Iowa 4-H Foundation

Posted on December 19, 2017 at 11:56 AM by Emily Saveraid

Hancock County Extension – 4-H History

Extension work started in Hancock County as a result of the extension program and Farm Bureau being discussed by representatives of Iowa State College at the Farmer’s Institute held at Britt in 1917. During the first few years of extension work in the county the main emphasis was that of personal service and the development or organization of community clubs. At the time the main objective of farmers was to produce as much as possible as they were still riding on the high tide of farm prices due to the war boom. Serving as county agent for the period up until 1920 was Lee Nutty.

In 1921 to 1922 township farm bureaus were organized in practically every township in the county. Each township had its officers and township cooperators. It might be well to note here that up until this time the county agent was largely responsible for membership acquisitions; but following the organization of township farm bureaus this work was carried on more extensively by local leaders. During 1921 and 1922, as a result of leadership developed in township Farm Bureaus educational work was started on the demonstration basis. About one of the finest demonstrations held was on poultry culling.

Township organization developed rapidly, through which local leadership played an important part in more extensive educational work. The demonstration projects conducted soon doubled and tripled through the period of 1921 to 1924. By now local people were almost entirely taking charge of the membership solicitation. Women’s home project work and boys and girls club work became more and more popular and participation mounted very rapidly, due undoubtedly to the increasing number of local leaders.

4-H has served the same basic needs of youth from the very beginning. Changes in the youth program were primarily in educational methods and techniques, with the program itself have undergone some revision.

Total 4-H enrollment in Hancock County in 1939 was 150 boys and 78 girls. A steady increase in numbers brought the figures to 312 boys and 334 girls in 1960. The number of clubs increased from 10 boy’s and 8 girl’s to 19 boy’s and 22 girl’s clubs.

Projects taken by members of agricultural 4-H clubs expanded from entirely livestock to a much more diversified program.  Projects carried in addition to livestock and poultry were agronomy (including crops, soils, and climatology), electricity, garden, photography, woodworking, entomology, tractor, home and farm grounds improvement, farm management, and plant collection.

A special activity was part of the boy’s 4-H work for several years in the early days. The required activity was some specific subject matter on which special emphasis was place each year. The activity included a record book insert with leaders and club meetings devoted to the topic.

In the early years, the 4-H girl’s program was on an 8 year rotation system with 2 years of each of the following projects: foods and nutrition, home furnishings, clothing, and home efficiency. Later it was changed to one year of each of these projects and finally a 3 year rotation was set up with foods and nutrition, home furnishings, and clothing as projects and home efficiency was worked into each of these projects as a definite part. At the end of this period this rotation was set up so the north 1/3 of the state had the same project, central counties the same and the south 1/3 the same; rotating in this sequence: foods and nutrition, home furnishings, and clothing. The project focus is no longer in use.

The use of project leaders has been used since the beginning of 4-H in the county. These first projects with specific leaders included poultry, electricity, photography, crops, garden and climatology.

The training schools conducted by the Home Demonstration Agent increased from 3 meeting with 54 attending in 1944 to 20 with 454 attending in 1958. During that time period the 4-H girl’s club program made rapid changes and enrollment kept climbing.

As this increase was taking place the county events also changed. The 4-H Banquet, traditional in the earlier years had to change. Because of the lack of good facilities for such a large group it was changed to the County Award Night program only.

The two day Achievement Show in 1939 expanded to a four day Junior Fair with the number of exhibits and participants expanding proportionately. In 1953 the county fair moved from the Garner Sales Barn and Garner High School to a new location southeast of Britt. The conversion of a hemp plant built during World War II and the addition of new buildings and pole barns as needed furnished adequate facilities.

