Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 12, 2017 at 8:30 AM by Emily Saveraid


The 4-H program in Butler County has been expanding the lives of youth for 90 years.  It was first documented in 1925.  At that time, the Farm Bureau served as the local governing body for the County Extension Service.  They shared facilities and the Farm Bureau supplied 50% of the financial needs of the Extension program.

There weren’t township clubs like the present, but county-wide clubs for different projects.  Projects in the 1920’s were centered around skills necessary for daily living – canning, food and nutrition, home furnishings, dairy calf, baby beef, market pig and purebred gilt.

In the 1920’s, a system of volunteer leadership evolved and volunteers were recognized as essential to the success of 4-H.  The need arose to train these leaders.  The young people through their club work contributed to the war effort through food production and conservation.

Butler County had two state 4-H winners in the 1920’s, Helen Ressler in canning and Elmer Moore in livestock.  In 1923, the 4-H name and the symbol 0f the four-leaf clover became a symbol of identity.

In 1925, the types of clubs were; dairy calf, baby beef, purebred gilt, canning and poultry.  There were four canning clubs with a membership of 28 girls.  The first boys club was started in Kesley and the second was in New Hartford.

The first county club tour was held in 1926 with E. L. Quailfe from Extension.  The 4-H Pledge was also adopted.  The first Ralley Day was held June 3, 1926 at the courthouse in Allison and 75 girls and leaders participated.

In 1927 the Capper-Ketcham Act further developed the Extension system, specifically mentioning 4-H and the projects covered continued to grow.

Other events beginning in the 20’s were the annual boy’s short course in Ames, 4-H camps and the county-wide awards banquet.




By 1931 there were 18 township clubs with 168 members.  The Rainbow 4-H Club, began in 1926 under the leadership of Mrs. C. W. Austin, was named the champion 4-H club in Iowa at the 4-H Club Convention in Ames, receiving a $50 award from Wallace’s Farmer.

Also, beginning in 1931, the first county style show was held in Allison.  Angeline Bode was chosen to represent Butler County at the Iowa State Fair.

The first Butler County Youth Director, George P. Thornburn, was hired in March of 1934 and served until February 1935.  Willard Fee filled the position from May 1935 to January 1938.

A very large baby beef show at the fair in 1938 prompted a new baby beef barn to be built in 1939.  A new addition to the county fair in 1939 was a 4-H livestock judging contest.    


In the 1940’s, 4-H enrollment was down a little but clubs were active in doing their part for the war effort.  Boys’ clubs assisted in scrap metal and paper drives and bond selling campaigns.  Butler County was second in the state for selling bonds in January 1944 and third in February.  Girls’ clubs also did their part.

There was no County Youth Director in the 1940’s.  Newsletters to 4-H members and leaders first appeared in the 1940’s as a means of getting information directly to the 4-H’ers.

Health was important to the nation at this time and became the fourth “H”.  The county health champion in 1941 was Paul Nicklaus of Parkersburg.

A new requirement in beef was added in 1949 when all calves had to be weighed and ear marked for ID purposes.  All livestock exhibited at the fair were tested for TB and Bangs.                                                                                        

The boys club for East Butler was organized in 1944 making it the oldest club in Butler County.




The 1950’s saw a lot of changes and additions to the Butler County 4-H program.  There were four different County Youth Directors during this decade; Robert C. Johnson June 1950-September 1950; Ivan A. Wikner January 1954 – February 1955; Harry Duensing June 1955 – December 1955 and Norval Mosher March 1956 – March 1959.

All local boys’ clubs were required to conduct tours in June or July where members participated in judging workouts, discussed feeding and management and pointers were given on fitting and showing animals.

Girls were expected to keep a personal expense account which was then judged by the County Girls’ 4-H Committee.  Juniors kept the records for three months, intermediates and seniors for six months.

The County 4-H Committee decided to have 6 members serving two year terms.  There was a girls’ and a boys’ committee.

A majority of girls clubs first held a local achievement day with a judge to select exhibits eligible to go to county fair.  The style show continued and was held at Black’s Tea Room in Waterloo.

A state-wide fund drive was begun to build a State 4-H Camping Center in Madrid.  The state set a goal of raising $2,000.  557 acres were purchased for the Camping Center at a cost of $5 per acre.

Butler County began participating in three 4-H County Sports Festival and they won the softball championship for the next 6 years.

Butler County’s first state 4-H officer was Donna Roose of the Jefferson Livewires.  She was the state girls’ 4-H secretary in 1950.

Tents had been used as housing for cattle at the county fair until 1954 when 70 boys, dads and leaders helped construct a cattle barn.

A prestigious county award, the Chicago Trip, began in 1954 and continued for many years.  It was awarded to deserving senior members.

