Cass, Decatur, Taylor Counties Add 4-H History Online

AMES, Iowa -- Cass, Decatur and Taylor counties have added their 4-H history to Iowa 4-H History by County, a blog detailing the history of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development. The history blog is a partnership of the Iowa 4-H program and the Iowa 4-H Foundation.

The online history notes the importance of the country fair to the 4-H program in Cass County. Throughout the years, 4-H and the fair have changed emphasis to meet the needs of the times. As early as 1949, 4-H project entries began changing to meet the needs of 4-H members who resided in towns and had interests other than livestock, although animal project areas such as rabbit, poultry and goats continued to expand as well.

Jack Van Laar, who compiled the history of 4-H in Decatur County, recalled participating in a club meeting on civil defense in the early 1960s. The club leader “explained that if under a nuclear attack, we may not be as far removed from danger as some might think, given that some military installations such as Offutt Air Force Base were actually not that far away, when considering the far-ranging effects of nuclear fall-out,” Van Laar wrote. “At the height of the Cold War era … these serious national issues with their perceived real and dire consequences were uppermost in many people’s minds, and were the subject of broad discussion at the time, even at 4-H club meetings.”

Taylor County’s history notes many of the opportunities 4-H provided for girls over the years. Louise Dukes, a Taylor County 4-H member in the 1950s, wrote, “4-H gave me an opportunity to make friends with other girls when there were almost no girls in our country school. Eventually, I got acquainted with girls from all over Iowa, some of whom are still on my Christmas card list. It was an opportunity for me to travel at that time when my parents were not able to take us for vacations. It was a way for me to have many cultural experiences and see how other people in other places did things. I learned many, many skills that have been helpful all of my life.”

View the full history on the blog, at   

Over the next two years, 4-H staff and volunteers will be reviewing additional county 4-H histories, with two to four being published on the blog each month, said Shelly Greving, marketing director for the Iowa 4-H Foundation.

The idea that led to the blog took root 10 years ago during Iowa 4-H’s centennial year, when several 4-H volunteers and ISU Extension staff members started talking about writing an illustrated history of 4-H in Iowa, Greving explained. Those early discussions resulted in “A 4-H Story: Helping Hands, Caring Hearts” (4H 4805), an illustrated 4-H ABC book for children. The book is available from the ISU Extension Online Store,

County celebrations during the 4-H centennial, as well as ISU Extension’s centennial in 2003, resulted in the gathering of numerous pictures, record books and memorabilia. Florine Swanson, retired Iowa 4-H Foundation executive director, led the online history project as counties compiled their history and submitted it to the review committee to be published on the site, Greving said.

“All these efforts have resulted in what now will be a living history of 4-H. We hope 4-H members, alumni, volunteers, leaders and staff will add their comments and continue the history of 4-H, sharing the many facets of each county’s 4-H program,” Greving said. “Individuals may choose to continue the legacy of 4-H by making a donation to directly impact Iowa 4-H or their county 4-H program.”

Those who wish to support 4-H in their county may make a donation to their county 4-H endowment through the Iowa 4-H Foundation,

“Today’s 4-H youth develop citizenship, communication and leadership skills; and learn about everything from aerospace to zoology,” said Chuck Morris, director of ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development. To learn more about 4-H, contact any ISU Extension and Outreach county office or check the 4-H website,