Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on September 28, 2012 at 10:02 AM by Global Reach

What we know as 4-H today, first started in Lyon County in 1920.  The first clubs began around Inwood.  Below is the first report kept from 1920.
“Junior Club Work.  The interest in a pig club seemed to be of most interest to the boys and girls in the spring of the year and it was one which the County Agent thought could be carried out most satisfactory.
The enrollments were secured by the county agent and township presidents in the Farm Bureau.  Circular letters regarding this work were sent out by the Farm Bureau office and personal visits were made at the young folk’s home.
A baby beef club is being organized at the present time.  The county agent has received some assistance from the Iowa Beef Producers Association.  The County Fair Association, the banks of the county and the Farm Bureau are financing prize money as part of the work.
The thing most important to be accomplished in club work is to get the parents to see the worth of it and to provide good premium money and pay expenses of those entering the work when they are asked to exhibit at fairs.The pigs were those taken from the father’s farm herd and were not sold at the fair.”
November 1920, The Farm Bureau announced the beginning of a baby beef club.  Printed below is that announcement from the Inwood Herald on Thursday, November 18, 1920.
“The Lyon County Farm Bureau, the banks of the county and the County Fair Association are organizing a baby beef club that promises to be a real success.  The folks that will make up this club are the boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 19.  Already forty-five have indicated their desire to enroll.
The opportunity for such a work has never been brighter.  The business of feeding baby beeves will likely be a profitable one next year and the prizes that are being offered the young folks are enough to cause everyone that possibly can, to take advantage of entering the work.
The County Fair Association has promised at least $75.00 in premium money.  Ten banks of the county have said that they will pay all expenses of ten boys and girls that complete the work and wish to show their calves at the Interstate Fair in Sioux City.  No doubt the remainder of the banks in the county will do likewise.  This means that at least 17 members of the club will get a free trip to the Interstate Fair next fall.
The members of the club winning first place in the county will receive a free trip to the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago.  This trip is to be paid for by the Swift Packing Company.  It is quite possible that other premiums will be given and some expenses of showing at the county fair paid by the Lyon County Farm Bureau.
This baby beef feeding contest is valuable work from the view points of making a profit in the feeding work, winning prize money, teaching boys and girls how to feed, care for and show livestock, and will develop a greater interest in the farming business.  The support of parents having boys and girls eligible for this work is earnestly solicited.
Any farmers of the county who have well bred thrifty calves that they would be willing to sell to young folks wishing to enroll in this club are requested to notify the County Agent immediately.”  
The fair results for the first Lyon County Baby Beef Contest were printed on November 3, 1921 in the Inwood Herald as follows:
“The First Lyon County Baby Beef Feeding Contest carried out under direction of the Lyon County Farm Bureau was a decided success.
The following boys and girls completed the work and exhibited the calves they fed in the contest, at the Lyon County and Interstate Fairs.
Floyd Hohman, the winner in the county Feeding Contest will attend the International Live Stock Exposition to be held in Chicago the first week in December.  Swift & Company will pay $39.00 toward Floyd’s expenses in attending the exposition and any remaining amount of expense will be paid by the Lyon County Farm Bureau.
Ruth McMillian of Rock Rapids who won second place in the feeding contest will attend the International Live Stock Exposition also and her expenses will be paid by the Lyon County Farm Bureau.
Lyon County can well be proud of the work these young people are doing and the interest Swift and Company and various other organizations are showing is to be highly commended.
The total amount of prize money that has been won by Lyon County boys and girls this year amounts to $150.00 besides the free trips that all received to the Interstate Fair and free trips to the International Live Stock Exposition at Chicago.
