Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on March 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM by Global Reach

The Early Years

“The work of the Kossuth County Farm Bureau did not begin until April 1, 1917, which was approximately the date of the declaration of war.”  So begins the Narrative Report of the early work that would be the beginning of the 4-H program in Kossuth County, Iowa.  That first annual report closed with, “Boys’ and Girls’ Junior Club Work has received considerable attention with several members in each, the acre corn, garden, pig, and baby beef clubs.  Plans are well progressed for a junior dairy heifer club which will be completed this winter.”  (W. A. Wentworth, Kossuth County Agent)

The work of the County Extension Service in Iowa in the early years, until 1955, was under the auspices of the county Farm Bureau.  Also of interest was the fact that the file copy of that first annual report was printed with carbon paper on the backs of unused letters from a mass mailing.

The three clubs that were formed that first year involved a total of 60 boys and girls.

A dairy calf club was formed in 1918.  That year the total membership was 57 boys and girls in the three clubs.  Regarding the feeding of baby beef in 1918, “ten boys completed their work and six of these exhibited at the County Fair.  These boys were the first in this county to feed baby beef and with their exhibit, the County Fair created considerable interest among the boys.”

In the 1918 report, there is also reference to “canning club teams,” but no details are included about them.

The 1919 narrative report included the statement, “The work during the past year has had a great deal of ‘after the war effect’ atmosphere about it.  Unrest has prevailed on the farm just as it has in the cities.”  During the war, farm prices were high as a result of high demand.  After the war, European countries returned to raising their own food instead of importing from the United States and prices dropped dramatically.  Jobs were scarce for returning servicemen.  There was no report of youth clubs being organized that year.  W. T. Maakestad became County Agent June 1, 1919.

In 1920, purebred pig, dairy calf and purebred dairy heifer clubs were organized.  The purebred gilt club had 49 members.  This led to the first Junior Club exhibit ever held at a Kossuth County Fair.  In total there were six clubs with 129 members “incident to livestock production.”

The original intent of the agricultural clubs was that they would function for one or two years (presumably depending on the species of animal). New clubs would be organized each year. However, the 1921 report includes this statement, “The (grade dairy) calf club at Titonka seems to be almost a permanent institution.”

Some of the clubs in 1921 were organized on a county wide basis, and some were organized around communities. The size of Kossuth County also influenced the organization of clubs.  Two purebred gilt clubs were organized that year, one for the north half and the other for the south.  The two grade dairy clubs were organized around communities, as was a purebred ewe club.  The baby beef club and purebred dairy clubs were organized on a county wide basis.

On June 7 that year, hog producers donated gilts which were raised by the gilt club members and sold at the county fair for an average price of $30.70 divided equally between the club member and the producer donating the gilt.  A. E. Clayton, one of the first ag editors of a county newspaper, was instrumental in the gilt project. He observed, “Without a single exception, they (the club members) all made money, ranging all the way from $1.25 to $28.  Many club members bought back their own gilts.  One widow’s son started a herd with his gilt.”

1930 Fair

Livestock judging teams went to the State Fair in 1920 and 1921.

In 1922, nine livestock clubs were organized with 142 members enrolled.  The corn club “gave the parents of these club members the first exact records they ever had on the cost of producing an acre of corn.”  The average yield was 51 bushels per acre at an average cost of $.35 per bushel and an average profit of $10.20 per acre.  The purebred dairy club was in its third year with 20 of the original members still holding their heifers.

A baby beef club was organized in 1923 with 32 boys and girls enrolled.  (Most farms at that time were not raising beef cattle.)  In 1926, there were 12 enrolled in the baby beef club with eight exhibiting at the fair.  “The calves (that year) were extremely well fed and finished.”  During the 270-day feeding period the average rate of gain was 1.08 pounds per day with an average cost of $0.0975 per pound of gain.  The average selling price was $12.60.

Club tours were a part of the program from the beginning.  The 1924 report states, “It was inspiring to see the fine herd of Guernsey’s which has been built up at the Stecker farm as a direct result of five years of club work.  The herd now consists of 17 high grade females and a purebred Guernsey bull.  These have been secured at an average cash outlay of $21.50.”  Also, “This year for the first time we had a fine showing of dairy club calves at the county fair. Twenty-two of the 45 calves were shown.  Every member who showed got a minimum prize of $3.  The first prize winner in each breed won $8.”

Also from the 1924 annual report, “Some very definite results have been obtained from the calf club work which has been done in the vicinity of Titonka.  Five years ago, not a single purebred dairy sire could be found in the community.  At the present time, there are about 25. ‘This’, says Mr. Cosgrove (a Titonka banker), ‘is a direct result of the calf club work.’   Not only has the club work stimulated a movement towards getting better sires, but many of the farmers in the vicinity of Titonka are planning on joining a cow test association this year.”  The 1926 report states that club leaders were “bankers, creamery managers, farmers and one preacher.”

Home Economics (Girls) Clubs

Kossuth 4-H Club girls getting ready to lead the 4-H paradeThe first Home Demonstration Agent in Kossuth County, Elizabeth Upton, began her work on June 13, 1923.  That year, she organized 12 girls clubs with 11 of them active in 11 communities enrolling 116 girls.  The following year, there were 19 girls clubs with 299 girls enrolled.  Clothing and health were the program emphases in 1924. 

In 1924, “the Elite Club of Plum Creek, formed in May of 1923, was the first club in the county to make club uniforms.  Every member has a uniform.”  Julia Bourne of Kossuth County was the state club president.  Also, Julia Bourne and Florence Laabs comprised Iowa’s champion shoe demonstration team.  Kossuth was one of te10 counties to have a county-wide health contest for girls.  (The individual physical examinations, which were the basis for this contest, continued until 1941.)  Fourteen clubs had exhibits and eight had demonstrations at the 1924 Kossuth County Fair.  That year also saw the first short course attendance in Ames.  Thirteen girls, three local leaders, the county club chairman and the Home Demonstration Agent attended, along with eight boys, January 28 to February 2.

