O'Brien County, Iowa 4-H History

Iowa 4-H History By County

O'Brien County, Iowa 4-H History

 
In 1925, county agent R.E. Yockey stated," Boy's and Girl's club work is being recognized more by local people".  These are the earliest available records of 4-H club work in O'Brien County. 
 
A market pig club was organized in the Sutherland area in 1925 with 11 members.  Four boys participated in a purebred litter club, 9 boys in baby beef and 129 girls in clothing clubs in the county.  Emphasis was placed on feeding and showing livestock and teaching thrift, self confidence and health in the clothing clubs.  One goal was to have at least 50% of the club girls wearing approved shoes and hose.  Baby Beef calves sold for $14.11-$14.80 per hundred weight and market pigs were valued at $13.00.
 
Later in the 20's a dairy club was formed and home furnishing clubs replaced the clothing clubs.  In 1929 a corn club was formed with 5 members to demonstrate good practices in corn growing.  Gorden Schneider and Henry Boersma from Hospers and Harold Jensen, Bert Dekok, and Chas Brown from Archer had test plots on 3 or more acres to demonstrate the use of good seed and the value of phosphate fertilizer.  Fertilizer was applied at the rate of 180 lbs/acre on part of the plot.  The yields averaged 62.9 bushel when treated with phosphate compared to 57.6 bushel/acre with no fertilizer.  The value of corn was $.80 per bushel.
 
Also, in 1929 canning clubs were formed with 168 members county-wide.  Demonstrations were given at achievement day on making attractive salads, cutting and packing chicken, and canning carrots. Canning exhibits included Balanced Meals With and Without Meat, Foods High in Iron and Vitamins, and Foods for Fruit Salad.
 
M.G. Birlingmair, county agent, stated in a yearly report, "The influence of club work upon the farm, the home and the community can not be measured.  The training received by the club members teaches them to think clearly, the work done trains them to use their hands correctly and the cooperation with others builds a strong community spirit.  Good health is promoted through health contests, proper recreation and better living".
 
During the early years of 4-H in O'Brien county, boys clubs were organized county wide with the project areas which were of major interest to the members.  Areas of interest were dairy, pigs, poultry, colts, and beef.  The girl's clubs changed with a different emphasis each year.  Bread, clothing, home furnishing, and nutrition were some of the project areas the girls worked on during the 1930's.  Rally Day and Achievement Days were held as well as livestock shows and fairs.  Members also attended summer camp at Camp Foster, on Lake Okoboji, and the State Convention at Ames.
 
Bread baking using whole wheat flour and cereal was encouraged in 1930. Health contests were held with the cooperation of Hand Hospital in Hartley and doctors in the county.  One leader commented of the sewing club in 1931, “Mothers of club girls were enthusiastic for the course because they found their daughters interested in sewing and both willing and ready to assist with the family sewing".
 
A Demonstration, "Construction of a Writing Desk", by Ruth Raymond and Gertrude DeBoom, of Lincoln Township, given at the Iowa State Fair included the use of four orange boxes, four apricot boxes, scrap lumber, and a map of Iowa under glass.      
         
During 1931 the baby-beef project lost money.  The county agent commented, “The loss in the baby beef project is due very largely to the very decided drop in prices of all farm commodities.  The experiences of the baby beef club members were the same as a carload feeders experiences in feeding cattle".
 
In the mid 30's the boyss clubs were organized to include all livestock areas.  The Big Four Club was in the SW corner of O'Brien County, the Wecandoit in the SE corner, and Northwest O'Brien (N O'B) in the NW corner. The Happy Lads near Hartley came later in the decade. If girls wanted to have a livestock project they had to enroll in a boy's club.  4-H caps, light shirts and trousers were also worn by club members for the first time.
 
During late 1933 and into 1934, a temporary plan to remove burden some surpluses of pork headed for market during fall and winter was launched by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration.  The plan outlined for corn-hog reduction, allowed each farmer to reduce corn by 20% and hog production by 25%.  This program was believed to influence the number of pig projects by 4-H members in the county.
 