The Baby Beef Feeding work is open to all boys and girls in Lyon County between the ages of 10 and 19 years.  The calves that may be fed must be dropped after January first, 1921, and may be pure breds, grades, or cross breds.
We already have several enrollments this fall.  Those who wish to enroll in the Baby Beef Club should write County Agent Shepard, before December 1st.
The Farm Bureau organization will assist in locating calves for feeding purposes.  This is a beneficial and worth-while work and should demand the attention of all farmers who have children eligible for enrollment.”
A story is recorded from Milo Lee who attended his 4-H meetings in 1921 when he was 18 years old.  Milo’s club was called the Baby Beeves.  It had approximately 15 members.  When they held their meetings, the whole family attended.  The boys put on skits and plays for entertainment.  Then everyone would have lunch.  It was a fun meeting for the whole family.  The fairs, state and county level, were the goal for each student.
 In 1927, Milo and nine other boys from the Lyon County Baby Beef Club, captured first prize at the Iowa State Fair.  An article in the paper states that, "a glance at the pictures of these animals is enough to convince that they are high grade animals that have been well taken care of, but when it is realized that they took first place in competition with 15 other groups, one knows they must be true champions.  These animals probably will be exhibited at the Interstate Fair at Sioux City."
Milo and his baby beef did.  Duke, the name of his calf, weighed 584 pounds on December 1, 1921, and on July 31, 1922 it weighed 1,094 lbs., an average daily gain of a little over 2 lbs.  Milo Lee and Le Roy Holland boarded a train to Sioux City, with 2 bums also in their car.  Once they arrived at the fair, after cleaning and readying their animal, the boys alone, discovered the sight and sounds of the fair.  They slept outside in tents, or under the stars in their sleeping bag.  A lot of responsibility laid upon your shoulders.  Milo said it was a very exciting time. 
The schools in Lyon County were also involved in the boys and girls clubs.  The boys joined either the baby beef Club or the pig club.  The girls joined the sewing club.
During the 1960’s, 4-H clubs were started according to townships.  The girls club was organized so that all the girls would take sewing one year and then food and nutrition the next.
The first joint boys and girls county 4-H rally was held in 1960 with a presentation of the better groomed girls and boys in the appropriate dress. 
Membership in Lyon County 4-H clubs increased by 100 during the year 1971.  Six new clubs were also started that brought the total number of 4-H’ers in Lyon County to 400.  This is the largest number of 4-H’ers on record in Lyon County.  Mrs. Marilyn Kirk, county 4-H extension aide, attributed the growth to several reasons – lowering 4-H enrollment age to 9 years, use of “teen teams” in contacting grade school classes, introduction of 4-H programs designed for separate age groups, and “aggressive enrollment efforts in extension areas”.
There have been many changes in Lyon County 4-H since the 1970’s.  Most clubs are no longer segregated as boys or girls clubs.  The number of clubs has dropped along with the total enrollment.  Enrollment from the first few years of 2010 has averaged around 220 members among 10 clubs.  Many more project areas have been added.  Youth can chose from 32 different areas with the favorites being photography, visual arts, beef and food & nutrition. 
The Lyon County Fair Board plays an important role in the 4-H program.  Nearly 90% of the county 4-H’ers exhibit at the fair each year.  The fair board receives donations from county sponsors and distributes around $8,000 in premiums annually.  In addition, the county pork and beef producers pay incentives totaling $4,000 to swine and beef exhibitors each year.
Citizenship, communication skills, and leadership are some of the important skills currently taught to 4-H’ers.  All clubs are very active in community service work with many receiving grants to paint, restore, or landscape parks or historic areas in the community.  Health and nutrition are also important subject areas. 
The Clover Kids program was started in 1997 in the school districts in Lyon County.  Clover Kids is an after school program for second and third graders in hopes of recruiting them into 4-H.  In 2012, we were successful in having a program in each of the four public schools.

Lyon County 4-H has nearly a century of history in the area.  It has been and will continue to be an important factor in “Making the Best Better” in the lives of youth in Lyon County. 

Visit the Lyon County 4-H website.
Continue the Lyon County, Iowa 4-H history by sharing your comments below.


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