Our Boys and Girls ‘Head, Hand, Health, and Heart’ column first appeared in the Kossuth County Farm Bureau Exchange on May 16, 1924.  The 4-H young people quickly gained a positive image.  According to the annual report that year, “The superintendent of the Burt Public School said, ‘If I want to be sure something is going to be done, all I need to do is ask some of the Portland Club girls.”

The first County Music Memory Contest was held in 1925. Thirty tunes, including contemporary, sacred and classical music played by local musicians, were included in the contest.  Each number scored a possible 5 points with deductions for errors on the spelling of the number, the name of the composer and the name of the composition.  Contest rules stated, “The highest scoring club will have possession of a Victor Portable Machine for one year.”  Seven clubs participated.  Six girls from the county had a perfect score of 150 percent.  A four-leaf clover emblem with H’s on each leaf was used on the Music Memory Contest program that year.  That was the first usage of the four-leaf clover emblem referred to in the records.

Thirteen of 14 active clubs had booths at the county fair in 1925.  Numbers were drawn for booths.  Demonstrations were given throughout the week.  On the last day of the county fair a style show was given in front of the grandstand by club girls.

The first Girls Club paper ever put out in the State of Iowa was produced in Kossuth County in 1925.  It was to be issued every 6 weeks with a subscription fee of $.10 per year.  The annual report states, “There has been a great demand for the paper…County Agents and club leaders have asked to be put on the list of subscribers.  We have been asked to send a copy of the paper to Washington and Chicago and to other interested people.”  There is no indication how long the paper was published, but it continued the following year.  The 1926 report states, “The Kossuth Bubbler, the 4-H Club paper, is still being published and is a big factor in holding county unity.”

Kossuth County winning demonstration teamsIn 1926, there were 18 club groups with 264 girls and 22 leaders.  Home furnishing was the major program emphasis.  Five hundred people attended the Girls Club Rally in June.  A club pageant was a feature of the Rally.  The champion health girl, the champion demonstration team and state fair entries were selected at the Achievement Day the latter part of July.  The annual report states, “The County Fair Association realized the real value of the 4-H Club work and gave the entire Farm Bureau building over to the 4-H girls club.  This building was transformed into a beautiful display of Home Furnishing and was the best publicity the 4-H Club(s) could have.”

In 1926, an invitation was extended from the girls clubs in the county to the boys to join with them in the “Rainbow Banquet” held in January.

During those early years, Girls 4-H clubs held one meeting per month in the winter and two meetings per month in the summer.  In the 1927 annual report, the narrative stated the following for Buffalo Township:  “A scarlet fever epidemic made it difficult to carry on the work in this township, but the leaders were very eager to receive the work.”  Quarantines prevented them from taking part in the county-wide Achievement Day.

The Depression Years

The farm economy never fully recovered from the post World War I impact of declining crop, livestock and land prices.  As the decade of the 1920’s progressed, farmers with mortgages taken when land prices were high, could no longer make their payments with tumbling grain and livestock prices and poor yields.  In April of 1920, corn sold for $1.50 a bushel and oats for 90 cents a bushel.  By November of that year corn was at 55 cents a bushel and oats at 35 cents.  Banks began to close as cash was not available to meet their obligations.  By 1926, banks were seeking waivers from depositors promising not to withdraw funds for a period of time.  It was thought by many that the farm economic situation brought on the Black Friday crash of the stock market in October of 1929.

In 1927, the Home Demonstration Agent reported, “A fine spirit was displayed within the (Buffalo) club at the time of the closing of the banks in Kossuth County.  The club had over $80 that they earned.  They signed a waiver so that they would do their share in bettering the financial situation, and it meant that they had to sacrifice their trip to the Junior Short Course at Ames.” 

Kossuth County 4-H Club ParadeIn spite of the Depression, the 4-H program continued to involve boys and girls in club work, though numbers of participants declined slightly.  The 1928 annual report stated that the value of food preserved was $1,347.  The total cost of products preserved was $703.41 with a total saving by canning of $643.59.  The number of girls influenced to eat vegetables they had disliked before was reported to be 104.  Eighty girls were reported to be wearing “straight-lined and low-heeled shoes”.

On the agricultural side, the 1929 annual report stated that “$10,000 worth of livestock and grain was produced or raised by members.  In addition, $550 in premiums was won at participation in three fairs and one corn show.”

In 1935, 64 baby beef calves were shown at the county fair winning $90 in premium money and selling at an average price of 11 cents, with an average weight of 941 pounds.  Six packer buyers were present resulting in “a very successful sale for members.”  In 1936, the average selling price was 9½ cents (the same as the initial cost) with an average weight of 973.5 pounds.  The average daily gain was 1.77 pounds.  “The record books indicated that with but few exceptions there was a little profit over and above the feed costs,” according to the report for that year.

Rally Day, held in early June, was the first county-wide event of 1929 for the girls clubs.  “The Food Health Show” was the theme of the program with each club giving either a demonstration or a stunt for their part of the program for the day.  “The Yarn of Creamy Loo Tavern” was the stunt presented by the Busy Burt Bunch.  The Alethian Club had a demonstration on “Nutritious Drinks.”  The Music Memory Contest took a significant part of the morning. 

Kossuth County was represented at the second Girls 4-H Convention in Ames in 1929 by 12 club girls, the county club chairman, two club leaders and the home demonstration agent.

In 1930, from May until September, the junior club work in agriculture was carried on by an assistant agent financed by a cooperative effort of the County Bankers’ Association, several creameries, and the Algona community club.  One hundred ninety-five boys and 36 girls participated during the year.  They “exhibited at four fairs in addition to a few local shows, and they won $790.25 in premiums.”  Ten from various clubs attend a boys’ camp at Camp Foster on East Lake Okoboji.  The report stated, “As the club work has progressed in the county there has been a more general practice of holding some club meetings throughout the year which, particularly in the heifer clubs, has encouraged the older boys to continue in club work from year to year, and has offered a greater opportunity for leaders to develop judging and demonstration teams.”