It was noted in 1937 high feed costs reduced enrollment in livestock feeding projects.  Some members also fed one or two pens of 16 western lambs for market.  Grain judging contests of soybeans, flax and barley were also organized and would become more active in the next decade. 
 
In 1938 there were 106 boys and 110 girls in O'Brien County 4-H clubs.  Accurate record keeping by members was stressed during these years, as it still is today.  During the 1930’s one leader wrote, " The work of 4-H clubs has stimulated and developed an appreciation of rural activities so the farm life has been raised above drudgery.  When youth find that the farm holds something for him he will be willing to live there and become a part of the community.  Because of his 4-H experience, he assumes the responsibility of leadership readily".
 
Hazel Thompson received 100 ash trees as a special prize for tree identification.  These trees were planted south of Primghar near the overhead.  The trees made a good start during the growing season and it was felt that this area would become a wayside park and a convenient picnic area for travelers.  
 
During these years there was cooperation between Iowa State College, United States Department of Agriculture and the County Farm Bureau in the carrying out of 4-H activities.
 
During the early 1940's girls clubs developed until there was a club in each township. The Hartley Hustlers, Lincoln Highlighters, Omega-We-Go, Bonnie Bells of Baker, Clever Caledonians, Happy Union, Liberty Lassie, Sunny Centers,  Franklin Winners, Floyd Sunshine, Carroll Clovermates, Summit Over-The-Top, Grant Gleaners, Hearty Highlanders, Cloverdale 4-H, and Waterman Daughters of the Soil had members who were very active in local, county, area and  state 4-H activities.
 
During this time the boy's clubs also grew from 4 to 11 clubs throughout the county.  Along with Big Four, and Happy Lads, the Huskey Lads, G&W Feeders, Union Pioneers, Future Leaders, Bearcats, Sunny Farmers, Cheery Farmers, Highland Go Getters, and Clover Clippers organized in O'Brien County.  The G&W Feeders is still active today.
 
In 1940, 200 girls and 100 boys were enrolled in 4-H in the county.  Members were encouraged to become more active in conservation and to keep accurate long time records.
 
With the onset of WWII the county agent remarked in 1942, "The 4-H clubs of the county will be seriously hampered because the older members who have been the backbone of the local clubs will be gone.  Some of the boys are leaving for military service, while others are taking the place of an adult in farm production.  The girls are entering defense industries, going to larger cities, or are very busy assisting in the home or outside with actual farming".
 
Several drives for scrap iron and rubber were held in the county.  4-H club members in Highland, Dale, Summit and Center townships turned in approximately 70 tons of scrap iron in two days.  Waste paper was also collected and one girl's club collected 226 pounds of fat.  During this time war bonds and stamps were often awarded to 4-Her's for their outstanding work.
 
In 1945 Nutrition (oven products) was the project area with emphasis placed on learning the principles of baking and making the most of the sugar supply.  Meal planning and preparation were also stressed with special study on dairy foods.
 
There was controversy in the county regarding the value of sports in the 4-H program, but basketball and softball tournaments continued.  Even during war time it was felt some type of recreation was important for the members.
 
In 1949 the town of Hartley purchased a ten acre tract of land south of the railroad tracks for the purpose of developing it into a home for the O'Brien County 4-H fair.
 
As in the past, some clubs dissolved because of lack of interest or leadership and others were organized.  The Sheldon Farmers Club, in Carroll Township, and the Busy Bakers, in Baker Township, were organized in 1949.  
 
Following WWII, 4-H again focused on developing youth through projects, contests, and awards programs. 4-Her's were awarded trips to The National 4-H Club Congress in Chicago, National Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo, State 4-H Conventions, and The Iowa State Fair. 
 
The 1950's brought about building construction.  It was decided to move the fair to Primghar in 1951.  The fair had been held in Hartley since 1941.  This decision was reached because Primghar was the center of the county.  The city of Primghar agreed to purchase the land, do the grading, put in roads, and lease the land for 25 years with the privilege of renewal.
 
