Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on September 27, 2012 at 11:06 AM by Global Reach

4-H had it’s beginnings in Calhoun County just like it did in many other Iowa counties.  It started with boys and girls groups supported by the local school.  Boys were active in the baby beef, sow and litter, poultry, and corn projects.  Girls focused on activities like cooking, sewing and furniture refinishing. 

By the early 1920’s, organized clubs still focused on individual project areas.  Dale Zaiger was a member of one of the three Corn Club Demonstrations held in Calhoun County in 1923.  He wrote this about his experience:

“One day last spring our club leader came to our place and asked us boys to join the Corn Club, he had some cards by which I joined.

We already had this field spread with manure and it had sweet clover on it the last year which made the ground rich.  We also plowed it late in the fall which made the ground free of insects. In the spring we disc it two times before planting we planted it 3 ft. 6 in. both ways with 3 grains of corn and two of soy beans. We cultivated it four times the first 5 in. deep, second time 4 in. third time 3 ½ in. and before the fourth time we sowed rape and then cultivated it about 2 in. deep. We had a bad wind storm while it was roasten ears which damaged it badly. I had the club leader come and measure off my acre.  We husked it and it made a good yield of corn.”

Dale’s crop yield was 6,350 lbs., 15.5% moisture, with an average cost per bushel of 51 cents.  He won first prize which was a free trip to the International Show in Chicago.

As interest in clubs increased, more activities were planned and soon clubs were not only putting on demonstrations but were participating in county tours, summer camps and rallies, holding recognition events, participating in state events like the Iowa State Fair and conferences in Ames and Sioux City.

Mary Morton, a 1925 member the Lake Creek Go-Getters, remembers summer camp at Twin Lakes where she slept in a tent and cooked all her own meals over a camp fire.  She recalls making marble paper, swimming, fishing, and doing a demonstration on how to keep your fishing worms alive in a tin can.

Summer camps were held not only in the county at Twin Lakes but also in neighboring Sac County at Wall Lake. In June 1937, six boys from Calhoun County attended the District 4-H Club Camp held at the Des Moines Y.M.C.A. Camp north of Boone.  The program included identification contest for trees, weeds, and birds as well as other forms of entertainment such as wrestling, swimming and kittenball.

Through the years summer camp remained an important part of 4-H in Calhoun County.  In June 2002, Junior 4-H Summer Camp was held at Twin Lakes just like it was in 1925.  Activities included fishing, animal identification and swimming as well as making a horse halter, building bridges and a barn dance.  In 2003, eight 4-H members attended summer camp at the 4-H Camp Center south of Boone.  Katie Petzenhauser, a member of the Jackson Pioneer 4-H Club had this to say about camp.

“We went to Junior Camp at the 4-H Camping Center in Madrid.  We did a lot of outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, archery and learning survival skills.  I would say the best part would have been the 57-foot rock climbing wall and the creek walk.  It was a lot of fun.” 

Over the past decade a rotation of three different camping experiences has been implemented.  The experiences include an overnight camp, a day camp, and a day trip.  This rotation allows Junior 4-H members to experience camp at their comfort level.  All camps have a project theme that is explored throughout the event.

The first Annual 4-H Recognition Ceremony was held in 1929.  It was deiced that the location of the ceremony would be rotated around the county allowing each club the opportunity to host the event.  That tradition is still in practice.  In 1929, five members were recognized for their accomplishments in 4-H.  In 2005, sixty members were recognized. And in 2011, eighty-six members were recognized. 

Fair has always been a part of 4-H.  In August 1903, the first Calhoun County Fair was held in Manson. Exhibits consisted mainly of grain, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, jellies, sewing, and fancy work. It was held in a building on North Main Street. Later, the Fair was to develop into a large livestock show with varied exhibits.  

At the beginning, fair was a time to bring families together.  It provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends and provided some friendly competition.  

Mary Morton recalls the importance of the county fair in the early 1900’s.

“For many, the county fair was the only vacation they took from farm work.  The fair was a family event and all would attend.  We would get up extra early and take care of chores.  My mother would pack a picnic lunch with chicken or sandwiches.  I would always save a nickel for a cold glass of lemonade. One of my favorite things about the fair was the parade.  We didn’t use all the colored tissue paper and decorations that are used today.  Instead, we would save the old Montgomery Ward catalog because it was printed in color to make paper flowers.  The decorations were put on hayracks and pulled by teams of horses.” 

The fair parade is still a family event but many of the teams of horses and hayracks have been replaced with the screams of fire engine sirens.  Games of Bingo and horse shoe still continue, as well as stock car races and concerts.  

Displaying exhibits and the pride of doing a job well has not changed.  Forty-three different youth from Calhoun County participated in the Iowa State Fair in 2005.  They took static building exhibits, horticulture exhibits, and livestock and participated in communication activities and the queen contest.  Since 1964, when the current queen pageant format was adopted, Calhoun County has had two County Fair Queens selected as Iowa State Fair Queens, Danna K. Vetter in 1966 and Katie Lantz in 2002.   

4-H has been a part of the youth in our county for over a century.  As the world and the needs of our youth change, the structure of 4-H has adapted and changed as well, from the first three corn clubs to the current nine co-ed community clubs and specialty clubs.  Livestock, horticulture, and home economics were the focus of 4-H a century ago. And although those project areas are still a priority in the 4-H program, advances in science and technology are investigated in these and other project areas as well.  

A focus and commitment to better the future has made project areas such as leadership, citizenship, and communication a priority in 4-H too.

Intermediate 4-H member, Olivia Hanlon, assist Junior 4-H member, Heidi Hammen, as she learns how to build and program a robot. 

Visit the Calhoun County 4-H website.

Continue the Calhoun County 4-H history and share your comments below. To make a donation to the Calhoun County Endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation, click this button. Then select Calhoun County in the far right column (My 4-H County) and complete the gift information.

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Continue the Calhoun County 4-H history and share your comments below.


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