Dickinson County, Iowa 4-H History

Iowa 4-H History By County

Dickinson County, Iowa 4-H History

 
Dickinson County Extension is located in northwest Iowa in the city of Spirit Lake. 4-H has long been a rich part of history for this county extension office. We can trace programming back to 1916 with W.H. Sawhill serving as the first “county agent.”
During the roaring 20’s many 4-H programs and partnerships were established in the county. In 1921, Extension formed a partnership with Farm Bureau.
 
Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, Pig Clubs, Dairy Clubs, Baby Beef Clubs and Clothing Clubs began emerging in the 4-H program. In 1925, every township in Dickinson County had a Home Management Club that provided five different training schools: 1) Pressure and Fireless Cookers, 2) Kitchen Utensils, 3) Kitchen Shortcuts, 4) Kitchen Arrangements, and 5) Home Accents. 
 
Farm tours were also a part of Extension and 4-H committee activities. Boys and girls were encouraged to learn good and new practices by demonstration. (Photo at right shows a 1927 Farm Tour Caravan in Dickinson County with 60 cars touring eight farms.) Youth received judging practice by placing two classes of dairy Holsteins.  
 
Early “fair” events for 4-H’ers in Dickinson County were initially held as competitions at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa. It is recorded in the 1925 Annual Report that “Byron Smith of Okoboji, who got all his training and experience in handling hogs and fitting them for show through club work, this year won a grand champion trophy in competition with 200 other boys at the ‘Little International’ staged at Ames in October, 1925.” 
 
1927 marked the first “Fall Festival” in Dickinson County. It was held at the courthouse square in Spirit Lake, Iowa. This event later came to be known as the Dickinson County Club Congress and eventually the Dickinson County Fair. The primary purpose of this event was “to promote and expand boys and girls club work by giving them a place here at home to show their exhibits.”
 
 Attendance at the first festival was recorded to be between 800 and 1,000 people. (Photo at right shows the 1st Club Calf Parade at the Dickinson County Fall Festival in 1927.)
 
Activities continued at a roaring pace right up to the end of the 20’s. Judging teams and home furnishing clubs were going strong by 1928, and by 1929 an interest in horses was added. A “Horse Breaking and Hitching Demonstration” was held at the Gayle Warburton Farm. The First Annual Club Banquet also began in 1929. 
 
During the 1930’s the number of 4-H clubs grew in the county, and so did the originality of club names. We had clubs called: Jolly-In-Betweens, Work & Win, Merry Maidens, Loyal Lloyds, Eager Workers, Happy Hustlers, Richland Rustlers, Loyal Lassies, 4-H Tryer’s, and Over-The-Top. Club leaders met monthly to share program ideas and standardize the program throughout the county. Newly added clubs included poultry, foods and forestry clubs.
 
Club Congress continued to grow and improve as well. By 1931, tents were added to the Club Congress area. (Bottom left photo shows “The Big Tent” that housed the Dickinson County Club Congress. It measured 50 feet wide by 235 feet long.”) A public sale of 4-H club members’ “surplus stock” also was started. The county’s strong agricultural background drew much attention to the champion market beef and dairy animals. Dale Johnson exhibited the 1932 Grand Champion Hereford, and Donald Byers exhibited the first prize Holstein calf at the Club Congress and first prize calf and Champion Holstein at the Clay County Fair. (Bottom center photo shows Dale Johnson with his Grand Champion Hereford and bottom right photo shows Donald Byers with his Champion Holstein.)
 
 
In 1938 the Club Congress Board incorporated as a non-profit organization – the Dickinson County Agricultural Association and the county fair grounds were secured from George Paulson. According to minutes from 1939, “The Club Congress is drawing the business men of the county together and also providing a project on which the business men and farmers may work together. The Dickinson County 4-H Club Congress has developed from a one-day achievement show to a small county fair, which is being carried on from a strictly educational standpoint. This show provides the climax of the club year and is uniting the boys and girls through the county in an agricultural educational program. This show affords an opportunity to select the stock for district competition and provides a time for the annual baby beef sale.”
 
“During the past summer the 4-H club boys, with the cooperation of the Dickinson Agricultural Society, the Spirit Lake Shipping Association, the Farm Bureau and the Spirit Lake Commercial Club, built four livestock barns to house the 4-H exhibits at the Annual Club Congress. Nineteen different meetings or barn raisings were held with an attendance of 267. Of this number, 137 club members and their parents helped during the month of August with representatives from all 12 townships of the county.
 


The club leaders, club members and their parents raised approximately $3,300 in cash to conduct this building program and
 have incurred a debt of about $2,700 making an investment of $6,000. The free labor provided by the boys, their parents and businessmen would bring the valuation up to more than the $8,000. Of the $3,300, a total of $1,080 was raised through the local clubs.” (Photo at right shows Okoboji & Superior 4-H boys working on second calf club barn during August 1939.)
 
 “Learning by Doing” was the fundamental principle of 4-H Club work during the 40s and 50s. The focus was on projects, contests and awards programs. Project work was dominated by animal husbandry, corn growing and canning projects, but as the number of clubs continued to grow so did the list of projects.
 
