During the tenure of Virgil L. Elkins as District 4-H Agent, 4-H club membership in counties served by Florida A&M University (FAMU) doubled to more than 4,000 members in an eight-year period. Virgil Elkins got his start with 4-H youth programs during his own youth, when he was a 4-H club member in Sarasota County.
While serving as the vocational agriculture teacher in Jackson County, he also vocational courses at the Florida School for Boys. This experience encouraged him to join the Jackson County Cooperative Extension service in 1949, where he could provide preventive programs for boys before they got into trouble through 4-H. He was appointed Assistant County Agent in Jackson County. During his stay in Jackson County he was responsible for programs in agriculture and 4-H club work for boys. Enrollment by boys in crop science and livestock projects increased dramatically under his leadership.
From 1961 to 1965 he served as the District 4-H Agent at Florida A&M University. In that position he was responsible for supervision of FAMU county agents and shared in supervision of the state 4-H program for African-American youth at FAMU.
Continuing his work from Jackson County on a broader scale, Elkins encouraged the extension agents he worked with to involve boys in 4-H as a way to interest them in careers in agriculture. Many boys to participate in livestock and crop project areas during his career with the extension service. His zeal encouraged boys to become professional workers in their communities.
For several years, he chaperoned the 4-H members attending the Citizenship Short Course in Washington, D.C., which was among the highest achievements for African-American youth involved in 4-H in Florida during that time period.
He also encouraged 4-H members to participate in area Farmers Conferences held in North Florida and on campus at Florida A&M University. Under his leadership, a youth development component became a permanent feature of the Community Resource Development Conferences held at FAMU from 1971-1978.
4-H members also participated at the Florida State Fair and in county fair programs, where they exhibited their work. 4-H club members also delivered demonstrations at the fair that taught information to fair-goers and helped the demonstrators learn valuable public speaking skills.
“Elkins’ zeal to encourage boys to become professionals in their community and the world community, helped them to realize that a life of service is the life that counts,” said Damon Miller. Along with Floy Britt, Elkins played a pivotal role in the smooth transition to joint 4-H programming by FAMU and the University of Florida in 1965.