Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on October 7, 2013 at 2:10 PM by Global Reach

4-H began in Linn County in 1924 when the Farm Bureau sponsored the organization of two dairy calf clubs: a Guernsey Calf club and a Purebred Holstein Heifer Calf club. These clubs were open to any boy or girl who had a Holstein or Guernsey calf born that year. The members of these clubs showed their calves at the Marion Interstate Fair and the Waterloo Cattle Congress.


The goal of the 4-H clubs was stated in the Iowa Extension Report of 1924 as “teaching the boys and girls better methods of livestock production and developing leadership skills that will be of immense value to the agricultural industry of the future.”


In 1925 a boy’s judging team was organized from members of the two dairy calf clubs. A Baby Beef club and a Market Pig club were also organized. Members of the Market Pig Club could feed two pigs and show one. The members did not have to keep records for their pigs, but the pigs had to be kept separate from the farm herd after they had been weaned. The members of the market club were excused from school by the County Superintendent to go to the packing plant on the day the pig carcasses were placed and awards were made.


In 1926 five all girls’ House Furnishings Clubs were stared: the OWL club, the A2W2 club, the Nine G’s club, the Lucky Symbol club and the B Natural club. These clubs met regularly, had officers, and conducted complete business meetings using parliamentary procedure. Members of the House Furnishings clubs raised money by candy sales, bake sales and ice cream socials.


Each year, a committee called the Linn County Club Committee chose projects and prepared a program for the Home Furnishing’s club members to work on throughout the year. The projects were specific for a particular theme, such as nutrition or home improvement. Club members prepared exhibits and were trained to be on demonstration teams. Demonstration teams and club exhibits completed at the Marion Interstate Fair to determine who would represent Linn County at the State Fair in Des Moines.


The girls’ clubs also participated in “Music Memory” contests. In preparation for a music contest the girls were given 25 music selections to memorize. On the day of the contest, 15 of the 25 selections were chosen and the girls were asked to identify the name of the music selection and the name of the composer.   The goal of the club committee in holding Music Memory contests was to bring music to the community and teach appreciation of good music.


Another interesting activity the girls’ clubs participated in was the “Health” game. The girls were examined by a doctor who gave them points for how healthy they were. The girl who scored the highest number of points was the winner of the game and represented Linn County at the State Fair.  The girls were each given a sheet by the doctor who examined them; listing “correctable defects” which they were to work on during upcoming year to hopefully increase their score for the next year.


1926 was the final year of the first Holstein and Guernsey Calf clubs. These clubs were started again every three years with new calves (and possibly new members). A Purebred Shorthorn Heifer Club was also organized in 1926.


In 1928, Linn County had a total of sixteen Home Furnishings clubs. These club leaders attended “training schools” which taught them about a variety of topics i.e. furniture refinishing and food preservation. Club leaders also attended leader train meetings almost every month.


The Linn County Farm Bureau began sponsoring county achievement days which were held in mid to late August. “Achievement Day” was an opportunity for the club members to show projects they had worked on throughout the year by their exhibits, demonstrations, and style revue. Appreciation days were often held as part of the All Iowa Fair in Cedar Rapids. 1958 was the first year there was a special fair booth for state fair exhibits. The county officers set up the state fair exhibit booth and it was so well received that it continues to be done at the Linn County Fair in Central City to the present day.


There were 460 girls and 434 boys in Linn County 4-H clubs in 1959-60. It was in the early 70’s that Linn County Extension decided to unify their boys’ and girls’ clubs into one program. The boys and girls continued with their separate clubs until the late 1970’s, even when many of these clubs were asked to change their names so that both boys and girls would feel welcome to join. Many clubs reorganized and became co-ed so members could work on projects in any of the areas offered by the 4-H program. Members could choose to carry projects in livestock, home economics, science and agriculture or creative visual arts. New projects such as photography and dogs became very popular.


At some point in the 1960’s the All Iowa Fair and Linn County 4-H parted ways and 4-H moved to the fairgrounds in Central City. This fairgrounds was the site of the first Agricultural Fair in Linn County in 1888. In 1988 Linn County 4-H participated in the 100th Anniversary of the Linn County Fair.


Throughout the decades of 1970 and 1980, Extension annually provided a number of presentation topics in outline form with suggested activities to help clubs organize their club program. During this time, members were encouraged to compete in a presentation contest with the winning presentations going on to State Fair. Other events where 4-H’ers could be chosen to represent Linn County at the State Fair included Fashion Review and Clothing Selection.


Linn County 4-H volunteers reorganized also, and in addition to club leaders, many committees were formed to support specific projects. Each committee was asked to present workshops during the year to help members learn more about their topic of interest and since Achievement Shows were discontinued in the 1980’s the project committees often helped members to be sure their exhibit was ready for County Fair.


Linn County has had a strong Youth Council since the 1970’s. This group of older 4-H members provides leadership for many activities throughout the year. With the support of adult advisors, they began a pie auction in 2000. The proceeds are awarded annually to a graduating 4-H member. The 4-H Council members helped with camps and organized an annual Easter egg hunt held in Central City and support other community causes.


Since the early 1970’s Linn County has had a strong non-traditional 4-H program , as urban youth were welcome and encouraged to join 4-H clubs. The county also recognized that there were many youth who could benefit from 4-H. Using progam assistants, education could be delivered directly in school classrooms. This method of offering 4-H was called School Enrichment. Through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), thousands of young people learned about eating healthy. Other topics taught in the schools included “On My Own & Ok”, a series of lessons which helped youth who were home alone after school.


As resources became available, a number of science topics were added – “Toys in Space”, “Bridges”, and “DNA” kits were supported by staff and available to teachers. In 2007 Linn County 4-H was recognized for work educating young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) efforts when Governor Chet Culver visited and spoke to youth at a summer “Engineering is Elementary “ camp.


In 2008 during a “500 year flood” in Linn County partnerships with several after school partners allowed Extension to became a deposit site for school age materials and donations nation –wide. Over $10,000 of materials and cash were donated to groups like Waypoint, Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. Waypoint said, “Your materials helped us get back to serving kids a month quicker.” Extension youth specialists also worked with an author to distribute 400 copies of the book, “The flood that Came to Grandma’s House.”


From 2009-2012, 4-H offered a new experience for youth at Johnson School by securing a grant to provide after-school opportunities in a program called S.T.A.R.S;   annually 55-65  children experienced 4-H through this program. At the completion of the grant, the school had been removed from the SINA list in the area of math. The grant was for $637,500.


From 2009-2012 youth in Linn County and surrounding areas learned about Service Learning through the 4-H program. Over 700 youth participated annually in youth designed service projects. Marion High School – one of the pilot groups, continues to self fund their school wide day of service – raising over $6000 annually through grants and donations. Over 30 students participate in the year round planning for the “One Day in May” event – where 500 students engage in a day of service throughout Linn County.


In 2005 there were twenty-two 4-H clubs in Linn County with 427 members (172 boys and 255 girls) enrolled in the 4-H program There were sixty-four volunteer club leaders working with Linn County 4-Hers.   In 2012 there were 16 clubs with 423 youth enrolled and 173 adult volunteers. 3,400 youth participated in other types of 4-H activities.  Every July, 4-H members show a wide variety of exhibits and presentations at the Linn County Fair in Central City, IA. The 2013 Fair was cancelled – but 4-H events were relocated to the Delaware County Fair Grounds.

child holding prize ribbon
girl looking at fish in fishbowl

Sources of information: Iowa Extension Reports 1924-1983


Written by Jill Moorman, Linn County 4-H’er

Amended in 2012 by Linda Bigley, retired Extension Director



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