Examples of changes that have taken place in girls’ projects would be in the food and nutrition fields especially. Beginning in the late 1950’s there are fewer foods canned in homes with more emphasis on freezing. First came the commercial locker systems and progressed where a large percentage of home had freezers. It was noted in an annual report, “In fact the homemakers feel they are almost a necessity.” Also noted was the fact that 4-H’er began using prepared and packaged foods in their food preparation. In clothing and home furnishings project areas there was an emphasis placed on dressing according to personality and furnishing the home or room with personality in mind.

The involvement of the County 4-H Officers, both boys and girls during the early years  was limited to a county business meeting once a year. Their involvement in other areas began to change in the 1950’s. It was during this time that county 4-H officers began writing and printing a bi-monthly 4-H newsletter. The Award Night and Fun Night were planned by them. They set up and ran the 4-H foodstand at the county fair. It was the duty of the 4-H Girl’s officers to help the judges in the home economics department of the fair. These responsibilities have helped their leadership.

As a result of the separation from Farm Bureau in 1955, there were some changes in working with older rural youth. After 1955, Farm Bureau continued a RYP (Rural Youth Program) or FBYP (Farm Bureau Youth Program) for a few years. In 1957 a 4-H Junior Leadership Program was established to encourage older youth to participant in 4-H at least through high school. These young folks, however, had to be in a 4-H club to participate and the extension service had no specific program for those youth not in 4-H or too old to be 4-H members.

In the late 1950’ it was noted in an annual report that one of the problems being faced was the fact that many 4-H members will not be living on farms and the program must be designed accordingly. We find the same challenges today.

4-H Stand

4-H member with cow

building a barn

4-h members


Notes from early Annual Reports

1928 – Started beef club with 24 members and 30 head. Pig club had 7 members and 11 pigs. Sow and litter club had 3 members with 11 pigs. Corn club had 5 members with an average of 64 bushels per acre. Clothing clubs had 177 members in 12 clubs. Dairy club had 18 members with 24 heifers. The 4-H banquet had 130 people attend.


Hancock County was the first 100% county in girls club work in the state. Club banquet had 235 people attending. The banquet was held on October 5 and Governor John Hammill gave a short speech. Sent a judging team to the Iowa State Fair. Dairy judging team went to Waterloo. County Achievement Show involved 9 boys clubs – 66 boys with 104 and 13 girls clubs. The exhibits were paraded and judged on Main Street of Garner. The sow and litter club was run by the Garner school.


County achievement show 9 clubs – 124 boys and girls exhibited 246 head of livestock; 14 girls clubs. Started a Mule Club with 3 members and 3 mules (one of 2 clubs in U.S.). Hancock County was again a 100% county in girls club work. 4-H Banquet had 290 people. Ronald Greiman had champion beef with his Angus heifer. The heifer placed 5th at the Iowa State Fair and was Grand Champion at the District Fair held in Algona. This was the first calf from the county to show at the International in Chicago. The calf was selected Champion Angus and Grand Champion in the 4-H Show.


138 members with livestock in 10 clubs 149 girls in 11 clubs. County Achievement Show had 300 head of livestock. Oscar Greiman had champion mare and Ron Greiman had champion purebred beef heifer. Eugene Greiman had champion steer at the county fair and North Iowa Fair.


County achievement show had 300 head of livestock and projects from 11 girls’ clubs. Had a horse pulling contest won by a pair of gray mares belonging to H.A. Greiman. Wayne Greiman had Champion Steer at the County Fair and Reserve Champion at the North Iowa Fair. Wiley Weaver had champion colt.


County achievement show had 500 head of livestock and 9 girls’ clubs. This was the first year livestock exhibits were showed in the sale pavilion of the Garner Sale Barn. Richard Greiman had champion steer and Clifford Anderson had reserve champion. Ron Greiman had champion colt.


First place Angus and Grand Champion Steer was shown by Don Greiman. This was the first champion sold at the Achievemtn Show. Ron Greiman had Champion Angus and Reserver Champion Overall at the North Iowa Fair. Horse judging team went to the National Belgium Show in Waterloo. Team members were Wiley Weaver, Wayne Greiman and George Boehnke. This was the first horse judging contest in the state. There were three Poultry Judging Teams that competed at the Cattle Congress. The Britt team was second and Garner team was fifth. Harold Hall was second high individual.


