By Sherry Vogel
So when she became of age, at ten years old, she was eager to enroll as a member of the Fertile Prairie 4-H Club. The club was originally founded in 1959 as a chartered club of the National 4-H Foundation. 4-H is a national youth development program and offers more than 100 different projects and learning experiences. Youth can learn how to cook, sew, raise an animal or camp, and everything in between.
The Fertile Prairie Club met one time a month, usually in a club member’s home and was well attended by many of the local farming families of that community. These families, many of them large, were: Duffield, O’Donnell, Hanratty, Turbiville, and two families each of Jensen and Murphy. The leaders were the mothers and occasionally a father of a club member.
Little did Reetz know that at just ten years of age she was joining a fraternity which would span 39 years of her life. Reetz was involved as a club member for eight years. As a young girl she remembers the challenge of leading her dairy cow to walk backwards in the show ring. She also recalls that her first club demonstration was “How to Fold a Sheet”. Along the way, Reetz won many honors and awards. She was thrilled to be chosen for the Best Girl’s Record Book and even prouder to be awarded Best Club Secretary Book. She attributes her great organizational skills of today to the skills she learned while in 4-H. She stated, “4-H taught me to properly fill out paperwork.” Her biggest achievement in her 4-H career came when at 18 years old she was selected for the Citizen Short Course. This is a week-long summer experience in Washington, D.C. Among the highlights of her trip was meeting congressmen. She also enjoyed staying in the National 4-H Center, which has a campus-like atmosphere. She met people from across the United States. Reetz also enjoyed field trips touring historic and educational sites in the nation’s capital.
After graduating from high school, Reetz was hired by Extension Agent Gene Hoff to fill the position of Fallon Extension Service secretary. She enjoyed working with Gene and Minneclair Lavender and remembers this as being her favorite job.
Later on when Reetz’s children became 4-H members, she became a leader. She was head leader of the original Fertile Prairie Club for ten years. She also served six years as president of the 4-H Council. She shared, “I’ve always enjoyed being involved in 4-H. So I’ve continued even as my children outgrew 4-H.” She continues to get acquainted with new members when working at the 4-H food booth and at county events. She added, “Time has gone so fast and I’ve worked with lots of kids.” Last year two of her grandkids, Tai Setinc and Daley Crawford, became members of the Tumbling Tumbleweeds 4-H Club. “I wanted to be involved with them,” she explained, “so I became a leader once again.”
When asked how 4-H has changed over the years, she stated, “Kids are more involved with school activities so they can’t always juggle 4-H and school. “ Hence 4-H membership isn’t as high as it was in years past.
This is disappointing because as Reetz so eloquently stated, “4-H is a wonderful organization. It is a great way for kids to learn new things that otherwise they may not have been exposed to.”
Congratulations, Toni Reetz! We applaud your 31 faithful years of service to 4-H and the youth of Fallon County as a 4-H leader. You have truly exemplified the 4-H motto “to make the best better”.