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Extension > Extension history > Archives > 1900-1925 Archive

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St. Paul hosts first junior livestock show

Livestock Show

A state 4-H livestock show was the brainchild of Extension livestock specialist W.A. McKerrow. Supported by the Minnesota Livestock Breeders Association and the St. Paul meatpacking firms, and with rules set up by the boys and girls club staff at University Farm, the show was held at the South St. Paul stockyards in December 1918.

The first show produced 31 only "rather plain beef calves,"? but the idea caught on and became a major 4-H event. Most valuable, the program gave agents a way to build trust with parents by teaching their children how to manage their livestock.

4-H grows out of first boys and girls clubs

4H Club Photo

Minnesota's 4-H clubs grew out of the boys and girls clubs in the early 1900s. The first 4-H symbol, in 1907, was a three-leaf clover, for head, heart and hands. The fourth leaf was added in 1911 to symbolize health (resistance to disease, enjoyment of life and efficiency). In 1914, the Smith-Lever Act brought 4-H into Extension nationwide. By the early 1920s, the clubs were known everywhere as "4-H clubs."? By immersing kids in learning and leadership activities and instilling a healthy spirit of competition through project judging, 4-H contributed directly to the nation's leadership position in world agriculture and other industries.

Early 4-H projects include seed corn contests

Barrel of Corn

Growing seed corn and baking bread were the first statewide 4-H club projects. In 1904, T.A. Erickson, then Douglas County school superintendent, organized seed corn contests for local boys and girls clubs. The aim was to educate youth (and their parents) about raising better corn. Seeking wider involvement, Erickson organized Minnesota's first county school fair, at Nelson School in Alexandria. Project exhibits included corn, potatoes and poultry.

Erickson, who became Extension's first state 4-H leader, wrote 4-H's founding principles: to interest youngsters in county life, to teach kids and adults at the same time, and to help the schools "teach boys and girls how to do things worth while."?

Women pioneers lead way in home economics

Woman next to a Model T

As early as 1911, rural schools had hot lunch programs, thanks to Mary Bull, Extension's first state home economics leader. Before World War I, Minnesota's home economics staff grew by only four. But in 1917, with U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, Extension added 11 home demonstration agents. They expanded their reach through judging county fair exhibits, demonstrating baking and canning, and holding short courses at farmers' institutes. Specialists backed them up with popular leaflets on milk, fish, eggs, conservation, textiles and recreation. Today's Extension learning circles still help families use their resources wisely, from food and nutrition to family finances.

President Wilson calls for food to 'win the war'

Examining food rations

With world food supplies desperately low in 1916, Extension agents worked closely with farmers to aid the war effort. As the United States entered World War I, President Wilson provided $4.3 million to national Extension under the Emergency Food Production Act. County agents responded to the call, "Food will win the war,"? by teaching people to grow and preserve more food and change cooking and eating habits. Home economists traveled out to the people around the state, teaching canning classes and providing recipes for meatless and wheatless meals. This was Extension's first response to a major emergency and a trademark of its mission.

View 'Access to Healthy Food' on the Centennial Videos page.

Drainage increases tillable farmland

Man digging ditch

The 1920s brought an increasing demand for tillable land. Stumps and boulders were a big problem and removing them was slow, difficult and expensive. Extension county agents taught farmers to use low-powered war surplus explosives on these and on constructing drainage channels on poorly drained flatlands.

In 1921, Extension had helped farmers in 22 northeastern Minnesota counties clear 35,000 acres of land, saving $70,000 above other removal costs. Many farmers remember that Extension helped their fathers and grandfathers drain wetlands to grow more crops. Today, Minnesota ranks among the national leaders in both corn and soybean production.

First milk cooperatives assist dairy farmers

Milk Trucks

In 1915, dairy farmers in the Twin Cities area were struggling to get fair prices from milk dealers. In 1916, four Extension county agents, led by Hennepin County agent K.A. Kirkpatrick, helped form the Twin City Milk Producers Association, a marketing cooperative. Kirkpatrick became the general manager and held the post for many years.

In 1917, the cooperative was attacked for "the offense of representing farmers" to sell their milk collectively, but in two years, the association was accepted. Extension went on to help organize two other cooperatives now known (and still thriving) as the Central Livestock Association and Land O' Lakes, Inc.

Hog cholera hits western Minnesota

Examining an ill pig

A disastrous hog cholera epidemic in 1913 threatened the swine industry in Minnesota's west central counties. Renville County Extension agent W.E. Morris helped save hog producers close to $1 million. Renville County cholera losses dropped from 56 percent in 1913 to less than 5 percent in 1914, and Minnesota set a nationwide record in controlling the disease.

Morris organized a team of swine raisers in each township to help inform their neighbors and help veterinarians. In 1923, the legislature asked Extension to set up hog cholera vaccination schools led by Extension veterinarians. The veterinarians also taught improved herd management, and by 1972 the disease had been eliminated from the state.

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