Kossuth County Dairy Club Meeting & DemonstrationAn indication of the impact of the club work at this time is given in the 1931 County Agent’s narrative, “As further results of these activities, no less than five families of dairy calf club members have purchased purebred sires…”  The report goes on to state that improved care of the animals had impacted not only family herds, but herds of beef and hogs on farms “in the immediate neighborhood of club members.” 

Judging teams were active during the depression years.  The dairy judging team participated in the county, district and state fairs, the livestock team in the county and state fairs, and the crops team competed in Des Moines.

In 1932, a rule was adopted “to have only members enrolled who could attend some regularly organized club.”  In 1933, it was noted that, “scattered memberships have probably been one of the greatest drawbacks in this county…”

The Home Demonstration Agent’s report for 1930 stated, “The 4-H clubs are a vital part of the Farm Bureau Program in the County.  The clubs assist with programs for the township Farm Bureau meetings.”  The Farm Bureau financed the 4-H club demonstration team, the health girl, and a leader to the State Fair in addition to one member of the County Club Committee to the 4-H Club Convention in Ames.

The county demonstration contest in 1930 was held at the Achievement Day with 11 teams competing.  Each was limited to 20 minutes to enable all to be given on the same day.  The county health contest was held, and county 4-H club officers were also elected at Achievement Day.  (This event through the years involved only the girls clubs.)

The 1931 home demonstration agent’s report described various means for raising money to send delegates to the State Convention.  The most popular method was giving plays followed closely by selling refreshments at community meetings.  The LuVerne club made a specialty of home made candy and popcorn balls and sold them in town on Saturday nights and at local kittenball games.  Every delegate’s expenses were paid by their own club.  Twenty-one girls, representing every club in the county, attended the 1932 State Convention.

Also in 1931, Kossuth County joined with 11 other counties for a 4-H club district camp which was held at YMCA Camp Foster July 2-5.  Seven girls from Kossuth County attended at a cost of $4.50 each.  Each girl was asked to bring one article to be used in the fireworks display.

A further impact of the depression is found in the 1933 report.  “Due to existing economic conditions and its resulting influences, four clubs failed to actively participate in the 1933 club project.  However these clubs have been revived and reorganized for the 1934 project.”  By contrast, the report also states, “The 1933 delegation was the largest delegation ever sent to the girls’ State Convention from Kossuth County.”  The names of 25 girls and nine leaders, in addition to the Home Demonstration Agent, were listed as attendees.  The delegates included a candidate for state 4-H queen, a candidate for state office, five who wrote in the music memory contest, three who sang in the state chorus, four who took part in a WOI broadcast with musical presentations, and two who received special recognitions.  Among the contributions made by 4-H clubs to the community that year were:  contributions to 154 community programs; 136 4-H girls kept personal account books and thereby gained business judgment and training; five communities were made more music conscious because of a 4-H orchestra; and 16 townships were helped with community singing under 4-H leadership.

Community support for the 4-H program had been strong, and it continued through the depression years.  The 1934 annual report states, “Kossuth County club folks are fortunate in having the cooperation of the Algona Community Club in sponsoring their annual club banquet.  The Algona Community Club furnished the High School Gymnasium, the rolls and ice cream.  Other firms that so willingly cooperated in making this event possible were: Algona Cooperative Creamery, which furnished the butter, cream and chocolate milk; Hawcott & Ogg Store, Botsford Lumber Company, W. G. McCullough, Baptist and Methodist Churches, St. Cecelia’s Academy, and the Algona Bakery and Algona Ice Cream Factory.  The banquet was a success in every way and an inspiration to the boys and girls for further development of club work in Kossuth County.”

Kossuth County Dairy Club Members showing their dairy calves 1930'sDuring the mid-30s, enrollments were variable, but generally dropped from 231 in 1930 in clubs with an agricultural focus to 67 in 1935.  In clubs with a home economics focus, the high of 331 in 1932 had dropped to 122 in 1936.  Overall enrollment declined from a high of 497 in 1930 to a low of 198 boys and girls in 1936.  Enrollments generally increased after that time as staffing became more stable.  By 1941, the total enrollment had reached 450 members.

As general economic conditions began improving through the 1930s, economic conditions for 4-H projects improved as well.  A program of financing for club livestock projects was instituted in 1938.  Numbers of livestock increased along with the number of young people enrolled.

In 1937, six groups of western lambs were fed out by club members.  This was a new project in the county.  The annual report states, “All but one of the groups showed a small profit, which was very good considering the high feed prices and a project new to all of the members.”  Seventeen groups were fed the following year, however the 1938 report states, “the average selling price of the lambs was only $8.75 per hundred with an average weight of 91 pounds.  These lambs cost the members $10.50 per hundred on the farm, therefore, it is very evident that the feeding operations were not in any way profitable.”  The report goes on to say, “The lamb club members took their losses with a smile even though the returns just paid the notes given for the lambs.”

Also in 1937, the poultry project had 136 participants, the largest enrollment of any agricultural project that year.  The annual report states, “A large part of the success of this project can be contributed to the cooperation of Swift & Company Produce Plant at Algona.”  Fifty chicks were offered to each boy or girl to be paid for in the fall when marketed or by returning six mature birds to Swift.  Instructional letters on feeding and management were sent to each member, and each was visited one or more times on their farm.