This was the first year blue, red and white ribbons were used – no champions were selected. There were no judging teams this year.


Five beef exhibitors went to the Iowa State Fair. Cliff Greiman placed 11th, Wayne Greiman placed 14th, Alvin Townsend placed 16th. There were no judging teams due to paralysis epidemic in Waterloo.


Elwin Weaver, Don Greiman, Wayne Greiman and Gerald Greiman took cattle to the Iowa State Fair placing 8th, 16th, 26th, and 27th respectively. The group placed 15th. The Colt Club received the Iowa Horse and Mule Breeders Traveling Trophy for their outstanding work. First Bee Club was organized with 4 members.


Due to World War II, there were few leaders for boys clubs and women lost interest in helping much for the girls clubs. There was an achievement show and there were two judging teams.


Boys attended a “short course” in Ames and girls had a four county camp at Clear Lake. No one showed livestock outside of the county this year.


WWII still impacted the 4-H program. The number of clubs had fallen off over the past few years. Boys were still sent to the “short course”.


There was a County Achievement Show judging contest (started in 1943 or 1944). Harvey Ausborn had a perfect score, Don Greiman placed 2nd in the judging contest. Glen Wille won “big” at the North Iowa Fair with his Poland China hogs.


Don Geiman had Champion Steer and exhibited the Champion Steer at Cattle Congress in Waterloo. He placed 5th in his class in Chicago at the International Livestock Show. Maynard Dorow was selected as State Colt Club winner and attended the National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago. Don Greiman showed the Reserve Champion Heifer at the Iowa State Fair, was 1st in Beef Showmanship and runner-up 4-H State Fair King.


County clubs participated in sending money to the “Goodwill Garden Seed Program”. The money was sent to European countries to aid in recovering after WWII. The 4-H Banquet was held at the Garner High School auditorium. The program included an accordion solo by Iris Rosendahl. The County Achievement Show was held for 4 days at the Garner Sales Barn. There was a county wide 4-H fun night on May 1st attended by 330 members, leaders and parents. There wa a District 4-H boys and girls leadership camp held at the Methodist Camp in Clear Lake.


One new club was organized in Twin Lakes township. The girls formed the club by simply making personal contacts. Miss Mary Jones was one of 12 representatives in America from the British Farm Youth organization. Miss Jones was quoted as saying “The way you waste food here, it is really scandalous”. England was still undergoing severe rationing when she visited Hancock County farms.


Hancock County 4-H clubs and Rural Youth Group participated with the International Youth Exchange Program by sending $119. Betty Kramer and David Smith attended the Internation Livestock Exposition in Chicago. There were selected based on “good, long-time record books”. The County 4-H Chorus sang three of the 4-H songs learned in the music program. The chorus, composed of 2 girls from each club, was directed by Mrs. Byron Calhoun.


4-H Boys officers were Norman Stromer, President and Thurman Gaskill, Vice President. Lois Hueneman was selected as one of two from Iowa to participate in the International Youth Exchange and went to Germany. There were committee formed to explored the establishment of a fairgrounds in Garner.


Elsie Mae Van Wert, Extension Home Economist, was initated as an honorary 4-H member. The show ring at the fairgrounds was built.


Minnie Pearl Grand Ole Opry show was the first professional entertainment at the county fair.


Home Ec building built on the fairgrounds. KGLO trip to Chicago was the most sought after county award and continues today.


4-H Foodstand was run by the county officers. A permanent stand was constructed after the fair with the profits ($700). The 4-H Traveler (newsletter) was started by the county officers and came out quarterly. There were 3 new cattle barns built.


Locust and ash trees were planted on the fairgrounds.