Contest results included: “Kenny Byers sells his Baby Beef weighing 1,085 pound for $32.00 to Arnold Motor Supply in Spencer, 1946.” “Shirley Brunsvold, Superior Township, takes Reserve Champion Baby Beef, 1946.” “Dickinson County 1949 Club Congress result highlights: Grand Champion Market Lamb – Dorothy Burnside, Grand Champion Baby Beef – Norman Pothast, Grand Champion Heifer – Wally Brunsvold, Grand Champion Shorthorn – Jerry Delaney, and Grand Champion Angus – Bernell Walker.” 
 
By the 60s the statewide 4-H trend was toward program and organizational coordination in which the girls’ 4-H organization and the boys’ 4-H organization would be combined into a single integrated program. Dickinson County’s trend was no different. According to minutes from the Dickinson County 4-H Committee, “The Dickinson County 4-H Committee met for the first time, November 17, 1961 at 8:00 p.m., in the Extension Office in Spirit Lake. All six  members, Andrew Hoffman, Lake Park; Arlo Newman, Milford; Charles Shorey, Spirit Lake; Mrs. Al Kreutzkampf, Terril; Mrs. Wayne Northey, Spirit Lake; Mrs. K.R. Grant, Spirit Lake; Extension Director, Doyle Gorden; County Extension Assistant, Betty Hinds, and Area 4-H Leader, Jerry Parsons were present.”
 
“Mr. Gorden explained the changes in the County 4-H Committee organization (from separate committees for boys and girls, to a single committee) and the method by which we were selected (by the County Extension Council, without particular emphasis upon the townships in which we happen to reside). The committee’s responsibility is chiefly to plan the youth program, develop and carry out a plan of work which will be executed by sub-committees, and to evaluate the county 4-H program. The sub-committees will be made up of parents, leaders and other friends, chosen for a specific short term activity.” 
 
Throughout the 70s numerous discussions were noted in the minutes to clarify girls exhibiting livestock projects. “Could they belong to only a girl’s club and show livestock, or did they also need to be in a boy’s club too?” Also, “Could a girl belonging only in a boy’s club exhibit a home item?” It took some time for clubs to truly become integrated, but eventually the county moved to clubs organized by township with membership open to boys and girls in the same club. 
 
It appears that the first 4-H and Youth Leader for Dickinson County was hired in 1968 with a multi-county staffing philosophy. Rich Haack served in this position from 1968-1973 and had responsibilities for Dickinson and Emmet Counties. He was followed by Carol Crocker serving from 1974-1979; Laurie Rosendahl serving from 1980-1983; Denise Schroeder serving from 1983-1984; and Joy Janachovsky serving from 1985-1992. 
 
In 1992 changes in Dickinson and Emmet County Extension staffing occurred. Jim Yungclas retired as County Director for both counties. Joy Janachovsky was promoted to County Director in Dickinson County. She served in the director role and retained 4-H responsibilities until her resignation in 2001. At that time, Cory Peterson became County Director and Karen Byers was hired as a County Youth Coordinator with emphasis on 4-H programming in the county. Upon Peterson’s retirement from Extension, Byers became County Extension Director in 2009 and serves in this role today. 
 
During the first decade of 2000, Dickinson County showed steady growth in 4-H enrollment and participation. Much credit for this increased reach was due to a new venture with middle schools in the county. “Ricochet: An Extreme Leadership Adventure” was created by a team of Northwest Iowa Extension Specialists and piloted in 2005 with middle school student council members at Harris-Lake Park Community School District.  
 
Impacts of this hands-on leadership development program spread, and administrators in Spirit Lake and Okoboji Community School Districts adopted the program into nine-week exploratory segments. Financial support from MaxYield Cooperative, Dickinson County Endowment Fund, Dickinson County Youth Council, Kiwanis Groups and others helped provide annual 4-H membership and opportunities for these students.  
 
These members not only enrolled in leadership projects, but also participated in communication and community service projects with their peers. (Bottom left photo shows Ricochet Leadership Participants hosting a concession stand as a community service project for the Spirit Lake Middle School, 2010.)
 

They explored additional project areas of robotics, dog obedience, photography, poultry, rabbits and beef. (Above right photo shows WaveRunner Robotics Club Members practicing for competition, 2011.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As Dickinson County 4-H enters the second decade of 2000, new science and technology partnerships are being formed with school districts to include project-based learning through science fairs, competitions and other events for youth. New livestock opportunities also are being explored with partnerships and sponsorships in beef and poultry areas. In 2012, a total of 29 youth (shown in above left photo) are partnering with Jackson Cooperative Elevator to raise dairy steers, and 11 other youth (shown in above right photo) are partnering with sponsors to raise broiler projects. 
 
A snapshot of Dickinson County 4-H in 2012 includes: 11 community clubs, 27 volunteer leaders, and 316 members in grades 4-12 from throughout the county. We look forward to continuing to build partnerships and provide research-based learning opportunities on behalf of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
 

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