In 1938, baby beef calves were judged for the first time by groups, showing the calves by breeds.  Additionally, Herefords were divided into a light and heavy weight group because of a greater number of that breed.  The annual report states, “This method of showing the calves proved very satisfactory and will be continued.”  Most of the calves were financed through the Iowa State Bank of Algona and the Farmers State Bank of Whittemore.  “Insurance at a cost of $2 per calf was required on all financed calves to protect the banks in case of loss.  Four death losses occurred during the year with prompt settlement being made to the members and the banks.”

In 1939, the County Fair was held in August, which made it possible to include the Achievement Day with that event for the girls clubs.  “This is much preferred to the two separate events,” according to the annual report.  In addition, the following contests were held that year:  long time record, music memory, conservation record book, home grounds beautification, and fire prevention.  The demonstration contest was held in conjunction with the Achievement Day at the County Fair.

In 1939, girls were encouraged to perform at least one act of personal service for their club leader.  “This was no doubt more or less a new idea to many of the girls and is something else that will grow on them,” according to that year’s annual report.  The report adds, “Leaders themselves are hesitant about mentioning this goal.  It was stressed, however, through the newsletter that went to each girl.”

1940s and 1950s

Kossuth County 4-H Club Meeting a demonstration of "honey creams"Growth and interest in 4-H continued into the 1940s.  The 1940 annual report states, “An increased interest in boys 4-H club work is evident from the improved quality of projects in general and also in the participation in more different projects.  The record books in general showed some improvement, and the number of members who exhibited at the county achievement show was greater.  In addition to improved quality, there was a small increase in total members enrolled.”

A program change noted in the 1940 report was the addition of a cream scoring contest.  The report also included, “Due to the fact that tractors have almost entirely replaced horses for power on the farms of this county, there is very little interest in colts.”

Further growth was experienced in 1941 with seven new clubs formed with an agricultural emphasis, doubling the number of clubs over the prior year.  Also that year, 18 boys attended the 4-H short course in Ames; a softball team was entered in the State Sports Festival; four demonstration teams were trained; livestock and crops judging teams were entered at the State Fair; and a livestock team was also entered at Spencer (Clay County Fair) and Waterloo (Dairy Cattle Congress).  Enrollments increased in the purebred sow and litter and market litter projects, and there was again enrollment in a 3-acre corn project.  The annual report states, “Because record keeping is fundamental in the club program, it was required that all members showing at the County Fair turn in their record books before they were given admission tickets.  The quality of the record books was good.  Most members were serious and conscientious in keeping accurate records”

Enrollment increased through the early 1940s, reaching a total of 468 boys and girls in 30 clubs in 1943.  The next year, it dropped to 327 members in 24 clubs prior to a resurgence of interest in the postwar period of the late 1940s.  By 1947, there were 565 4-H members and by 1950, the numbers had increased to 752 members in 29 clubs.  Growth continued through the 1950s and reached 930 members in 54 clubs by the end of the decade.

War Impact

The entry of the United States into World War II in December 1941 had an impact on the program emphasis of 4-H.  The youth program portion of the 1942 annual report began, “This year’s 4-H club program, built around the Food for Freedom program, found the club girls and boys responding to this war emergency request, and as a result there was a large increase in the number of purebred gilts and market litters as compared to previous years.  Many of the members carried more than the one project, which was something many of them had never done before.  The boys and girls marketed $35,000 worth of hogs.”  The report continued, “The baby beef was the project on which more emphasis was placed.  The calves brought an average of 15 cents a pound (resulting in) an average net profit of $45.36 per calf, which represents a very nice profit for a project of this type and size.  The grand champion of the show was a Shorthorn (which) brought 22 cents a pound, the highest price ever paid for a 4-H club calf here.”

Another part of the 1942 report states, “The 4-H boys and girls took an active part in the bond drive and scrap iron campaign throughout the county.  In addition to helping in these national programs, the clubs have all cooperated in their local county and community drives.  Four of the leaders were called into the army and several others resigned because of increased burdens and responsibilities.  All of these vacancies have been filled and the clubs have voted to carry on on a monthly meeting basis from here on through the emergency or until such time as it would be deemed advisable to change their present schedule.”

The report continues, “If there was ever a year that positive, concrete results can be shown from Kossuth County girls’ 4-H work, it is this year of September 1941 to October 1942.  The 16 girls clubs assisted with salvage drives of paper, aluminum, rubber, scrap iron and waste fat.  Though the county wide-program was not set up on a War Emergency basis, all activities gave emphasis to problems arising from the present day condition.  The club girls responded to the call made by the Red Cross for booklets of current stories for service men taken from popular magazines.  The Burt Blue Birds donated $2.50 to the Red Cross from funds made by collecting 700 pounds of paper.  Another contribution to National Defense made by club girls in Kossuth County this year was by keeping physically fit through emphasis on health and good posture.”

The report states, “It would be difficult to even estimate the influence on health and good nutrition, the major project work, had on the girls and their families.”  A county summary of reports provided by local leaders shows the following:  92 families were influenced to can according to a budget; 26,351 quarts of food were preserved; 9,318 pounds of food were frozen; and 15,562 meals were planned, prepared, and served by 4-H members.

It adds, “The girls have received valuable training in the meaning of a true democracy” through the privilege of attending a club meeting with voluntary membership, the opportunity to discuss freely matters of current interest, and the development of leadership through participation in the club program.  In concluding the 1942 report, the following statements are made: “The condition of war with its necessary rationing has brought on a transportation problem;” and “The 4-H program has always been well rounded and plenty full to be interesting.  War conditions, which make it necessary to stress production, conservation, salvage and savings made the program overly crowded.”  Looking ahead it states, “All non-essential programs must be dropped for the duration.”

Kossuth County Tractor Driving TrainingIn 1943, it was reported, “Some of the older boys going into the service necessarily meant a decrease in the number of boys in the upper ages, but more younger boys and girls were enrolled.”  The report goes on to state, “Many girls have taken the place of a brother gone to war or the hired man who is unobtainable.  They drive tractors and do the many other chores which are so essential.”  A statement from the 1944 County Historian’s book of the Kossuth Home Economics 4-H Clubs provides a view of the impact of the war from a member’s perspective:

This year of 4-H Club Work has been altered a great deal by the war.  Many difficulties, that never were expected, have arisen to hamper the progress made by many club members.

