have expanded from their early rural focus to youth work in urban areas as well as in major cities, with a content that is equally suitable for young people in rural and urban areas. In 1968 the name of the organization was changed from the Finnish Federation for Agricultural Clubs to the international name, the 4H Federation. Since the start, 4H has been politically and religiously non-committal and has been backed by widespread civic engagement.