Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 8, 2017 at 6:25 AM by Emily Saveraid

In April 1921 4-H was organized in Benton County through the efforts of the Home Demonstration Agent, Cecile Manikowski. ·

Actually it started in 1920 when Mrs. Maud Inman of Eden Township organized a Girls club called the Sewing Circle. Miss Grace Sparks, Home Demonstration Agent at the time was interested in organizing this group as a 4-H club. She contacted Extension Office at Ames for an application and it took years before they became organized and received materials form the Extension Office.

In 1924 under the supervision of the Benton County Farm Bureau, a Women's Committee was organized and with the help of the Home Demonstration Agent, fourteen girls clubs were organized. They were bread and clothing clubs. The first townships were: Benton1 Big Grove, Bruce., Cedar, Eden, Eldorado, Fremont, Kane, Jackson, Polk, Iowa, Taylor, and Canton. There were 170 members. Some events planned were Rally Day, Parades, educational booth at the county fair and demonstration team contest. The first training schools were held for clothing, bread, demonstrations, organization, and how to do an exhibit.

1924 the first girls' 4-H committee was organized. Also in June, a county camp for 3 days was held at Shaw's Grove, nine miles southwest of Vinton with150 girls attending. They slept in tents, prepared their own food, studied health, music and many other activities.

The first public exhibits were to be shown August 18, 1924. Each township clothing club was to put an exhibit, but because of a terrible rainstorm making the county roads impassable, only 6 clubs were able to bring their displays.

A county health contest was held. Each club sent three members to represent them as to which ones were nearest to perfect health according to Dr. Wood's height and weight charts. They believed "Health is Wealth.  It was found 43% of the girls examined had goiter and enlarged thyroid: Doctors in the county examined the girls.

An "All Around Club Girl" contest was also held. First place winner won a trip to International in Chicago. Second place winner went to Short Course in December. This was done to encourage year round 4-H, as most clubs stopped with the start of the school year.

In 1925 boys' 4-H clubs were organized. They were baby beef clubs. The calves were shown at the county fair. The average price received for calves sold was 15 cents per pound. The average gain per day was 2 pounds and average cost per pound of gain was 16 cents.

In 1929 with volunteer help, a bunk house for forty boys was built on the fair grounds. Each boy had to furnish his own straw tick for his bunk. The enrollment of both clubs was up to 200. Also, this year the first county girls officers was organized. The election was held at Rally Day.

Five new clubs were organized in 1930 bringing the total to eleven clubs. By1933 there were twelve clubs. This was also the year election was held for county boys' officers and a health contest for boys.

In 1934, Farm Bureau decided to really get behind the 4-H program. With their help1 volunteer leaders were found and their goal was to have a club for every township. Forty clubs were organized by the end of the year. The enrollment was increased by 277%. A county band was organized and played even at State Fair. The record books and personal expense books were stressed as projects. Music appreciation and health were important projects during the 30's years. The Bohemian Girl Opera was extensively studied one year.

By 19401 there were 14 girls' clubs with 228 girls and 13 boy's clubs with 151 members. The baby beef project was still very strong. Canton Township had a Rat Extermination project. They conducted a survey to see how many rats were in the township. The results 122 rats per farm and there was 30 cents rat damage per farm each year.

In 1950 a new club was organized at the State School for the blind. They had 24 members. The state furnished the funds for their projects. The Home Grounds Improvement project earned them $50.00 for planting trees, reseeding1 etc. Outstanding 4-H'ers and leaders were given the Chicago Trip Award over Thanksgiving to the International Livestock Show. There were 17 girls' clubs with 288 members.

In 1959, Benton County was one of the few counties in the state selected for a change in the junior program. The 10 and 11 year old were to be called Clovers. Special awards were also given during the year for Better Groomed Girl, Style Revue, and best record book.

In 1960, because of the large enrollment in some clubs, groups were splitting into more than one club. There were 22 boys clubs with 387 members and 23 girls clubs with 385 members. Many new projects were added including the carcass classes at fair. Much emphasis was put on judging teams.

By 1965, there were 853 members. The 4-H clubs helped with the Farm Progress show. Benton's Best was organized. Each could send 10% of their membership. They were to be senior outstanding members. The first joint banquet was held. Also the first 4-H project training school was held. A Benton County 4-H camp was held at Madrid (State Camping grounds). A special 4-H club week edition was published in the Cedar Valley Times in October. Pictures of all the clubs were taken and in this edition.

In 1966 more joint activities and changes occurred. There was the joint 4-H Committee of 6 women and 6 men1 joint boys and girls banquet, and joint Rally Night. However 4 boys and 4 girls were elected as county officers.

In 1970, nine year-old1s were allowed to join 4-H. Town children were also encouraged to belong. This was the year of the exchange of 4-Hers with Canada. Our 4-Hers were there for a week. Then the next year, 4-H'ers from Canada came here.

In 1975, there were 753 club members in 42 clubs. The Rally Night voting for county officers was changed. Each member voted for one boy and one girl. The eight with the highest votes were elected, and now called County Council. Summer camping program was very strong. It included Day Camp for Juniors, overnight Camp for lntermediates1 Senior Camp at Madrid and State Junior and Senior Camp at Madrid.

Exchange trips were held for several years "- Chicago1 Pennsylvania, Ohio, and several others.

In 1982 in accordance with the Civil Rights Act, the 4-H clubs had to change to non-sexist names. Also, they are called home economics and agricultural clubs. In 1987 there were 381 4-H1ers enrolled in 33 clubs. There is a choice of 99 enrollment areas covering a wide variety of projects. There are 68 volunteer leaders. This is the first year for no major emphasis for the home economics clubs. In the past, clothing, home improvement, and Food and Nutrition were rotated over a three year period. Activities include Rally Night, Share-the-Fun Presentations, Fashion Revue, Clothing Selection, County Fair, State 4-H Conference, and Awards Night. A Booster Club helps to finance special events.

Many changes have occurred over the years, but 4-H is still strong in Benton County. What program builds leadership and character as does this one! The 4-H motto is "To Make The Best Better."

Written by Betty Olson & Judy Hertle

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