Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on January 9, 2013 at 1:33 PM by Global Reach

The history of 4-H in West Pottawattamie goes back to 1918.  The beginnings were a little rocky considering that as “4-H work” was growing in the schools, hiring a 4-H club agent in West Pott. county was turned down by school directors. Encouraged by a state 4-H agent, the county turned around and in 1921 had several boy 4-H clubs. It was recommended that year that the boy clubs be confined to pigs and calves.

In late 1921, 100 girls joined 4-H clubs as a result of a special drive, and by the next year there were 220 girls enrolled in 17 clubs. Between 1922 and 1925, the calf project grew from nine calves to 33 calves. The fair attendance hit an all time record of 4,200.  In 1922 4-H club camp was held at Camp Brewster. The next year the camp was held in cooperation with the 9th district. Girls from the area could learn about journalism, crafting, home-making and participate in camp activities like tennis and swimming. Camp concluded with a tour of the Northwestern Bell Phone Company and an automobile tour through Omaha.  

In 1925, a 4-H goal was established to strengthen the nine existing clubs. From this goal, four new girl clubs were organized. Rockford was the only township with no girl clubs at that time. The late 1920’s saw changes such as pig and poultry clubs being formed and Lewis Township sent a girl to the first annual State 4-H Club Girls Convention at Iowa State. This delegate was also the first violinist in the first state 4-H club girls’ orchestra.

The 1930’s saw a decline in 4-H involvement, livestock numbers, and fair attendance. The county fair was inconveniently located in the NE corner of the county.  Attendance and participation were down because many boys were not able to afford the long distance travel. In 1935 hog participation plummeted. There were only 16 members with 32 hogs; many were not able to finish their hogs because there was a lack of food. The following year many of the hogs were born late. That (combined with a food scarcity in the summer) caused another poor showing at fair.

This did not deter the spirit of 4-H in West Pottawattamie County. In the late 1930’s the Silver Creek Chums was one of the largest clubs. Three new clubs were also formed. York Township formed a 4-H club along with the Neola Nimble Workers and the Jey Del Lynn (Crescent club).  

Focus of 4-H shifted in the 1940’s. Crop production (about 10,000) was almost halted due to the Missouri River flooding in 1943. A special effort was made to increase hog production. In 1944 a building was purchased by the county Farm Bureau to house the Extension Office for $10,500. The building was significant in that it was the first to provide a club room in the basement for youth meetings.  The late 1940’s saw the first IFYF (foreign youth exchange) come to West Pottawattamie County.  

In 1950, a special junior cattle feeder project was developed. This project required a member to enroll 3-5 calves and feed them on grass for a minimum of 60 days. Seven members enrolled in this first-time project and awards were based on profits per head and the cost per lb. gain. In 1951, the county boys and girls 4-H officers decided to construct and finance four large 4-H club signs to be set up on each of the main highways leading into the county. The signs read “West Pottawattamie County 4-H Clubs Welcome You”. The project was financed by contributions from each of the local clubs.

The swine show was not held at the county fair in 1952 due to the threat of Vesicular Exanthema. Judging was instead held on the individual farms. During 1952 two girls’ clubs were formed in Lake Township, one in the Iowana school district and one in the Woodland school district. During this time, the Frontier Fair Association lease for the fairgrounds with the park board was declared illegal making it necessary to start negotiations for drawing up a legal lease or locating other grounds for the fair in the future. The New Fair Association was organized and negotiated for the fairgrounds and changed the state law making it possible to hold a county fair and receive state aid, and to request assistance from the board of supervisors in future years. A legal lease was then drawn with the Park Board.

Other highlights of West Pottawattamie 4-H in the 1950’s included more clubs being formed: Garner Golden Kernels (1953), 3 M’s 4-H Club (1953), The Willing Workers (1954), The Hooverettes (1954) and The Lucky Loyal Lassies (1954). A women’s group, as a service to 4-H, took the food stand at the county fair to raise money. A new hog building was built by parents, leaders, and volunteers. A garden club (Let-tuce Hoe Club) was one of the first specialty clubs formed to target member who would like to learn about the gardening project. Volunteerism was rewarded at the first local leader recognition banquet. It was held in Underwood, Iowa with 114 leaders in attendance.  The cost of a ticket was $1.35. The local 4-H clubs bought the tickets for their leaders to thank them for their years of service.  

