Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on April 12, 2017 at 8:13 AM by Emily Saveraid

Fayette County’s first 4-H club was organized late in 1918.  During the year 1919, Holstein calf, baby beef, and corn clubs were organized.  The 4-H club program continued to grow and local clubs for the above projects were formed in other communities.

In 1925 townships had poultry clubs with local leaders.  There was a county-wide dairy club and beef club with the county agent acting as leader.  Girls clubs were organized in nine townships.  The project for the girls’ clubs that year was House Furnishings. 

4-H camp in these earlier years consisted of staying at County Fair.  Buildings for sleeping quarters and a dining hall were provided by the fair board.  Farm Bureau maintained the camp.  Meals were provided in 1925 for 25 cents.  Thirty girls and twenty boys camped that year.

A Holstein Bull Calf Club was formed in 1926.  It was one of the first in the state.  Also that year, Fayette County had a Dairy Calf Club, Market Pig Club, Sheep Club, a Poultry Club in three townships, a Baby Calf Club, and girls clubs in twelve townships.  A girl’s dormitory which accommodated 60 girls was built on top of the new 4-H exhibition building.  Money from a fundraiser pageant and from the County Club Stand was used to buy 40 cots.  It was said, “It can readily be seen that the activities of the 4-H girls in Fayette County is no small thing.  We believe that this work will have a direct influence on the future leadership and womanhood of Fayette County and that better homes and communities will be the result.”

A ninety-year old Civil War veteran living in Fayette, J.J. Earle, made a special gavel in 1929 as a prize for 4-H clubs.  It was to be awarded each year to the girls club that received first place booth at the County Fair.  It would then be returned the next year so it could be awarded again.  The four H’s were represented by four kinds of wood (Haw, Hackberry, Hazel, and Hickory) in one-half of the gavel head.  Initials of the woods in the other half of the gavel head spelled “club” (Camphor, Locust, Umbrella, and Beech).  Woods in the handle represented initials of Fayette County, Iowa – Fig, Currant, and Ironwood.

Over $700 was raised in donations to send the Fayette County Judging Team to Europe for the 1935 National Champion Judging Contest.  Members of the team reported on this at the fall banquet.

No club tours were held in 1942 because of the tire shortage.  Another conservation measure was that the boys and girls 4-H clubs meetings were held on the same night as township Farm Bureau meetings.  Then in 1943 it became difficult to maintain boy’s 4-H enrollment and active local clubs.  Older farm boys enlisted or were drafted into the armed forces.  Keeping the girls clubs together was also a problem as farm work became heavier for many girls and it was felt that it would be difficult to keep up with all their work and 4-H too.  There was also a shortage of doctors and nurses which hindered 4-H health exams.

A Fayette County 4-H newsletter was begun in 1944.  The County 4-H news reporter, which was a new 4-H county office, was to help with the newsletter.

Even though poultry had been a common 4-H project through the years, in 1952 there was little interest even though hatcheries offered their cooperation.  Too many people lost money through disease and small margin.  The poultry show had been dropped several years before because of disease problems.  At the same time, it was quoted, “We have often sneered at the rabbit project and felt it was just an excuse for a project that doesn’t take much care.  However, some boys have realized a real profit through the sale of meat and also wool from Angora rabbits.”

One township 4-H club, the Bethel Rams, placed fourth in the Hoard’s Dairyman Judging Contest in 1955 and then placed second in the contest in 1956.

Poultry started gaining favor as a 4-H project again in 1957.  630 chickens and turkeys were entered at the County Fair.

4-H project enrollments in 1959 were recorded as: 222 dairy projects, 110 baby beef projects, 14 beef heifers, 4 Junior cattle feeder projects, 71 swine projects, 30 sheep projects, 2 rabbit projects, 1 tractor project, 1 electric project, 4 garden projects, 4 poultry projects, 7 horse projects, and 8 crop projects.

In 1962, 41 4-H members and 4 adults visited from Canada for a one week Exchange Trip.  Thirty-eight Fayette County 4-H’ers went to Canada to complete the Exchange in 1963. 

Several things were written about 4-H in 1963.  The Boys County Club Committee and Girls County Club Committee were combined to form one 4-H Club Committee.  Special interest groups in 1963 included Climatology, Agronomy, Electric, Junior Cattle Feeders, and Home Economics Food & Nutrition Project.  It was stated that “4-H club members will not all be engaged in farming so they need to know what other opportunities are available.”  Tours were planned each year to area cities to give 4-H’ers a look at various jobs.  The Youth Committee voted to have a 4-H County Council which would consist of four boys and four girls who would be elected at Rally Night.  This 4-H County Council was in lieu of the county 4-H officers.

Thirty-three 4-H’ers went on a citizenship trip in 1965 to homes and memorial sites of Midwest presidents.  They visited Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.  Also in 1965 a rule change allowed girls to carry livestock projects through a home economics club and not have to belong to a boys club.  Another rule change was that girls who had completed the three-year project cycle had the option of carrying one of the other core projects.