In 1954-55, there were 13 boys clubs with 215 members and 16 girls clubs with 202 for a total 4-H enrollment of 417 members.

4-H’s close association with Farm Bureau came to an end in the 1950’s when they were officially separated.

Sale prices for the 1955 animals were; beef $22.50 cwt, hogs $16.73 cwt, and sheep $20.48 cwt.

Policy was set in 1956 requiring all members to attend 50% of their meetings to be eligible to show at fair.

Due to a large attendance, the annual 4-H Awards Banquet was discontinued and was replaced with a 4-H Awards Night in 1958.

1959 was also the year that Fitting and Showing Demonstrations began.

Clubs beginning in the 1950’s included, Albion Dandy Dozen, Albion Go-Getters, Butler BB’s, Jackson Lucky Clovers, and Monroe Clever Clovers.




4-H club membership grew dramatically from an enrollment of 208 in 1935 to 483 in 1960.  More projects and activities became available and there was a change from emphasis on project to emphasis on member.

The early 60’s also saw 4-H boys and their dads volunteering to build a swine and sheep show ring at the fairgrounds.

New activities of the 60’s were summer exchange trips, the beginning of the Mother-Daughter Tea, and a joint boys and girls 4-H Rally Night.

County Youth Directors in the 60’s were: Varlyn D. Fink January 1960 – October 1960 and May 1961 – September 1961. Melvin Brown November 1960 – April 1961; C. Dean Johnson January 1962 – August 1966; Banks Doggett Jr. February 1967 – March 1967 and Kermit J. Hildahl July 1967 – May 1969.

Jane Voights was the State 4-H Canning Project Winner in 1963, the same year Terry Schrage was installed as state boy’s historian.

A change to the beef project area was weighing all market beef by January 1 and then reweighing them at the fair.

In 1969 a World’s Food Fair was held in which 17 girls clubs displayed foods typical of a county they had been assigned.  Between 450 and 500 attended the event.

Enrollment by 1969 was 306 girls and 257 boys for a total enrollment of 563.                                         

The Shell Rock Rockets 4-H Club was organized in 1962.


Service projects have been important to 4-H work.  In the 70’s the Jacksonettes girls’ 4-H club heard of the plight of the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  They collected 1500 pounds of clothing and delivered it.  A report of their efforts was published in the “National 4-H Magazine.”

Club displays at fair were no longer in booths but were replaced with shelves.  A dog show was also added in the 70’s.

A new event at the county fair in 1975 was a derby hog class designed to give equal emphasis upon live placing, rate of gain and carcass characteristics.  Ten 4-H’ers weighed in a total of 41 animals.

The 70’s also brought a change in the awards process; members now had to apply for their awards.

County Youth Directors in the 70’s were; Harold E. Wagner June 1969 – May 1973; Virgil Schmitt June 1973 – October 1976, Gail Friend Brandt March 1977 – January 1979 and Mary TeWinkel January 1979 – September 1980.

Conference judging was added to the county fair in 1975 and was very positively received by the people of Butler County.

Cultural exchanges were held through 4-H programs.  Felicia O. Luke from Barbados was a visitor in the Robert Bertram home and Darla Kneppe went to Japan.

Pam Jensen was named state Holstein winner and awarded a trip to 4-H Dairy Conference in Madison.  Other county winners to Dairy Conference were Barb Bolin and Marque Jensen.

Butler County 4-H clubs had the following community resource development projects:  clearing ditches and picking up debris, recycling aluminum cans, planting shrubbery at nursing homes, providing water-testing cards to all township residents encouraging them to test for nitrate residue.

“And my world” was added to the end of the 4-H Pledge in 1973.

The Butler County Extension moved their office to above the hardware store in Allison in December 1977.

Giving 4-H’ers a chance to show off their skills in selecting clothes, the 4-H Clothing Selection was begun in the late 70’s.  The first winner for Butler County was Deb Crawford.

The new arena at the fair was ready in 1978 and was finally paid off with proceeds from an auction.

The Coldwater/Dayton Busy Gophers club was organized in 1976.


The 1980’s saw a growth in the amount and variety of projects available from the traditional beef and clothing to rocketry and plant science.

Clubs were required to have neutral names and several clubs had to change their names.  Enrollment in the 24 clubs was 324.

In the mid 80’s the county went through better than a year with no 4-H Youth Director and the County Extension Director and Home Economist handled the duties.

County Youth Directors were; Marilea E. Mullen November 1980 – February 1982; Lisa J. McEnany June 1982 – December 1985; Roger Avery March – August 1987 and Allan Vyhnalek December 1987 – November 1992.

Many types of fundraisers were tried to raise money for the Achievement Fund.  There was a raffle, a white elephant sale and a cookbook.  The Achievement Fund provides money to help 4-H’ers pay for camps and citizenship trips, county awards, 4-H magazines for leaders and other items.