Harvey Johnson was the IFYE delegate and went to South Africa. The 4-H clubs raised $2100 for the State 4-H camping center. The check was presented by a delegation from Hancock County to ISU President Hilton on November 10. The county 4-Her’s also sent money to help establish the National 4-H Center in Washington, D.C. County officer activities included District 4-H Camp, Award Night, Fun Night, Junior Leadership, 4-H Foodstand, selling ads for the fair premium book, State 4-H Camp Fund Drive, 4-H officer training and IFYE continued with the support of the local clubs.


New 4-H uniforms were selected by the State 4-H Office. Lewis Store in Britt and Goodnatures in Garner handled the new uniform material.

The Clover Kids program for grades K-3 was started around 2002 and is currently reaching nearly half of the 4-Hers in Hancock County.  Recent expansions of the program included doing a K-1st class and a 2-3rd grade class after school in both West Hancock and Garner Hayfield Ventura school districts.  In recent years the Clover Kid membership has been over 100 members.

4-H afterschool programming is a historically successful program that continues today.  Starting in the early 2000’s the program has met weekly ranging from 16 total weeks during the school year to nearly every week of the school year.  Some topics covered by the group include kitchen science, crime scene investigation, farm animals and how they feed us and we feed them, and the science of music and sound.  Typically this program has around 20 students participating at each school district, West Hancock, and Garner Hayfield Ventura.

FIRST LEGO League began in Hancock county in 2008 for grades 4th-8th.  Hancock County Extension manages the teams and volunteers that participate.  By 2009 we added a second team and in 2013 we added two more teams and a FIRST Tech Challenge team for high school students.  Interest spread quickly and Jr. FLL teams for K-3rd grade have been added.  Our FIRST Tech Challenge team is currently disbanded but the programs for the younger kids continue to be strong, varying between 3-5 teams in each age category.  Hancock County Teams have advanced to state several years and have performed very well.  The FLL teams work on coding and fixing real world problem all while following a set of Core Values.  It is a great program to learn sportsmanship and work ethic. 

The 4-H county council has been 9-12 grade leaders in the county for many years.  There has been an average of 20 youth in this group through the years.  The group has historically been in charge of the 4-H award program, a county wide community service project, and many responsibilities at the annual fair.  In 2011 and intermediate county council group was also started for 7-8th graders.  They engage in hands-on teambuilding games to learn leadership skills and how to use teambuilding games to teach others.  They also have guest speakers from the community teach about what it means to be a leader and how to articulate your leadership skills.

In 2013 the Extension Council asked for a change in the programming offered in Hancock County.  They wanted to see a shift to focus on summer workshops that provided kids opportunities to learn new skills, tour and learn about the local community, and build skills and knowledge in 4-H project areas.  In 2014 11 workshops were offered reaching 156 youth in Hancock County.  In 2015 22 workshops reached 315 youth.  In 2016 26 workshops reached 456 youth.  In 2017 39 workshops offered 501 youth the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge in a hands-on fun learning environment.  Some workshops offered include: Canvas Painting Workshop, On Their Own & OK, Rabbit Workshops, Melted Crayon Canvas Workshops, Creative Kids Summer Open Arts Studio, Personalized Pom-Pom Pillow, Wacky World of Edible Science, Drone Workshop, How to Face Paint, The Real Heroes Clover Kids Camp, Garner Summer Arts Program, Cattle Clinic, Cultural Tastebuds, Upcycled Rug, Suessical the Musical Production, Jr First Lego League Camps, Bucket Bottle Calf/Lamb Workshop, Speak It Communication Tour, Winnebago Industries Tour, Robotics 101 & Advanced Robotics, ISU Insect Zoo & Maggot Masterpiece, Theatre Arts Workshops.

Expanding on the success of the Summer Explorations workshop model has included a minimum of one workshop offered per month at the county level and club workshops organized by staff to ensure that each 4-H club member has an opportunity to make an exhibit for the fair and fill out the goal sheet during the workshop. 

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