Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 19, 2012 at 3:46 PM by Global Reach

The following information was taken from a booklet entitled Through the Years with 4-H Clubs in Lee County 1916-1946.  The information was gathered by the Lee County 4-H Committee in 1946.  “Lee County had some canning clubs as early as 1916, but no records of their activities were kept.  The main purpose of these canning clubs was to perfect for their members and pass on to others, the skill of canning vegetables and meat by the very revolutionary method, “Cold Pack.”

    The first club of this sort to keep a record was started in West Point Township in 1920.  Club work was, in those early years, mostly a summer activity, but 1922 an effort was made by the Extension Service to add to the main project enough other objectives to keep the clubs meeting the year round.  By this time there were also several Poultry Clubs active in the county.  In the early years of club work, Extension workers from Ames and Miss Josephine Arnquist, State Leader, visited each club and were sometimes entertained while in the county by local leaders. 

    America was plunged into war and difficult days of anxiety, and disappointments and hard work came to everyone.  Many girls were taking work immediately after leaving high school, which reduced the number of 4-H girls enrolled in club work and also lowered the average age of the members.  This condition prevailed all through the war years. A country at war must endeavor to keep healthy so all clubs studied, “Nutrition in 1943.”  Uniforms were wearing out and it was impossible to replace them.” 

    Taken from a current 4-H member’s historical project book called, Throu the Years in 4-H. Megan Menke submitted a story about her grandpa that states in 1938 when he was nine years old and joined 4-H, World War II was on the verge of happening.  It goes on to say that one of the club agents was called to the armed forces.  “The club was very resourceful and devoted some of their projects to the war service.  The club was made aware of buying war stamps and bonds.”  

    The boys in 4-H club work learned about grain judging, livestock judging, showing and grooming.  Clubs were known as boys clubs and girls clubs.  The girls could join a boys club if they were to show livestock. 

In the 60’s and 70’s the Home Economic Clubs enjoyed the experience of learning about Home Improvement, Food and Nutrition, and Sewing.  These project areas were repeated on a three-year schedule.  Meetings were hosted in member’s homes.  Now most meetings are held in public locations such as a bank or school building. Early in the 60’s more schools in the county began to consolidate; this provided more extracurricular activities to students, which affected the 4-H member enrollment.

 The 70’s held pretty steady for the enrollment numbers, however during the 80’s big changes took place.  As the farm crisis took place more and more homemakers went to town for jobs.  This greatly affected volunteers in the county for everyone was very busy with their new changes in their family life.  Therefore because the role of the leaders changed and they became fewer in number, the clubs began to consolidate.

As years went on, the club names changed because there was to be no discrimination of gender.  So club names like Jolly Maids became the Jolly M’s, Prairie Maids became Prairie M’s and so on.  Club names changed and so did the uniform dress attire.  Today t-shirts are the acceptable form of uniform for Lee County 4-H members.  

Our enrollment today is much smaller than it was when 4-H first began.  There are other interests and competitive sports that take more time of the 4-H age youth.  Some things are very similar as there is now a war going on as there was in the 40’s when 4-H first began in Lee County.  Although the 4-H members we have in Lee County may be smaller in numbers, our 4-H members have more opportunities to enroll in various projects and, as in years past, learn new skills. Since 4-H in Lee County has been predominately strong with the agriculture sector it has been a difficult challenge for Extension to have the public drop the concept that 4-H is for every youth not just those involved in agriculture projects.  4-H is not all “cows and clothes.”

Lee County has been involved in promoting 4-H throughout the county, and has been successful in reaching more 4-H’ers than ever before.  Not only do we promote 4-H within the 4-H program, we also reach out to schools around Lee County.  We hold Outdoor Classrooms at two local farms for 1st and 3rd graders.  These programs teach the students about farms and what agriculture provides, including livestock, dairy products, soil, horticulture and many other topics that offer hands-on activities for a fun and exciting day.

Lee County has very energetic 4-H members that are active with county 4-H activities, and the Lee County Council that consist of high school 4-H’ers, take on leadership roles and offer fun events during the year.  They put on a hayrack ride in the fall for 4-6th graders; they organize a county-wide 3-on-3 basketball tournament, and take part in community service learning projects that help Lee County.

In the past few years, we have had a 4-H member, Haley Wellman who has gone to the state and national level in her 4-H endeavors.  She has been involved with the State 4-H Council, where she is among 44 other 4-H’ers across the state that went through an interview process to be accepted into the 4-H State Council.  On that Council, they plan and organize the Iowa State 4-H Youth Conference in Ames in the summer.  The event draws approximately 1,000 young people to the ISU campus for fun workshops, dances, and motivational speakers.  Above and beyond her planning at the state level, Haley was also selected through an interview process as a delegate for National 4-H Congress, where she went to Atlanta, Georgia, with 22 other 4-H’ers to learn about 4-H on a national level and to meet 4-H’ers from around the United States.

Lee County 4-H has been fortunate to have excellent 4-H volunteers that run the 4-H clubs.  They have recently planned an enchilada sale that helps offset the cost of the state 4-H program fee.  The 4-H volunteers offer their time and skills to help the 4-H’ers learn leadership and communication skills, along with offering a wide variety of community service projects around Lee County.

Lee County staff along with Iowa State University Extension and volunteers have been diligent in keeping 4-H alive and relevant in the changing times.  We strive to plan fun and exciting programs that offer a wide variety of activities for youth, 4-H and non 4-H, that provide educational opportunities to make Lee County a great place for young people to live, grow, and learn how to be contributing citizens in our southeast Iowa region.

Please visit the Lee County 4-H website.

Continue the Lee County 4-H History and share your comments below.

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