Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 10, 2017 at 4:49 PM by Emily Saveraid

The early work with club programs is not documented but it is thought to have started around 1919 in Tama County. By 1924-25 it was looked upon as one of the best pieces of work sponsored by farm bureau and extension because it was developing boys and girls of club age to become community leaders. Tama County, in its humble way, was trying to develop leaders so that when they took the place of the farmers they would be leaders in agriculture. The clubs which were being conducted in Tama County were Baby Beef Club, and Purebred Beef Heifer Club, Frank Maiden and Wm. Joens Leaders; Purebred Dairy Heifer Club, Dr. C.G. Moore and R. C. Wood Leaders; Purebred Sow & Litter Club, M.C. Jensen, Henry Zobel, R.L. Pemberton and T. V. Gunder Leaders; Poultry Club, D. H. Hyland, R.G. Stoakes. H Hartshorn, Lester Mericle and John Currens Leaders and the Clothing Club. There were a total of 5 in dairy club, 21 in the beef clubs, 44 in swine club and 33 in poultry club.

In 1925, there were only two girls clubs (clothing clubs) with a membership of 22 youth and were under the leadership of Margaret Mitchell of Reinbeck and Mrs. Lebert Morrison of Traer. One of these was the Arnquist Pioneers, which was the first girls club in the county, organized by Miss Josephine Arnquist, then State 4-H Club Leader. In 1927, another club was added at the Indian Settlement. The fourth club was added in 1928, the Geneseo Live Wires. These clubs, the Willing Workers, Arnquist Pioneers, Geneseo Live Wires and the Indian Settlement club had the first exhibits at the Tama County Fair. They gave 4 demonstrations: bias tape, care of clothing, work boxes and seams. The groups also presented songs to the people attending fair on Farm Bureau Day.

By 1929, seven new girls clubs were organized: Crystal Sunbeams, Toledo Go –Getters, Highland Happy Maids, Peppy Traerites, Clark Busy Bees, Howard Helping Hands and Columbia Gems. Twelve girls attended State Girls convention at Ames. During the year, two 4-H club camps were held a Conant’s Cabin.. The first county 4-H girls Club officers were elected.

President-Dorothea Sounderes

Vice President-Myrtle Mathern

Secretary-Gertrude Frey

Treasurer- Edith Mitchell

Girls Club Camp Conant’s Park

Mary Frances Star was re-elected county queen with Jean Dinsdale as attendant. Home Furnishing was the project area for the year. At the close of the year a new club was add the Clever Carltoneers.

In 1930, Buckingham Beacons, Lincoln Sunbeams, Bakke Yorkites, Meramaids, Jolly Juniors, Jolly Sunbeams girls clubs were added. During the year memory, health and music contests were held. The first achievement day was held in Traer at the library and Taylor Park. Ruth Stokes was judged best all-around 4-H club girl of the year and attend the National Club Show in Chicago.

The number of clubs grew during the period from 1931-1936 to seventeen girls clubs. Rally days were held each year with pageants and dancing. Top all around 4-H club girls were selected and as well as longtime record keepers. Canning, home furnishing, health, and music projects were studied. By 1938 there were 152 girls enrolled in the program. A rural riddles contest was sponsored by the Galloway Manufacturing Company of Waterloo and it was won by a Tama County team consisting of Esther Dahms, Betty Winders, Mildred Crane and Esther Lorenz.

Rev. A. E. Coe, Dysart, demonstrates tying basic farm knots at 4-H County Camp.

Boys club participation also grew quickly. By 1937, there were 18 boys clubs with sheep, colt, corn and potato clubs being added. Boys attended short course classes on livestock. Chas Dusek was awarded a trip to National Club Congress held at the International Livestock Show in Chicago.

Potato Club project yields 300 bushel per acre.

Many 4-H activities were cancelled during the war years of the 40’s. 4-H club work continued without county events always being held. By 1948, 426 boys and girls were in 4-H clubs. There were 29 clubs covering 19 townships in the county. The boys and girls club programs were closely integrated and they sponsored events like “Seeds for Europe” campaign. They collected funds and purchased family size packages from seed companies to be sent to Europe. Garden and canning workshops were very popular during the war years.

Girls State President Ruth Streicher speaking to 1946 Tama County 4-H Banquet attendees.

In 1948, we started to see closer integration with boys and girls 4-H programs. They began working together on county wide events. Rally Day programs were done jointly and even though boys and girls clubs elected officers, they were installed at a joint installation ceremony.

4H Jersey heifer calves at 4-H Achievement Show


4-H Club Leaders building panel for Rural Electric Project, Asst. Director Ward Repp

Lots of things were happening on the 4-H scene in 1949 and early 1950. Durward Lyon of Toledo was selected for the International Farm Youth Exchange; he was commissioned by George V. Allen, Undersecretary of State, as “a grass roots diplomat.” Durward traveled to Finland to study agriculture. Tama County, with the help of civic groups, made an attempt to get the new state 4-H camp located in Tama County. The committee worked with the chamber of commerce in the Tama County towns because they felt they could fulfill all of the qualifications for the state 4-H camp. It required a wooded area of 200-400 acres with some level ground and it needed to be near a body of water. Although they were not chosen as the site for the 4-H camp, it brought many civic groups and community leaders together.