Three buildings were constructed at a cost of $6,834.44.  The type of building selected was 30' x 112' of hip roof design with 5' sides. The cost was held down by volunteer labor from the businessmen of Primghar.  A permanent scale was put in as the buildings were constructed. A building was also erected to house the Farm Bureau, ASC, SCS, and Extension Services during the early 1950's.
 
The 4-H clubs that were organized during the 1950's, which are still active, were the Eagle Musketeers, Center Farmers, Highlanders, and Jolly Workers.  A club called the Merry Gardeners was formed in hopes of providing some interest for boys in small towns.
 
Tractor maintenance became a special project and a tractor rodeo was held in 1951 with implement hook-up, barrel dodging, backing an implement, and moving a wide implement through a narrow gate as some of the classes.  
 
In 1952 the fair had 122 beef steers, 7 beef heifers, 30 dairy, 233 swine, 41 sheep, 18 poultry, 6 rabbits, and 3 members showing garden projects. A new swine building was built between the two south buildings in 1953.  An addition of 40', added to the dairy barn, was completed to house the sheep.
 
During this time the girls' exhibits were at the new Farm Bureau building.  It was felt the girls' exhibits were too far from the fairgrounds, so in 1956 their exhibits were moved to the shelter house.  In 1958 the girls were divided in 3 age groups for exhibiting, juniors, intermediates, and seniors.  Also at this time, there were three areas of study: clothing, food and nutrition and home furnishings.  Each area was taught every third year.
 
In 1955 4-H enrollment was at an all time high with 300 boys and 179 girls.  There were 53 leaders in the county with 18 boys clubs and 12 girls clubs.
 
A commercial building and a building for non-livestock 4-H exhibits were constructed at a cost of $15,000  in 1957. A new dairy barn was built in 1959 due to fire.
 
Other buildings have been added to the fair grounds through the years to provide more space and convenience for exhibitors and fair goers. 
 
Building continued on at the 4-H  fairgrounds in 1960 with a new judging and sales area constructed at a cost of $9,195. It rained for two days at the fair, making the new building worthwhile.
 
If was felt in the early 60's more emphasis should be placed on developing the 4-H boy or girl and less emphasis be placed on the "Grand Champion" animal. Members were encouraged to become more involved in crops, junior feeders, rate-of-gain and market and carcass values in their project work.  A beef carcass contest was tried for the first time.  Fifteen member’s projects were judged on the hoof and on the rail in 1960 with the 1st place animal on the hoof placing 11th on the rail. 
 
The Caledonia Ramblers were organized in 1961 and still has an active membership today of over 50 youth.  4-H’ers were encouraged to keep better record books. and more boys were asked to participate in doing more demonstrations as a means of self-improvement.  In 1962 the first sign, "O'Brien County 4-H Clubs Welcome You", was put up on highway 10, east of Sutherland, on the Ralph Gilbert farm.
 
As a sign of the times, civil defense information was given to leaders and members in 1965.  A county wide civil defense alert was carried out.  The alert showed only 36% of the population would survive a two-week period of fall-out.
 
The purpose of 4-H in the 1960's, and which is still true, was to provide educational opportunities that would help boys and girls grow and develop into mature individuals, responsible family members and effective citizens.
 
O’Brien County 4-H continues to flourish, although it may look a bit different today than it did in past decades.  
 
Today, the O’Brien County 4-H program has an active membership of over 200 youth in 11 4-H clubs, with over 30 adult volunteers. Although livestock and family & consumer science are still important focus’ in our county, two science and technology clubs have been formed.  Other clubs focus on safety & education in shooting sports and health and fitness.  Photography and beef are our most popular project areas in terms of county fair exhibits.  
 
Youth participate in such activities as day camps, project workshops, communication events, club tours, demonstrations, area and state leadership events and award programs.  Although 4-H may look different than it did a century ago, it still remains the strongest positive youth development program in the world.  We are proud of O’Brien County and the 4-H’ers who have grown through the program.  
 

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