We have seen the necessity to meet many shortages.  Projects have been broadened.  Girls club work has been extended to include gardening and poultry.

Many of us had trouble in buying needles and pins.  They have been scarce until recently.  Many types of materials have been off the market for some time.  Those materials which have been purchasable have been of a lower grade and a higher price.  Zippers were unattainable for a short time until plastic ones were invented to take the place of metal.  Hooks and eyes are becoming increasingly hard to get.

Canning, too, has met with difficulty.  There has been an acute shortage in pint and quart jars.  In many instances coffee jars have replaced regulation fruit, meat and vegetable containers.  Zinc covers have been replaced by lightweight plastic covers chemically treated by a coat of paint.  The newest jars have covers of glass which are held on by lightweight screw type covers.  Spoilage is easily discovered because the tops are transparent.

Gardeners have also had their share of problems.  Garden implements, especially garden plows, are snatched from retailers as soon as the plows are received.  Garden seeds, in general, are not too plentiful throughout the county.  Only a few onion sets were on the market.  Those that were obtainable were sold early in the season.

The Poultry Raisers discovered that some types of feed are not too plentiful.  Oyster shells were a major difficulty.  Sometimes brooder stoves were difficult to purchase.

Many more girls are now busy helping with the men’s work.  Many are now driving tractors or doing farm yard chores, and 4-H projects get slighted.  One of the many purposes of 4-H work is to learn by doing and there is no better way to learn than to help at home.

Even if the 4-H girl should have less to exhibit on project work, she has much to exhibit in every day help and accomplishments.

Although A. L Brown filled the position of County Ag Agent (the title changed to County Extension Director in 1942) from April 1935 until the end of June 1952, other staff positions were not consistently filled.  There were gaps of up to a year and a half for the Home Demonstration Agent (changed to Extension Home Economist) and nearly 4 years for County Club Agent (changed to County Youth Assistant) during and immediately following the war years.  Brown worked with 13 other staff members for varying lengths of time (one of them for only 2 months) during his tenure as County Agent.  Enrollment fluctuated during this time, dropping from 468 in 1943 to 327 the following year, and steadily increasing after that through the next decade. 

According to the 1944 report, “Until 1942, not much effort had been put on enrolling girls living in small towns in 4-H club work, but the 4-H club organized in the town of LuVerne in 1942 had quite a successful year.  Also the Swea Club had four members from town and Plum Creek two members.”

In 1943, a county basketball tournament and a county kittenball tournament were held.  The basketball tournament has continued to the present time, but not the kittenball!

Post War Years

World War II ended in 1945, and that year’s annual narrative reflected a variety of projects.  There were 195 members enrolled in 12 Farm Project 4-H Clubs.  Projects reported were: 141 beef calves, 52 dairy calves, 13 purebred beef heifers, 48 sows and 321 pigs, 23 sheep, 535 chickens, 100 colonies of bees, and seven rabbits.  A total of 180 girls were enrolled in 17 Home Economics 4-H Clubs.  The major project was home furnishings.  Programs also included material on citizenship, gardening, courtesy, health and music.

As enrollments increased, so did enrollment in certain project areas.  The 1947 annual report indicates that “200 members exhibited at the County Fair, with 243 beef calves on display, the largest number the county has ever had.”  The following year, however, there were 304 members exhibiting at the Kossuth County Fair and 282 baby beef calves were entered…59 Shorthorn, 63 Angus and 160 Hereford.  In 1947, “Club display competition, more commonly known as the barn prize contest, was very keen…Many factors enter into the judging of this contest, including cleanliness of stalls and animals, deportment of exhibitors, method of storing feed and equipment, and general appearance of the barn.”

During the latter part of the 1940s, as enrollments grew, so did the variety of opportunities for 4-H members to be instructed or involved in.  There was a county baseball tournament, radio programs, club farm safety booths at the fair, a Livestock Conservation Day and a Farm Labor Show in Ft. Dodge, overseas relief packages, a district camp including both boys and girls, a D.A.R. dress making contest, and 4-H parties, and a softball team was entered in the State Sports Festival.

In 1950, tractor maintenance was a major area of instruction for the farm project clubs.  This resulted in a 4-H plowing contest which continued for several years.  A 4-H Club Calf Death Loss Fund was reinstituted.  (The following year it also included sows.)  The first IFYE (International Farm Youth Exchange) delegate was welcomed to the county, a young man from Sweden.

In 1952, “twenty-two Kossuth County 4-H girls clubs filled the Armory building on the fairgrounds to bring with them products of their summer activities.  It was their biggest show in history and was made possible by the close cooperation and support of the county club committee, leaders, parents, girls and friends of 4-H in Kossuth County”.

Plum Creek Elite 1958 Algona 4-H DayAccording to the annual report, “One of the big 4-H events of 1954 was the Algona 4-H Day, March 13.  It was the climax of National 4-H Club Week.  The purpose of the day was to provide 4-H members and merchants an opportunity to work, eat and play together for better understanding.  4-H members set up displays and explained the 4-H program to the public.  Merchants explained their business to the club members.  This exchange of ideas brought to light some of the needs, job opportunities, problems and satisfactions that business offers youth of today.  Both merchant and club member had the opportunity to broaden their acquaintanceship and understanding, develop leadership and gain recognition.”  The program was initiated with the sponsorship and close cooperation of the Algona Chamber of Commerce.  It continued with essentially the same format for nearly 40 years.  Worthy of note in the 1956 report is that “43 of the clubs took part in the Algona Day celebration despite a full scale blizzard.  About 50 members stayed in town with friends and relatives until Sunday.”

