Posted on August 19, 2019 at 2:26 PM by Global Reach
When Shirley Pfeiffer, 90, joined Emmet County 4-H as a high schooler, she had no inkling she was beginning a lifelong relationship. Her 4-H career began when her mother agreed to become leader of a girls’ club. Now, some 75 years later, the longtime Washington County resident continues to serve as the 4-H Garden Project leader.
From the beginning, Shirley’s interests and skills have been a natural fit with 4-H principles. Shirley describes a couple of projects for the standard three-year rotation of clothing, home improvement, and foods and nutrition. She sewed a wool plaid pleated skirt for the clothing year and changed her bedroom décor for home improvement. “I redid my room, painting the furniture green and white with rosebud decals,” Shirley recalled. “I used a rosebud fabric to make a dressing table skirt for a table made of two orange crates and a board to fit the top.” Her family’s involvement in 4-H included her sister, too, however she had stepped out of the traditional gender roles by joining a boys’ club due to her interest in showing cattle.
After college Shirley became an elementary art teacher in the Washington School District. When she and her husband, Fred, were married, they moved to a farm near Ainsworth in Washington County. A neighbor, Georgia White, asked her to co-lead the Sunshine Sisters girls 4-H club being formed. Their leadership lasted until all the girls graduated.
Eventually, as Shirley raised her family, 4-H influenced a third generation. Her younger son showed hogs along with entomology and garden projects while one of her daughter’s food projects sticks in Shirley’s mind. “One year my daughter and a friend demonstrated how to make baking powder biscuits. We ate biscuits all summer up to fair time!”
When Washington County’s garden project leader received a job transfer to Northrup King’s corn plant in Hawaii, local 4-H coordinator, Julia Gamon, asked Shirley to supervise that project and, in her words, “I’m still here!”
Shirley became a Master Gardener in 1989 to expand her knowledge for that project. In 1998 she earned the Ruby Clover for recognition for 30 years as a club and garden project leader. Now, in 2019, she’s tallied two more decades of service, totaling more than 50 years as a 4-H club and project volunteer.
Shirley is proud of the education 4-Hers received from the garden project on field trips to the ISU research farm near Fruitland in Muscatine County where they learned about research with tomatoes and potatoes. Shirley fondly recalls the many 4-H families she’s helped through the years to develop their gardens and gardening skills – truly a lifelong activity and commitment to others.