Milo Livestock is the second biggest 4-H Club in Delaware County. With 51 out of the total 400 members in Delaware County, it contains kids from two counties, three school districts and the seven townships of Delhi, Delaware, Hazel Green, Milo, North Fork, Union and Prairie.
Shirley Helmrichs, one of the leaders of Milo Livestock, explained how the club has grown over the past fifty years.
“4-H has been around for over 100 years in Iowa,” said Helmrichs. “Young people can enter when they’re in fourth grade at 9-10 years old, and they can continue even after they’re out of high school. A lot of them are nine-year members, which is a pretty long time to commit to something. Back in the day 50 years ago, they were mainly by township and you joined the club where you lived. With fewer farm families, a lot of our members don’t live on a farm. They live in towns or on an acreage in the country. It’s changed a lot, but a lot of those members, even if they don’t raise livestock for a living, raise them for projects. It was really nice when they changed because if two friends are in different townships and they want to be together to do some things because we do fun activities, they can join the same club. A lot of the time all their family comes.”
Helmrichs said family is central to 4-H life. Rather than creating a separate part of life for club members away from their parents and siblings, all members are encouraged to participate and witness what the kids are learning. Often membership will continue through generations and become something of a family tradition.
“We’re continuous,” said Helmrichs. “One of the boys in our club had his dad and his grandpa in our club, and his great-grandpa is one of our founding leaders in Milo. That’s a four-generation family. My own family is three generations so far. Others have never been in 4-H, but they like what they do. We encourage parents to come, we want them to be involved. We want you to know what your kids are doing and what we’re doing with your kids, which is a really good thing.”
“I’ve gone to every meeting since I was in kindergarten,” said Helmrichs’ grandson RJ Helmrichs, who recently finished his sixth official year of membership. “I just started showing when I was in fourth grade, but I’ve technically been doing it all my life. It’s fun and you do a lot of community service and different activities. We’ll plant pumpkins for the residents at the Penn Center so we can paint them during Halloween. We also plant plants for them to give them an activity of watering them. We do food pantry and deliver around the different holidays for people who need it.”
4-H holds many similarities with other youth organizations such as the Scouts, with the major differentiating factor being its emphasis on livestock. The club year runs from September through August with regular monthly meetings except for December and July. Each family helps host a meeting and all members do educational presentations on a topic of their choice. From December through May there are livestock weigh-ins, project meetings and work on fair entries for both livestock and other project exhibits. At the 2021 Delaware County Fair, Milo Livestock members participated in twelve different livestock events and prepared fair exhibits from their year-long projects in approximately 40 different areas. Many members will also be participating at Iowa State Fair with their exhibits and livestock.
While the challenge of COVID-19 meant meetings for the club had to be adapted, they still managed to remain active by finding large open meeting spaces.
Helmrichs said, “Even during COVID-19 we managed to hold a meeting every month except one right after things started and we couldn’t figure it out. We did one ZOOM and met in the Delhi park three times when the weather worked with us. We’d bring our lawn chairs, spread out, talk loud, it worked great even with all the noise. We also met in the back of FS, one of the agriculture businesses in town, and they gave us their big work area to meet in. Now we’re meeting most often at the Stone Church in Manchester. They have a large meeting room where we can spread out. We kind of rove.”
Helmrichs said Milo Livestock is very focused on serving the community and helping kids to be the best they can be.
“Clubs vary on the level of activity. Ours has always been community service-oriented. I think the main thing for 4-H is that we encourage young people to do the things they do best, try some things new to them and share what they learned with other people.”