Jim Frier’s involvement with 4-H began as a 4-H’er in Grundy County. He showed Berkshire hogs and fed cattle. He was on the Livestock Judging Team for three years and his last year earned 2nd high honors in the state. He attended ISU and was a 4-H summer trainee in Greene County. He worked for four years in Boone County as a 4-H/Youth assistant before moving to Washington County.
Jim served as the Washington County Extension Director from 1960-1992 – the longest term of any Extension Director in Washington County history. It was during Jim’s tenure in the 1970’s that Washington County 4-H reached its highest membership at approximately 800 members. For a number of years their fair headquarters was half of a 10’ x 16’ building that they shared with the fair board. There was room for two people. Fair headquarters eventually moved to a historic schoolhouse on the grounds. The old mimeograph machine and typewriters were the big workhorses during that time. He remembered how excited they were to get their first IBM Selectric typewriter.
Many changes and many “firsts” occurred during Jim’s Extension career. Washington County became an early leader in the adoption of conservation tillage and no-till corn and beans. Many twilight tours were held to demonstrate successful practices. The first year a three-day farm management short course was conducted where 65 farmers studied principles and use of management tools. Jim’s goal was to offer a major program for each livestock species each year. He remembers with pride the early feedlot tours where 150 cattlemen travelled to 3 or 4 feedlots and shared ideas and practices and learned from specialists from Ames.
Many ag and horticulture programs were offered, but Jim also saw to it that home economics and families programs and 4-H youth development were strong. The first Master Gardener group in Washington County was trained during Jim’s career. The group remains strong and several from the original class are still active members.
There were also many new 4-H programs started including: horse trail performance class, bucket bottle calf project, carcass evaluation for beef and swine, the rooster crowing contest, and special project meetings. A new show barn, new hog barn, and new horse barn were built. He remembers the great leadership throughout the livestock departments and noted several generations later many of the same families are still proudly involved in 4-H. He remembers 3 and 4 day summer camps at Lake Darling for 120 – 140 kids and marvels at how they got it done.
Jim’s efforts set the stage for current Washington County programs which remain strong today based on the solid foundation Jim helped build. Washington County’s rich history of Extension and 4-H can be traced back to Jim Frier.
Jim judged at county fairs in southeast Iowa for about eight years. Jim especially liked projects where communication was involved. He felt showmanship was one of the most important aspects of the livestock shows. “Youth become responsible for the care of an animal and learn responsibility. In non-livestock areas youth have to look at their desire to learn a skill to the best of their ability,” Jim shared.
Jim sums it up by saying, “I loved my years in Extension. I had a lot of good experiences. I tell my kids and grandkids my hope for you is that you have a job you like as much as I loved mine.”