Posted on October 12, 2020 at 11:29 AM by Global Reach
Prior to 4-H being established, there were boys and girls groups supported by the school. In 1916 C.W. Bond, Superintendent of Schools, organized the first boys club in Mitchell County. A one-acre corn contest was organized with each contestant keeping accurate records of cost, harvesting, and yield.
In 1918, the Extension Service was organized in Mitchell County under Farm Bureau sponsorship, and 4-H began in Mitchell County. Frank Tracy, county agent, had to meet with youth individually since there were no clubs. The first 4-H project activity reported was garden with 38 participants.
Poultry culling clubs became popular around 1920 and Mitchell County had the first poultry culling club in the state – the Jenkins Cullers. Several years later, in 1955 and 1960, Mitchell County’s poultry judging teams were recognized for winning first place at the Iowa State Fair!
In 1923 club work started. Girls clubs and boys clubs were organized by township. Each year a different project area was emphasized. The girls focused on home economics projects such as clothing, food, or home improvements, and the boys focused on livestock and agricultural projects.
Canning was the project for seven organized girls clubs in 1925. Judging of the girls’ exhibits was held to select the best to go to the State Fair, and the winning demonstration was canning chicken. It wasn’t easy for the exhibitors to take a live chicken with them while they camped at the State Fair! During World War ll, canning was popular again, along with victory gardens and salvage programs, as they played an intricate role in relieving wartime stress.
There have been many beef projects in Mitchell County since beef club work started in 1923. 4-H exhibitors have gone on to show at Ak-Sar-Ben, the American Livestock Show in Kansas City, and the International Livestock Show in Chicago.
The first 4-H live animal auction was held in 1933. This later changed into a combination of beef, swine, sheep, and dairy with a ribbon auction in 1990. Mitchell County still carries on the tradition today. A portion of the ribbon auction proceeds helps fund 4-H and FFA activities throughout the year.
Livestock projects continued to evolve. In 1959 the 4-H girls who had livestock formed a group of their own called the County Chore Girls. That same year a rate-of-gain contest was added. The 4-H swine project increased in popularity, and in 1968 the first 4-H beef and swine carcass judging was held.
Projects other than the traditional home economics and agriculture became popular in the early 1960’s. This significant change involved the need for project leaders. Special project clubs included horse, dog, and photography. In the 1980’s, co-ed clubs were organized in addition to the separated girls and boys clubs in the county.
There have been many activities outside of projects and the county fair for 4-H members to engage in. One of the first 4-H camping experiences was in 1938 when 4-H boys went to Carter’s Woods. After the rainstorm came the boys mudded their way to town and slept on the county agent’s living room floor!
For about 20 years youth participated in district 4-H camp at Clear Lake. Pine Bluff 4-H Camp in Decorah was the destination for several years, and the last few years an area 4-H camp has been held at Cedar Springs Camp in Floyd.
In the late 1940’s sports were quite an important part of the 4-H program. Sometimes it was county tournaments and other times it was in connection with the Farm Bureau. 4-H teams also participated in a state sports festival. Sporting events included softball, basketball, wrestling, and volleyball.
In the mid-1900’s, 4-H girls and 4-H boys clubs held separate “county rallies” to elect county officers. In 1963 over 1100 people attended the first joint rally for both boys and girls. This event was held at the fairgrounds and included a barbeque and election of the first county 4-H Council.
Forty members gave 40 demonstrations at Sound Off Day in 1979 and this popular program continued in the 1980’s with the goal of at least one third to one half of the junior members from each club participating. The parents, members, and leader visited with the evaluator after the presentation.
Demonstrations were emphasized during local club meetings and the annual club achievement shows, advancing to the county fair. The top selected went on to the State Fair. In the 1980’s the program expanded to include musical numbers and entertainment called Share the Fun.
As the needs of our youth change, the structure of 4-H has adapted and changed as well. At the turn of the century, several specialized programs have been initiated. Some of these include a FIRST Lego League and Robotics Club, an Outdoor Adventure Club, and a Shooting Sports Club specializing in archery and trap shooting.
In 1997 a 4-H Clover Kids program was also added for children in kindergarten through third grade. Clover Kids offers opportunities to build valuable life skills and engage in a variety of hands-on educational activities in afterschool clubs. Many Clover Kids go on to participate in the club 4-H program after third grade.
The Extension staff involved with the 4-H program for many years were the County Home Economist and the County Extension Director. Mitchell County has been fortunate to have very competent staff serving in these roles. One of these individuals was Neil Wubben. Neil worked in Mitchell County from 1985 to 2010 and was the last individual to serve as a County Extension agent before counties were reorganized into regions. Neil was dedicated to taking the time to build working relationships and educate youth through his work in Extension and 4-H.
The 4-H program in Mitchell County has been, and will remain, an outstanding program because of the support of many volunteers and businesses. It will continue to provide opportunities for youth to develop skills they can use now and throughout their life. Its growth will reflect the needs and strengths of youth, their families, and communities.