Monona Jr. Feeders 4-H Club turns 75 years old

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For 75 years, the Monona Jr. Feeders 4-H Club has provided area youth with an enriching 4-H experience. Throughout that time, three generations of the Moon family have been part of it, including (left) Dan, Vernice and Ryan. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Three generations of the Moon family reflect on changes in the club and 4-H over the years

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

For 75 years, the Monona Jr. Feeders 4-H Club has provided area youth with an enriching 4-H experience. Throughout that time, three generations of the Moon family have been part of it.

The club was young when Vernice Moon got involved around age 12 or 13, in the 1940s. He recalled only 10 to 12 members, who were farm kids from the Monona area—all boys. Meetings were held monthly, with kids gathering at one another’s homes.

“It was mostly meetings,” he said of the experience. “It was not as big on showing and fairs. It was nothing like it is now.”

Vernice said he remained in 4-H for only a few years but was later voted in by the kids as an assistant leader.

Fast forward to the late 1960s/early 1970s, when Vernice’s son, Dan, got involved. Showing was the main reason he joined, Dan said. He showed dairy from fourth grade through high school, exhibiting at the Clayton County Fair, as well as in Postville and at the Cattle Congress and Iowa State Fair.

At that time, boys mostly showed, he said, although there were a few girls who participated. The county fair was a popular event.

“It was a two-day show back then,” he noted. “The barns were full and you couldn’t bring more than three cows. It was mostly dairy.”

During his 4-H tenure, Dan said the club still met monthly, then at Monona City Hall. The kids had to fill out record books. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t receive the premium from the ribbons received at the fair. Dan served as vice president and learned parliamentary procedure, which he said has helped him with other councils he’s served on over the years.

The greatest lesson he learned over his years of participation, said Dan, was responsibility.

“You do things the right way and to the best of your abilities,” he said.

All three of Dan and his wife, Nancy’s, children were 4-H members, with the youngest, Ryan, now a senior in high school.

Just like his father, Ryan said his favorite part of 4-H involvement is showing dairy. He began showing in kindergarten, with the Kiddie Calf Show, and officially joined 4-H in 2007. He’s shown at the district level, county fair, state fair, Youth Classic and Cattle Congress. He garnered supreme champion honors at the county level the past two years.

With showing, he said he also enjoys that participants help one another out. They show one another’s animals if someone gets booked to show two at once. Ryan said he’s helped clip someone else’s cow and provided tips about when it’s best to milk a cow. This year, another member of the Monona Jr. Feeders showed one of the Moons’ animals, so Ryan helped her learn about showing and leading.

“You have to cooperate with other people,” he said, mentioning one of the things 4-H has taught him. He’s held several officer positions and has also learned about parliamentary procedure and record-keeping.

While showing has been a large part of Ryan’s 4-H career, he has had the opportunity to participate in other activities, as well. Over the years, he’s done photography and visual arts and had judges out to the farm to look at his vegetable garden, just to name a few.

That’s a big change from his days in 4-H, said Dan.

“Back then, I don’t remember boys doing that,” he said.

“They’ve gotten to try things they normally wouldn’t have done,” Nancy added. 

With robotics and computer programs now, she said there’s something for everyone.

The Monona Jr. Feeders Club now boasts over 40 kids, with numbers bolstered over the years by the dissolving of other clubs and the addition of more kids from town, said the Moons.

Having good leaders has also kept the club going, added Vernice.

Even if kids don’t live on a farm, they still have an opportunity to show and enjoy checking out the animals of those who do.

“Even if they don’t have animals, they still come down by the barn [during the fair],” Nancy said.

Every June, she said the Monona Jr. Feeders do a club tour, where youth visit other members’ farms and learn about the animals they will take to the fair, whether it’s cattle, pigs or sheep. 

“This year, it was chickens,” Nancy said, commenting on how the member showed them how to wash a chicken. “I didn’t know you had to wash a chicken to take it to the fair.”

Aside from exhibiting at fairs and attending meetings, which are held monthly at the Monona Community Center, Ryan said the 4-H club does some work in the community. They have a plot at the Butterfly Garden and have helped at the Clayton County Food Shelf. Every year, members also decorate a float for the Garnavillo Fourth of July Parade.

All in all, there’s “a lot of fun stuff to do,” Ryan said. “It’s good to try something new.”

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