Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 8, 2017 at 6:57 AM by Emily Saveraid

Boys’ 4-H club work first began in 1919, but was then dropped for several years and then started again.  Girls’ 4-H club work began in 1925 with the organization of 11 local clubs that were primarily clothing clubs.  The purpose of the club was to develop 4-square girls; this means the education of head, hand, heart and health.  The boys’ clubs in 1925 included 1 dairy calf club, a market pig club and a baby beef club.  The dairy calf club was considered the “most practical and necessary” for boys’ clubs. 

In 1926, nutrition was added to the girls’ clubs.  There were 59 groups organized and 800 persons taking part.  Girls’ clubs were continuously expressed in high regards in the county records.  “It is developing the ideal type of leadership through its activities, which are worth more than dollars and cents to the community now and in years to come.  The girl as an individual develops a well-rounded life, in that she learns better home economics, how to become robust and healthy, better types of recreation, and creates an appreciation of good music” (Winnebago County Annual Report, 1926). 

The first county Club Show was held in 1927 where 24 animals and 200 articles of home furnishings were exhibited.  There were 2,000 persons attending.  At this time and for years to follow, the market pig club is one of the strongest boys’ clubs.  “This club appeals to the average boy more than others, in that it makes possible a quick turn-over in cash and should be continued for that reason” (Winnebago County Annual Report, 1927).

Winnebago County celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1930.  The 4-H clubs took part in the parade celebrating Winnebago County, which had 13 floats.  30,000 people attended the celebration.

 In 1935, the attendance at the fair was said to be very disappointing because the season was late and farmers were still threshing.  Girls’ club work slumped during the depression due to the financial cost of being a leader.  The one big difficulty in girls’ club work was in the securing of leaders.

The first mention of a 4-H membership campaign was conducted in October 1944.  The Assistant Home Economist made a personal visit to all 29 rural schools, where she gave talks on 4-H work.  About 1,700 letters explaining the merits of 4-H work were sent to farm homes and local papers were generous in giving space to 4-H publicity.  The following year the Extension Director went around giving talks, reaching 1,078 students.

The Winnebago Junior Show was organized in 1947 and $7,200 was raised by contributions for a show building.  In 1949, one of the largest 4-H banquets up to that time was held in Forest City.  There were currently 12 boys’ clubs and 11 girls’ clubs for the 12 townships.  The annual 4-H banquet is the first large event of the club year, although it is more related to the previous year with the presentation of awards for outstanding work.

Typical fair classes for the girls’ clubs included: handmade rug, window curtains, dresser scarf, decorative pillow cover, bedspread or coverlet, reclaimed picture frame with picture, book cover or portfolio, club scrapbook, garden flowers in basket or vase, wild flower bouquet, home furnishing record book, and personal account book.

In 1949, Dorothy Haltan, member of the Mt. Valley Merry Maids club, sang the Four Leaf Clover song at the opening session of the state 4-H girls’ convention in Ames.  Dorothy was selected from among a group of soloists who tried out for this honor.  She also sang “America the Beautiful”, accompanied by the entire group.

Beginning talks and planning of building a swine barn on the Jr. Show grounds started in 1950.  Then in 1955 a livestock building for exhibits and a show ring were built.  Development was also taking place at the Iowa 4-H Camping Center.  The 1951 program called for the counties to raise funds through a county wide canvas for funds.  The boys’ and girls’ 4-H Club Committees met and set a goal of $1,000 to be raised.  A membership drive was coordinated with the fundraising campaign.  A livestock building for exhibit and a show ring was built in 1955.

The 4-H Leaders Recognition Day was the first of its kind in 1951, sponsored to recognize the work done by the many 4-H leaders of the local clubs in the counties of Iowa.  Four 4-H leaders and the extension director from Winnebago County attended.  Those attending were Archie Gullord, Alvin Senne, Mrs. Russell Sime, and Mrs. Carroll Taylor. 

Record books have always been a part of the 4-H program, but 1957 was the first year that there was record book judging.  In 1958 Winnebago County was host to an International Farm Youth Exchange student for three weeks.  Evangelos Sfakiotakis stayed at the Leroy Thompson farm in Newton township.  In following years there were numerous other exchange students.  The first 4-H newsletter was sent out in 1960 to “keep parents better informed about the overall 4-H club program and perhaps to increase interest and participation in 4-H club activities”.

A senior 4-H club program was formed in 1962 for interested youth 15 or older.  The first year the meetings revolved around the theme of personal improvement.  This senior 4-H club was called the Hi-4-H’ers. 

Beginning in 1972 all 4-H enrollments were computerized.  Automatic data processing was initiated to more effectively handle member material distribution and to acquire project lists earlier in the program year.

In 1973, the 4-H and Youth Leader was hired for both Hancock and Winnebago counties.  Many of the club activities were held by county but some of the activities were brought together.  They separated then again in 1992, with each county hiring their own program assistant.  The Clover Kids program was started in 1979 for children below the traditional 4-H age and would meet on a special interest basis.

It is interesting to note that every year there is a summary of the program and areas of improvement.  Many of the areas they suggest needing improvement still holds true today: 4-H club record books, parental co-operation (“limited parental assistance available to leaders in helping with club and county wide events”), and decreasing enrollments.

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