The County 4-H Council has become active being responsible for leadership training, dances at fair, planning leader recognition banquets and family fun nights.

County-wide Demonstration Day was moved to March in the late 90’s and participation dramatically increased.

A new addition at fair was the Sportsmanship Award given to the club that does its best in all areas at fair from checking in to checking out and everything in between!

The Butler County Young Riders 4-H club was organized in 1989.


County Youth Director from September 1990 – October 2007 was Deb Steere.  It was a part-time position throughout Deb’s term.

In 1992 there were 366 members in community clubs and in 1997 we had dropped to 313.

A quiz bowl was added to the swine show at the county fair.

Premiums for non-livestock exhibits were 90¢ for a blue, 70¢ for a red and 50¢ for a white in 1999.

Butler County Extension moved to its present location, a building they purchased in the fall of 1998.


In 2000 the 4-H non-livestock exhibits were moved to the “green” 4-H building at fair.  The Floral Hall was demonstrated some years later.

The 4-H & Youth Committee ruled in 2000 that aunts and uncles could help 4-H’ers fit livestock at fair.  Prior to that it had been just immediate family members.

A Centennial Celebration was held in 2002.  A committee was formed and the celebration encompassed both the fair and the Awards Night.  MC’s for Awards Night were Ruth Haan, Butler County’s first nominee into the 4-H Hall of Fame and Dale Thoreson, Extension Director from 1973-1992.

In 2003, the Butler County Fair Board decided to move the county fair from July to June.  Many people were unhappy with this decision and let the fairboard know.

A Code of Ethics made its appearance in 2002 and every 4-H and their parents were required to sign it.

Enrollment in 4-H in December of 2007 was 144 for members in 4th – 12th grade.  By 2009 we had grown to 170 members.

The Butler County Young Riders 4-H Club raised funds for a renovation of the Horse Barn allowing horses to stay at the fair.  A draft horse class was also added the same year.

In 2005 premiums for non-livestock exhibits went up to $1 for a blue; .75 for a red and stayed at .50 for a white.

The 4-H & Youth Committee began operating the Feed Shed concession stand at the fair in 2007 as a way to make money.  It has been very successful.

Separate herdsmanship awards for each species including; beef, dairy, sheep & goats, swine, rabbits, poultry, horses was begun in 2008.

County Youth Coordinator for December 2007 – September 2009 was Crystal Griffin.

The 4-H & Youth Committee again stressed the ruling that 4-H’ers must attend 50% of their

Butler and Bremer counties began having a joint beef weigh-in December 2010 at the Waverly Sales Barn.

After issues with securing trophies for fair, the 4-H program decided to secure all trophies on their own rather than working through commodity groups.

A Little Clover club was started in 2011. 

With funding from a seed deal we were able to send 4 adults to shooting sports training in the spring, 2011 and started a shooting sports club.

A change was made in the judging schedule at fair in 2011.  All non-livestock and communication projects are judged the day before fair begins. There were some skeptical people that first year, but we’ve had positives ever since.

We also added Challenge Classes in 2011.  We always do a food and nutrition and a photography one.

In 2012 and 2013 we were selected as recipients of the Monsanto’s Farmers Grow Communities Grants.  We have used money for a new speaker system and sending youth to conferences.

County Youth Coordinators have been; Nancy Jensen February 2010-December 2014 and Holly Merritt January 2015 – present.

Leaders began judging recordkeeping systems for their club members in 2011 and most have really enjoyed this chance to get to know their members better.

The process to apply for project awards was simplified in 2012 and members were asked to respond to three questions:

  1. What skills and knowledge have you gained in your 4-H project?           
  2. How have you shared your project knowledge with others?
  3. How will your 4-H project experiences affect your future?

As a fundraiser we have asked each club to supply a silent auction basket at our Awards Program.  It’s been fun to see the different baskets come in!

We purchased Butler County Welcome to 4-H road signs to be put up on Hwy 14 and Hwy 3.

Our Outstanding Senior Awards are now presented at county fair during our scrambles, weather permitting.

In our non-livestock judging we have judges select “Best of Show” and each judge selects a showman.  These awards are recognized with a large ribbon.

Two new clubs have been added; a horse drill team (Silver Spurs) and a robotics (Lego Wizards).  Interest is growing in each club.

The decision was made in 2015 after much discussion to not allow FFA members to show at the Butler County Fair after graduation.

We have inducted the following individuals into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame:

                        2002    Ruth Haan

                        2007    Nancy Jensen

                        2008    Arlan Laube

                        2009    Carolyn Johnson

                        2010    Lucille Leerhoff

                        2012    Dennis & Sharon Schipper

                        2013    Ronnie Henning

                        2014    Doug Schuler

                        2015    C. Dale Boelman    




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