The formation of a county 4-H chorus, entry in the first state land judging contest, participation in the KGLO-sponsored Chicago International Award trip and entry of a float in the Algona Centennial Parade were highlights cited in the 1954 report.

Club officer training in the county was enhanced in the mid-1950s through a multi-county training of county 4-H officers, recreation chairman, club committee representatives and extension personnel.  This group subsequently planned for the county training.  A total of 225 4-H officers, recreation chairmen and leaders attended the annual Kossuth 4-H club officer training school, “an all-time high.”

A county Junior Leadership program was organized in 1956.  “It was hoped the quality and quantity of the county club program could be improved by older members assuming more responsibility in their local club program and assisting with various county events.”  Members were to have completed at least 3 years of club work and be at least 15 years old.  “Attendance at the bi-monthly meetings was around 50 members.  Enthusiasm and cooperation has been excellent.  Members from the group have published a fine 4-H paper.  The program has helped keep older members in club work longer and improve their work.”  In 1958, the Junior Leaders initiated a Fun Night, which became an annual event for younger members.  A Junior Leader Winter Camp was held in 1959.

Whittemore Club - Sr. Champions Basketball“The boys and girls county officers sponsored an all county square dance at the Algona Athletic Field, July 25,” according to the 1956 annual report.  The event attracted approximately 200 4-H’ers and adults and continued annually for more than 10 years.

In 1957, the first mention of an appearance on television by 4-H members is recorded in the annual report.  At the fair that year, a home economics judging contest was added that was “designed to develop in the 4-H girl additional experience in selecting and working for quality, both in her homemaking skills and in helping others.”  Also that year, “In an effort to recognize both boys’ and girls’ adult leaders, a 4-H leaders banquet, sponsored by the Farm Bureau, was an added event.  All leaders and their husbands or wives were invited to attend this banquet where they were treated to a dinner and special entertainment.” 

The 1957 county basketball tournament concluded with an “all stars” game against a similar team from Palo Alto County.  This addition to the annual tournament was held a second time in 1958 against a team from Winnebago County.

Grant Hustlers - Jr. Champions BasketballIn 1958, local 4-H club recognition events were combined with Extension Council township elections in an effort to get a better turnout for the election process, a new requirement since Extension’s separation from the Farm Bureau in 1955.  Two townships were combined in one meeting since council members were elected for 2-year terms.  All boys and girls clubs from the townships were combined for the recognition nights.

The two state 4-H presidents for 1958, Jan Clark and Roger Dreyer, were from Kossuth County.

Emphasis on safe tractor handling continued with a tractor rodeo in 1958 and a Skilled Tractor Driving Contest in 1959.  Also in 1958, girls in home economics clubs were involved in scoring their own record books, and in consultation with their leader, determined whether or not they merited a completion award for their year’s work.  In 1958 and 1959, demonstrations were given on Ft. Dodge television.  One hundred girls indicated an interest in taking part in the 1958 county 4-H girls’ chorus.


Diverse opportunities for Kossuth County 4-H members continued to expand during the decade of the 60s.  A beef carcass show was introduced in 1960 and participation in a Western Lamb show in Spencer was noted in 1962 and 1963.  Carcass classes were set up additionally for hogs and sheep in 1966.  Interviews to select participants for events outside the county were begun in 1963.  A good grooming contest in 1962 included both girls and boys.  A 40th Anniversary party celebrating the beginning of the girls clubs was held in 1963. Joint organization leader training for both boys club and girls club leaders was offered in 1963.  That year’s report stated, “Clubs are now beginning to organize with project leaders.”  Joint training for new leaders, both men and women, was begun the following year.  Many of the 29 who attended were project leaders.  In 1967, Area (multi-county) project leader training meetings were offered in the beef and swine projects.

A new structure for Rally Night included both boys and girls in 1963 for the election of county officers.  More than 700 4-H members, leaders, and parents attended.  Sponsorship for the Chicago award trip was provided by a number of local cooperatives. A tractor servicing contest and a physical fitness day were held in 1964.  The Merit Award was introduced that year.  One Kossuth County 4-H’er attended the Civic Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. in 1964.  The following year, the county sent a delegation of members and chaperones to the Citizenship Shortcourse at the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. 

As the decade progressed, more young people from rural non-farm and town residences were involved in 4-H.  An all-town boys 4-H club was organized in Algona in 1965.  In 1967, 79 percent of the 801 4-H Kossuth County 4-H Chorusmembers in the county were classified as farm youth.  Six percent were rural non-farm and 15 percent were classified as urban. 

The first camp for Kossuth junior 4-H members at the State 4-H Camping Center was held in 1966.  A 4-H talent show was also initiated that year.  The personal interview format was changed for selecting summer camp and conference delegates with candidates being interviewed by each of six interviewers.

In 1966, Kossuth County began a staff sharing arrangement with Palo Alto County for the Extension Home Economist.  A similar arrangement with Palo Alto County for the Extension 4-H and Youth Leader began 2 years later.  This sharing resulted in an increasing number of special programs being planned and implemented on a two-county basis with Palo Alto County.

Even though National 4-H Week was changed to the fall, in 1967 the annual Algona 4-H Day, sponsored by the Algona Chamber of Commerce, continued to be held in the spring.  A 4-H float was entered in the Algona Band Festival Parade, a fall event.

A County 4-H Club Council was formed in 1969, with each club represented by one member.  The group was to meet three or four times a year and serve as a sounding board for program ideas and reactions to programs and events, and also “as a means of sharing ideas among clubs in order to strengthen all of the clubs.”