The first citizenship trip to Washington, D.C. was taken in 1966.  The County 4-H Committee selected 37 representatives to go on the trip.

The Youth Committee decided in 1966 that all girls enrolling in 4-H could only enroll in girls clubs and could not enroll in boys clubs.  Girls already enrolled in a boys club could stay but they wouldn’t be able to hold office after January 1, 1967.  This raised a lot of controversy.  People visited the Youth Committee meeting and circulated petitions which were sent to the Committee.  The decision held.  Then in 1967 a boy’s 4-H club elected a girl to an office, disregarding the ruled.  The leaders stated that they had explained the rule to the club but that the 4-H’ers objected to the rule and elected a girl to office anyway.

The results of the 4-H Fair sales in 1967 showed that 84 head of beef were sold – average weight was 969 lbs. and average price was $28.29.  111 head of swine were sold – average weight was 220 lbs. and average price was $22.63.  17 head of sheep were sold – average weight was 101 lbs. and average price was $25.17.

A rule in 1970-71 required a card with all exhibits telling what the member learned in preparation of the exhibit as well as other information as required by each class.  The next year a rule was made limiting the number of exhibits a 4-H’er could take to State Fair to two.

In 1972-73, special interest 4-H groups in Fayette County were: Junior Leadership, Citizenship, Babysitting, Horse, Dog, Gardening, and Sheep.  Junior Camp and Intermediate Camp were held at Pinebluff 4-H Camp at Decorah.  It was also decided that girls could now carry any project no matter how many years they had been in 4-H.  Previously they needed to be in 4-H for three years before they could take anything other than the core project.

Conference judging was started at Fayette County Fair in 1974 with the Food & Nutrition projects.  This was educational and was very successful.  The next year conference judging was done on all projects.

Following the 1993 fair the Extension staff and a community committee began investigating alternatives to having a livestock auction. The new plan of supporting the accomplishments and achievements of the 4-H/FFA members began in 1995. Each exhibitor would pass through the auction one time representing all of their livestock projects. The bidders are able to show the youth an encouragement/reward for their care of the livestock and their achievements. It presented an opportunity for individuals as well as organizations to support the youth while allowing the youth more choices about the marketing or further exhibiting of their animals.

In 2003 the annual Omelet Breakfast was started with the funds raised used to help cover program development fees. Fayette County started an endowment with the 4-H Foundation.

From 2004-2015, the Dairy Quiz Bowl participants have been very successful at the State Dairy Bowl competition, earning several trips to the National Contest held in Louisville.

In 2005 4-H Safety Education in Shooting Sports was re-introduced with the help of Dr. Scott Figdore, Dean of the school of Science and Mathematics and Upper Iowa University Conservation students. Fayette County has a certified coordinator along with instructors on the disciplines of archery, rifle, shotgun, muzzle-loader and wildlife skills. The group continues to be active, participating at events held at Volga Conservation Club and with members of the Echo Valley Archers. They also host a fall “Shooting Sports in the Great Outdoors” camp open to all interested youth 4th grade and older.

The Broiler Project was started in 2007 and usually has an average of 17 exhibitors each year. The 4-H member must present their sponsor with 5 of the best birds raised at the end of the project.

Clayton and Fayette County Extension Directors and County Youth Coordinators worked together in 2009 to provide citizenship lessons to 8th-12th grade youth who were interested. Local, County and State guest speakers helped prepare the youth for the biannual trip to the State Capitol in Des Moines the first year and the National Capitol the next. The trip continues yet today.

In the fall of 2013 a new club was formed, Bethel Generators. This club being 5 members strong when started continued to recruit members and immediately started working on the community service project of revamping the Rabbit/Poultry Barn on the fairgrounds. In 2015 the group submitted a Pioneer Grant application and sought donations from others and retiled the Tile Barn also located on the fairgrounds. They made the structure safer to house the meat goats and an overflow of dairy and beef animals during county fair, more attractive and user friendly for other fairground events.

Also in 2013, a Fayette County sewing Club was formed with the help of the County Quilters Guild. This group has made several items over the years which include wool mittens, aprons, table runners and are currently working on creating a lap quilt.

Other 4-H clubs have completed numerous Community Service projects at the fairgrounds which included rebuilding benches used in the 4-H building and bandstand area, building a patio area to house the grill at the Clover Café along with painting of buildings; inside and out.

The Fayette County Dairy Cattle judging team placed first at the State Contest held in Conjunction with the Iowa State Fair in 2011. Later they competed at the World Dairy Expo placing 7th overall. Two members were named All American as they placed second and third as individuals.

Currently Fayette County has 14 Community Clubs and 9 Clover Kid Clubs. The 2015 4-H enrollment is 236 4-H members, 43 Clover Kid members along with 43 screened volunteers. As with any youth organization, the 4-H programs continue to meet the needs of the county youth.




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