Lillie Diedrichsen presented a table and lamp for serving over 20 years as a leader and on committee.

It was decided around 1952 to look into developing a permanent place to hold the county fair. The fair had been held in different towns using whatever facilities were available including the Traer Sale Barn, local schools and churches. The girls and boys 4-H committee started working on finding and funding a permanent site. Clubs began raising funds through scrap drives, bake sales, paper drives and ice cream socials. Voluntary contributions were encouraged by the Extension office. Dances were held with all funds going to a building fund. In 1955, 13.5 acres of land was purchased in Gladbrook for permanent fairgrounds. Four livestock buildings, 120 x 26 feet with loading docks were built, complete with tile, waterlines and wiring. Many 4-H dads volunteered the labor. Two more livestock buildings and girl’s exhibit hall were built in 1958 again with lots of money collected and raised by 4-H members.

Club numbers were at an all time high at approximately 500 members in 28 4-H clubs during the mid-1950’s. G. Gress Rogers was very instrumental in getting so much accomplished in the fifties. Mina Olin, home economist also did a great deal of work with 4-H. You might say 4-H was booming in the 50’s.

Gary Minish, Tama County Fair Grand Champion Beef, Iowa State Fair Grand Champion and American Royal Grand Champion

Early sixties saw more buildings being added to the fairgrounds with the help of 4-H families and volunteers. More project areas were being added to the program and 4-H clubs continued to thrive. In 1971, 4-H families began receiving a monthly newsletter, “Tama County Bridges,” to help families stay informed.

During the seventies, the program focused on project areas with project leaders. The effort was being made to include more city and town youth in the program. 4-H Community Resource Development included the opening of a youth center with ping pong, juke box, records, tournaments and recreational activities. 4-H was partnering with church and service groups county wide. Youth worked on projects that bettered their communities including building picnic tables and benches in parks.

Traditional 4-H clubs continued into the 80’s with an emphasis on gaining new members and leaders. The farm crisis of the 80’s had an impact on agriculture. The county saw small farms begin to disappear and that affected 4-H numbers. Project work could be done in almost area. School enrichment, camping, childcare training, field trips and farm safety were coming into focus.

Through the years there have been many changes in Extension and 4-H, but 4-H has a strong heritage in Tama County. Early clubs focused on food production and home economics, but continued to change to meet the needs of youth. Meaningful educational experiences and activities are still developing our youth into productive citizens. 4-H continues to offer new opportunities through clover kids, shooting sports and robotics.

4-H Fun Night Photo Tama County Fair 2007

4-H is an integral part of Extension work in Tama County with nearly 300 club members in 2009 - still learning by doing and becoming leaders in their communities. Thanks to all the volunteers throughout the years, who have given their time and talents to assist our young people in becoming capable, competent and caring citizens.

County Ag Agents/Program Directors

1926-1934    Z. R. Mills County Agent

1934-1949    Burns M Byram County Agent,   1945-46 John Melvin Shanda Co. Agent

1949-1972    G. Gress Rogers County Agent, 1959-1962 Don Gee Co. Ext. Asst.

                                                                         1965-1966 Jon Rittgers Co. Ext. Asst.

                                                                         1966-67 Maureen Sutton, Co. Ext. Asst.

1973-1984    Richard Pulse, County Agent

1984-1989    David J Quinlan, County Education Director

1990--1994   Lorine Matters, County Education Director

1994-1997    Will Lester, County Education Director

1997-2006    Ann Smith, County Education Director

2007-2015    Franklin D. Albertsen Program Director 

2015               Kellie A. Carolan, Executive Director


Extension 4-H and Youth Leaders

1929-1930    R.W. Ashby Club Agent

1937-1940    Tom N. Scott Club Agent

1940-1941    Hermon Cropsey and Merritt Canady, Club Agents

1943   1944   Wm. G. Zmolek Extension Associate to Youth

19944-1945  George Boehnke, Extension Associate to Youth

1951-1953    Stanley Stover and Gaylord Elliott Youth Assistants

1962-1965    Dick McMullin, County Extension Assistant

1966-1967    Jon Rittgers and Maureen Sutton Extension Assistants

1971-1976    Karla Henderson, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

                        Martha Tushaus Extension 4-H and Youth Direct Coordinator

1976-1978    Martha Tushaus Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

1978-1981    Katie McCarville, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

1981-1985    George Kadrmas, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

1985-1990    Denise Schroeder Schwab, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

1990-1991    Nancy Allen, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

                        Tim Laughlin, Half time 4-H Program Asst. School Enrichment

1991-1992    Tim Laughlin, Extension 4-H and Youth Leader

1992-2009    Jackie Skala, 4-H Program Assistant/ County Youth Coordinator

2009-2014    Darla Thiessen, County Youth Coordinator

2015               Jennifer Hulme, County Youth Coordinator


Home Demonstration Agents and Extension Home Economist

1930-1932    Faye Blakeley

1932-1935    Jennie Nelson

1935-1938    Edith Moss Huffman

1943-             Doris Richards

1946-1951    Ruth Naylor and Mina Olin

1952-1970    Mina Olin

1971-1990    Lorine Matters

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