The early part of the decade of the 70s brought a number of new opportunities in the 4-H program.  An Area Pow Wow for county officers and Co-op Leadership Conference were new events outside the county in 1970.  Also that year, a girls basketball tournament and a potluck picnic for intermediates were begun.  Training in child care began in 1971.   An advanced feeder project was offered in 1972 for members interested in raising beef animals without the necessity of breaking and fitting them for showing.  Also in 1972, 45 4-H’ers helped report election results to the National Election Service Headquarters in Chicago.  Working presentations were begun with the first State Fair entry selected in 1973.  That year the 4-H Share the Fun program was offered for the first time at the County Fair.  Temperature and rainfall readings were recorded in 1973 for the crop production project.
Enrollment in Kossuth County 4-H Clubs in the 1960s ranged from 784 in 1961 to 903 in 1966.  It dropped to 751 in 1970.  In 1971, the age requirement for enrolling in 4-H was lowered to 9 years old by January 1.  That year, the county officers visited all fourth grade classes to invite the young people to join 4-H.  Enrollment increases were experienced in older aged children in addition to those resulting from adding younger members.  Enrollment grew to 968 members in traditional 4-H clubs by 1977.  That year a club was started in Algona for boys, enrolling 25 members.  As programs were offered for “non-traditional” involvement, overall numbers continued growing throughout the decade.  Examples of non-traditional programs offered in 1971 were baby sitting training, 4-H TV, and a Youth Seminar, which included older young people from organizations such as Girls Scouts, CYO and FFA. 

A significant increase in the number of market beef animals enrolled as 4-H projects was experienced in the early half of the 70’s.  In 1971, there were 432 beef animals and, by 1975, the number had reached 700 animals weighed and tagged for beef projects, including advanced feeder pens.  Further growth in numbers was experienced the following year.  Swine entries at the county fair also showed increases in the 70’s with nearly 600 head entered in 1976, the highest number in recent years.  A 2-year bred heifer class was begun in 1977.

Project enrollment and interest broadened during the decade.  Conformation and showmanship were added to dog project classes at the 1976 County Fair.  Enrollment in the horse project club increased through the 1970s.  One of the fastest growing project areas in Kossuth during the decade was creative visual arts.

Conference judging of home economics projects was introduced in 1973, enabling judges to consider comments and responses of exhibitors when evaluating their projects.  At first this technique was limited to the major project emphasis area only.  In 1975, it was introduced at local club achievement shows.  By 1977, it was incorporated in the evaluation of all home economics projects at the county fair.  By the end of the decade, nearly all non-livestock county fair exhibits were being judged with this technique.

During the late 1950s and 60s, special topics (tractor maintenance, farm electrification, plant science, small motors, etc.) were emphasized each year for the boys clubs.  In 1974, a “smorgasbord” approach to programming for the boys’ clubs was adopted.  Materials were prepared and offered for local club programming which enabled selecting from a variety of topics around which programs were planned for each club meeting.  It was also emphasized that all programming should be “child-centered.”

Emphasis on citizenship was stimulated by participation in the 4-H Citizenship Shortcourse in Washington, D.C. in the l960s.  This continued to grow during the 1970s.  The Shortcourse was offered every other year to senior 4-H members as an Area-wide function for the 10 counties in the Spencer Extension Area.  In 1976, several days in New York City were added to the trip.  That year, 147 4-H members (including 27 from Kossuth), eight adult advisers, and two Extension 4-H and Youth Leaders accompanied the group.  The annual report states, “As a part of their orientation, Kossuth and Palo Alto delegates attended meetings of local governmental units such as town councils, school boards, and planning and zoning commissions.  The orientation also included a discussion of current issues and an opportunity to meet with Sixth District Congressman Berkley Bedell at a special meeting in Spencer.”  In 1978, thirty-four Kossuth 4-H’ers took part in the Shortcourse.

Opportunities for 4-H’ers to be involved in citizenship related activities expanded during the 1970s.  The reporting of election results from each precinct in the county to the National Election Service Headquarters in Chicago, which was begun in 1972, offered a unique citizenship experience to 4-H’ers.  In 1974, a Picnic for the Handicapped was begun.  Each year, county 4-H’ers hosted residents and staff from the Peter Pan Helping Hand facility in Burt (later called Exceptional Opportunities) at a summer picnic.  Involvement among 4-H’ers grew, and in 1979 a total of 90 people took part in the picnic. 

In 1976, the Interstate Exchange program was initiated, with 4-H members from Kossuth and Palo Alto Counties traveling to Burleson County, Texas.  The 4-H members and their families hosted the Texas 4-H’ers the following year.  In subsequent years, exchanges were conducted with counties in North Dakota, Pennsylvania (twice), New York and a second county in Texas. 

In 1977, the County Club Council sponsored a county-wide cleanup contest.  That year’s annual report stated that “14 clubs participated and picked up 20,620 pounds of trash.  The winning club collected 6,520 pounds, and its leader reported that the enthusiasm of the members for carrying out the project in service to their township was surprising.” 

The Club Council that year also began a county-wide tree planting project to establish wild life plots and shelter belts.  In 1978, one club expanded their project to encompass a 5-acre wildlife plot. 

The international program was another area of citizenship involvement, with 4-H families hosting International Farm Youth Exchange delegates, Japan Labo participants, and PRYLE (Professional Rural Youth Leader Exchange) representatives, and sending delegates to Japan on the Labo program.  A Heritage Awareness trip for junior high age was offered in 1979 with 40 Kossuth 4-H’ers taking part. 

The 1979 Annual Narrative Report concluded the section on 4-H citizenship and community involvement with the following:  “It is estimated that during 1979 volunteers spent 3,604 hours in the areas of citizenship and community development.  The number of participants in citizenship and community development during ’79 is estimated at 1,411 youth and 176 adults.  The percentage of 4-H clubs and other Extension youth groups which complete community service projects is approximately 60%.”

Participation in events outside the county was strong during the 1970’s.  For example, in addition to involvement in opportunities already mentioned, in 1975, fifty-three 4-H’ers took part in Out-of-County Event Interviews and more than 100 attended Area Intermediate Camp from Kossuth County.  In 1977, all who wanted to attend the Senior Winter Camp could not be accommodated.  State 4-H Conference representation from Kossuth increased through the decade to 29 participants in 1979.