4-H in West Pottawattamie County was blossoming in the mid 1950’s. In 1955 the county fair was held at 42nd and Ave B.  The fair had the largest attendance ever. Four hundred people attended the annual 4-H boys and girls picnic that was held on the Iowa School for the Deaf Campus (current home of the West Pott. Extension Office). Over 600 people attended the annual 4-H awards night in Underwood. Membership in 4-H skyrocketed with 17 girls’ clubs with 232 members and 14 boys’ clubs with 255 members. A focus on the beef project was raised in the mid 1950’s. In 1956 the 4-H leaders selected a committee to purchase 4-H club calves.

Orders were taken for 26 calves with a limit of $25.00 per hundred. Visits were made in Nebraska at individual ranches and regularly scheduled 4-H Club Calf Sales. Heifers and Steers were purchased at prices ranging from $17.50 to $25.50. The calves were trucked to the County Fair grounds and the 4-H members were called in to draw for the number of calves that they ordered. An equal portion of the committee expense and trucking was applied to each calf and the members paid the purchase price plus this assessment. The drawing took place before the members saw the calves. After the continuing growth in the beef project, the Fair Association built a new livestock building to house up to 200 head of cattle.

By the 1960’s there were 34 4-H clubs in West Pottawattamie County with 261 boys and 380 girls enrolled. In 1964, a project basis for Junior Leadership was developed in the county. The objective was leadership training and experience. 1964 was also the first year 4-H girls participated in a Western Trip Exchange in Colorado. During 1965, Carter Lake requested organizing a club or 4-H clubs in their area. This idea was later rejected due to a lack of interest. In later years (1990’s) a boys and girls 4-H club was formed in Carter Lake.  

The apple pie auction netted $309.50 in 1965 and a new community service project working with the mentally disabled was developed. 4-H members who were 15 years or older and had two or more years of club work were allowed to work one on one with mentally disabled children.  

The 4-H dog project held 10 weekly training sessions for dog obedience classes in 1966. Twenty members participated in a tradition that is continued until this day. The beef project continued to grow and reached 512 animals by 1967. Three new girls’ clubs were formed. Community service was a focus with rest stops in Underwood, Treynor, and along Highway 6 being monitored by 4-H clubs during the Memorial Day weekend. In 1965 the queen contest began in West Pottawattamie.  

The 1970’s saw changes in West Pottawattamie 4-H. Some of these changes included boys being able to participate in the apple pie contest. The first year only two boys participated. By the second year, five boys gathered at Thomas Jefferson High School to make their pies. The gender barriers that once accompanied certain project areas were starting to dissolve. Clubs were also slowly becoming co ed. Special interest clubs were also being organized including woodworking, knitting, grooming, square dancing, and photography.  

At this time the fairgrounds were ready to be moved from Playland Park to it’s current home at Westfair on Highway 6.  More than 200 people walked, rode bikes, and rode horses to raise money. They had to walk 15 miles and raised money for each mile they traveled.  A total of $6550.00 was raised for two buildings at the new fairgrounds. 

The new fairgrounds were to be on an 84 acre site about two miles east of the Highway 6/Interstate 80 interchange. A “spoke-type” design was approved with the “spokes” of the wheel housing different exhibits.  

The move to the new fair site seemed to be the beginning of “new” 4-H in West Pottawattamie County. The 80’s and 90’s saw a renewed growth to the 4-H program. In 1996 eight clubs were recognized for 50 years or more of 4-H club work. Those clubs included the Crescent Innovators, Neola Busy Members, Silver Creek Club, Silver Keg Feeders, Hazel Dell Challengers, Minden Monarchs, Hardin Knights and the Hardin Work & Win. Other highlights included a llama club being started and a llama show being added.  While swine numbers steadily declined, poultry numbers grew to over 100 birds. 

In the mid 90’s a Clover Kids program was established in West Pottawattamie to target younger members. In 1997 members as young as Kindergarten were allowed to join 4-H. Today, in 2005, there are two Clover Kids’ Clubs and four other area clubs who have Clover Kid members.  

A scholarship program was started to aid West Pottawattamie 4-H members with college funds. The program originally gave $2000 to four members in West Pottawattamie County ($500 each)  It grew to awarding $8000 to 18 members in 2004. The apple pie auction also saw substantial growth from $309.50 only 40 years earlier to over $15,000 in 2004. A record number of members also baked pies.

While 4-H in West Pottawattamie County continues to grow, change, and reach milestones in the new millennium, the roots of the program remain unchanged  Leadership, mastery, and service are still the focus of 4-H in West Pottawattamie and will continue to be for years to come.

 Visit the West Pottawattamie County 4-H Website.

To make a donation to the West Pottawattamie County Endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation, click this button. Then select West Pottawattamie County in the far right column (My 4-H County) and complete the gift information.

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