Joyce Stover got her start in 4-H at age 12. To this day, she's still actively involved — and it's a tradition she's shared with her three children and her grandchildren.
"I started in 4-H in 1965, and I'm still going," Joyce says.
She fondly remembers her projects growing up in Buena Vista County, where her parents, Curtis and Phyllis Haroldson, farmed.
"At that time in 4-H, you had to join a boys club or girls club. I wanted to show livestock, so I joined a boys club and showed cattle and hogs," she says. "My favorite project was probably a junior feeder project. It's where you had five calves, weighed them in, and fed them and took them to the fair, penned them, weighed them, and you figured out the rate of gain and feed efficiency."
And she's passed on that passion through two more generations. This passion for community and agriculture education is part of the reason she's been named a 2021 Iowa Master Farm Homemaker.
Joyce met her husband, Ron, while attending Iowa State University, where she studied animal science for three years before transferring to the University of Iowa to get a nursing degree. Joyce and Ron married in 1974, before she graduated in 1976.
Since then, they've had three children. Their first son, Justin, was born in 1976, followed by son Nathan in 1980 and daughter Stacy in 1990.
They moved to the farm where they now live near Mediapolis in southeast Iowa in 1979.The farm itself has changed since then. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Joyce and Ron raised sheep and hogs. Now, they primarily raise cattle, corn and soybeans, but they have also raised meat goats for 4-H and FFA projects since the mid-2000s.
Commitment to community
In 1980, Ron got an off-farm job teaching agriculture, and had to cut down on livestock numbers, which meant getting rid of the sheep herd. Since then, both Joyce and Ron have had off-farm jobs.
Ron taught ag and FFA, owned a Purina feed dealership and elevator, and worked at Big River Resources, an ethanol plant in Burlington from 2004 until he retired this March.
Joyce has made a career in health care and education, working as a nurse, youth program coordinator for Des Moines County Extension from 1987 to 1991, an in-home health care provider from 1991 to 2003, and an employee at Great River Hospice in West Burlington from 2003 to 2020, when she retired.
Joyce also aided the community as a volunteer. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Mediapolis, teaching Sunday school for 25 years, helping with the Christmas program and Bible school, and working with the youth group.
She's also a member of Patriotic Quilters of Southeast Iowa, sewing around 19 quilts over the last three years. In 2020, she dedicated her time to sewing face masks, making around 1,300 masks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and donating them to nonprofits, individuals and schools.
She also sews hospice quilts for Southeast Regional Medical Center in Burlington, formerly Great River Hospice, where she worked for 17 years.
Over the years, Joyce has been committed to helping people going through difficult times, including loss and grief. After she retired in December, she joined Born an Angel, Iowa, which involves using donated wedding dresses to sew gowns for grieving families who have lost an infant.
A new era for 4-H
Joyce has stayed involved in 4-H, including helping her children and grandchildren with livestock showing and static projects. She helped established a sewing club and a rabbit hopping and agility class for 4-H, as well as the Little Crowers and Little Thumpers programs for the Des Moines County Fair, a class for first, second and third graders with an interest in poultry and rabbits, respectively. Each program is an hour long and introduces kids to the basics of poultry and rabbit care. In 2018, Joyce and Ron were inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame.
As youth program coordinator for Des Moines County Extension for four years, she helped start a bucket bottle calf program for the fair.
"Washington County had started a bucket bottle calf program. I knew the youth director there, who provided the information, and it came back to the fair board, and we started the bucket bottle calf program here," Joyce says. "It grew to include bottle lambs, bottle goats, and then Don Deckman from the fair board started the pre-4-H bucket bottle class for first, second and third graders. If you're in third grade you can bring a project back the next year, and you've already got a project for your first year of 4-H."
Of course, Joyce and Ron's three children have been active in 4-H and FFA as well. They exhibited sheep, hogs, goats and cattle in their local county fair, and sheep and cattle at the Iowa State Fair, and also showed static projects. It's a tradition that's now being carried on by their grandchildren.
"Justin's son, Brock  went through 4-H and lives in Iowa. Cora  and Isaac , Nathan's children who live in North Carolina, have lived with us in the summer to do 4-H. Isaac is going to be a high school freshman this year, so he'll have four more years of 4-H," Joyce says. "By that time, Isaiah, Stacy's son, will be ready, but he'll be showing in Van Buren County, where they live. I've got four more years with Isaac, and I hope I'll be able to help Isaiah with static projects if he's interested."