Youth involvement in leadership roles was strong during the 1970’s.  In addition to leadership projects and involvement in leadership roles in local clubs, various events and activities were planned and carried out by the four girls and four boys who were elected as county officers each year, and by the County Club Council.  Also, older 4-H’ers served as counselors for the Area Intermediate Camp and the Kossuth-Palo Alto Junior Camp. 

In 1973, five youth were appointed to the newly reorganized youth committee to serve with 13 adults for the coordination of the 4-H program.  Youth also served in leadership roles planning the Interstate Exchanges and planning Citizenship Shortcourse trips as part of the Area Liaison Committee for that program. 

The 1976 annual report states that the county officers conducted or contributed to the following events:  Club officer training school, leaders’ recognition dinner, 2-county winter camp, Algona 4-H Day, handicapped picnic, intermediate party, volleyball tournament, Fun Night for juniors, family picnic, senior party, Rally Night, county fair (home economics and SMA [Science, Mechanics and Arts] exhibit areas, especially), teen dance at the fair, County 4-H representation at bi-centennial celebrations, recordings for radio broadcasts and promotion of 4-H among all the county school 4th grade classes. 

Two county officers were given an additional leadership responsibility on the Area 4-H Council which was newly formed in 1976.  In addition to assuming responsibility for the Area Pow Wow and planning the Area Retreat for county officers, a goal of the Area Council was to hold some kind of event for intermediate members that could convey some of the flavor and impact of the State 4-H Conference.  That goal was achieved in 1979 with an Area Mini-Conference for intermediates in the Spencer Extension Area.
Special funding allowed the addition of youth programming in community resource development during the 1970s.  It began in 1973 with an emphasis on community service and career guidance among older teen disadvantaged youth.  In 1975, Lakota youth were involved in community beautification, and Bancroft high school girls planned and carried out a community recreation program for 61 children 5-9 years old.  In 1977, youth were involved in the Lakota Community Club to help with decision making for community betterment.  That year, two groups of sixth and seventh graders were formed in Bancroft.  They visited businesses, attended a city council meeting and conducted interviews with adults to assess community feelings.  Eleven of the girls volunteered to help residents at a local nursing home on an on-going basis.  An overnight camping program for low income youth and 4-H CRD participants was held in cooperation with an Algona service club utilizing a government theme.

In 1970, the youth phase of the Expanded Nutrition Program started with two college students employed as summer aides.  The following spring the responsibility was assumed by a fulltime aide.  The program targeted children living in low income families.  The Kossuth-Palo Alto unit involved 41 volunteers helping with 20 groups in 15 towns meeting every other week.  Nearly 500 boys and girls were reached that first year.  Annual participation was variable until 1977 when the program was phased out due to discontinuation of the special funding.


Enrollment in “traditional” 4-H clubs, which had reached its peak in 1977 with 968 members, declined to 807 by 1980.  The decline continued throughout the decade with 559 members in clubs recorded in 1988.  During the first half of the decade, the percentage of non-farm members increased from 25.3 percent in 1980 to 33.4 percent in 1984 (these statistics were not available for the last half of the decade).  Also during the 1980’s the impact of the farm economic crisis deepened.  It appears to have had its greatest impact on Kossuth County 4-H in 1985 and 1986.  Requests for financial aid for participation in out-of-county programs (camps, State 4-H Conference, etc.) were higher than usual in 1985.

Also significant during the middle and latter part of the decade was the emphasis placed on civil rights.  All clubs were to be open to all persons of the proper ages.  Clubs were encouraged to change names that could be construed as carrying a sexual bias.  In 1983, one Kossuth club changed its name to remove a sex stereotypic designation.  Three clubs changed their names in 1985, but eight Kossuth 4-H clubs still remained that year with sex-biased names.  It was not until 1991 that all Kossuth clubs had names that were neutral, carrying no sex bias.  In 1985, male-female quotas were removed for the Extension Youth Program Committee and for the county officers.

Enrollment, especially in home economics and visual art, which were perceived to be “girls’” projects, was encouraged among boys during the decade.  Additionally, leaders, members and parents involved in 4-H were encouraged to shift their terms of reference from “boys” clubs to “ag clubs” and from “girls” clubs to “home ec” clubs.  In 1983, one home economics club enrolled three boys, the first boys in any clubs with a home economics emphasis.  The following year, 25 boys exhibited home economics projects at the fair, nearly double from any previous year.  By 1985, sixty-nine boys enrolled in home economics projects, and two ag clubs scheduled their own achievement shows for the preliminary evaluation of home economics projects, as required prior to the county fair.  In 1988, boys enrolled in 103 home economics projects.  The annual report that year stated, “Three of the Kossuth clubs appear to have succeeded in establishing a climate where members feel free to enroll in any projects that interest them.”  Additionally, active efforts to enroll minority children were strongly encouraged during the decade.

Project enrollments made significant shifts during the 1980s.  Project workshops in a variety of areas were offered, in part reflecting the shift in project enrollments.  In 1980, an extra session of the photography workshop was scheduled to accommodate the increase in interest.  By 1982, there were 198 4-H’ers enrolled in the photography project.  Visual art was another project area that showed growth during the decade.  The 1986 report states, “The visual art and photography projects are among the largest in terms of number of project enrollments.”  There were 333 enrolled in visual art that year and 211 enrolled in photography.  A traveling exhibit of visual art projects, representative of those exhibited at the county fair, was begun in 1985, and photography was added in 1986.  In 1986, the exhibit was placed in 13 locations around Kossuth County during the 13 weeks the projects were on display.  Enrollment in woodworking increased from 72 in 1980 to 143 in 1984.

Changes in the major livestock project areas were noted.  In 1980, beef project

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