By Roz Weis,
One of the most prestigious honors bestowed at the Iowa State Fair each summer is the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame Award.
This year’s honoree from Winneshiek County is Steve Langland, who has 42 years of volunteer service under his belt.
Langland earned the local recognition during opening ceremonies at the Winneshiek County Fair earlier this month.
The son of Walter and Adeline Langland, Steve and his sister Karen grew up in Highland Township in northern Winneshiek County. He continues to make his home on the family’s Century Farm near Iowa’s border with Minnesota. The farm was established in 1877, and was named Valley View Farm in 1913 by his grandfather L.M. Langland.
Langland remembers starting his path with 4-H at the age of 9 as a member of the former Highland Hawks 4-H Club. He was active in 4-H until graduating from Spring Grove (Minnesota) High School in 1976, showing livestock (dairy cattle) and working on 4-H projects. He had several memorable projects, including refinishing a desk, building a dog house and participating in clothing selection divisions at the fair.
He was also actively involved with Future Farmers of America (FFA) during his high school years in Spring Grove.
After high school, he majored in ag journalism and livestock production at the University of Minnesota – Waseca. His plans after graduating from college abruptly changed when the dairy herdsman quit at his family’s farm. He came home and started farming with his family. He utilized his knowledge in agricultural studies to practice farming methods with the goal of continuing to be successful stewards of the land. The family continues to prioritize soil conservation in their farming practices. He also worked for 20 years in human services with Decorah’s Opportunity Homes and Bear Creek Services of Rochester, Minn., working with adults with disabilities.
A long list of his community activities and volunteer efforts includes helping with the dairy show at the fair, serving with the Winneshiek County Youth Development Committee and allocating countless hours on the Winneshiek County Extension Council and the Winneshiek County Foundation Board. He also served as a 4-H club leader, manager at the Clover Café at the fairgrounds, and volunteering and supporting many 4-H-sponsored events including the spaghetti supper and omelet breakfast fundraisers.
He has served on two state committees with the Cattlemen’s Association. Langland also was recipient of the leadership award from Farm Bureau and served on that organization’s state resolution’s committee for policy development.
This year’s honoree also spent 13 years managing the popular Community of Hope Nordic Fest booth (serving tasty, grilled pork chops as a fundraiser with sales going to third world countries). He is current president of the Board of Aase Haugen Senior Services of Decorah and president of The Spectrum Network Board of Directors.
His most recent volunteer effort at the Winneshiek County Fair did not go unnoticed. As he settled in near the grandstand with a malt in hand on a warm Fair afternoon, he sprung into action and “saved” the Rotary Club by helping one of the volunteer shift crews light the grill for the pork chop stand.
Courage and dedication
Showing remarkable courage and dedication, Langland took time during his most recent chemotherapy treatment to reminisce and talk about what earning the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame honors meant to him.
Diagnosed with bile duct cancer earlier this year, he withstood five rounds of chemotherapy prior to surgery in April, and was undergoing his ninth of 13 follow-up treatments during our interview.
“I didn’t become involved with 4-H with an eye on receiving an award,” he commented from his chemo session at the clinic in La Crosse, Wis., “It was with an idea to leave my corner of the world a little better.”
“I hope somewhere along the line I’ve had a good influence on the young 4-H’ers,” he concluded.
His spirits are high and he’s anxiously awaiting his trip to Des Moines to be formally inducted into the 4-H Hall of Fame at the Iowa State Fair in August.
“I want to say thank you to everyone involved in giving me the award,” he said. “It’s very humbling to be honored for something I did simply from the heart. We have an amazing fair board and countless volunteers making the greatest fair in Northeast Iowa.”
History of the Award
The Iowa 4-Hall of Fame was established 20 years ago as 4-H celebrated its 100th year dedicating to teaching youth life skills. The Iowa 4-H Foundation sponsors the annual Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Iowa State Fair. Counties nominate those who have exemplified outstanding service and dedication to the 4-H youth program in their county. Only one individual or couple per county can be nominated each year. During those 100 years of 4-H, it became evident that one of the essential elements of the 4-H program was the caring adults who were committed to the program. Inductees into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame represent the many people in Iowa who have contributed countless hours to the 4-H program. They work tirelessly to see that Iowa’s youth have a great learning experience in a safe and fun environment. These adults have modeled volunteerism, community service, integrity, and leadership to Iowa’s youth. Their legacy is the young people they have mentored who will, in turn, support the continuation of a 4-H program building Iowa’s leaders.
Langland travels to Des Moines Aug. 21 to the recognized at the Iowa State Fair as one of this year’s 99 Hall of Fame inductees from across the state.