4-H Hall of Fame inducts longtime 4-H beef superintendent

Lisa Depies / Geneseo Republic
Jim Geuns of Geneseo wears the medallion he received upon induction into the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame.

Jim Geuns of Geneseo joined the Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame during the 2017 Illinois State Fair in Springfield.

Geuns was nominated by Dean and Diane Olson, of Geneseo, who wrote in their nomination that “Henry County 4-H Beef Shows and the name Jim Geuns are synonymous.”

Raised on a farm in Cornwall Township, Geuns attended school in Atkinson before graduating from Geneseo High School in 1970.

His “beef career” started during high school when he took beef as an FFA project. In 1968, as a member of the Atkinson Boosters 4-H Club, he entered and showed cattle in the 4-H and Open Beef shows at the Henry County Fair.

In 1971, he exhibited the Grand Champion Steer at the fair.

“Those experiences ‘hooked’ him on cattle, and so a volunteer life of helping other 4-Hers started with his own experiences,” wrote the Olsons.

After high school, Geuns attended Black Hawk College, East Campus, in the ag transfer program and was able to continue his love for cattle by being active on the livestock judging team.

Today he is a lifetime member of the BHE Ag-Business Alumni Club. He works at Atkinson Grain and Fertilizer in Atkinson, with emphasis in the feed division.

“Marriage to Becky and the raising of four children (Mike, Kari, Caleb, and Jillian) on a farm southwest of Geneseo gave Jim many opportunities to foster his love for cattle but more so his love for seeing his kids and their friends acquire strong work ethics and leadership skills as active members of 4-H,” wrote the Olsons in their nomination.

Jim and Becky Geuns served as leaders of the Geneseo Junior Leaders 4-H Club while their three oldest children were members.

“For 14 years as leaders, they guided members through various projects, helped members with their livestock and had lots of fun coaching 4-H basketball teams. Our own four Olson children were fortunate to have Jim as a leader and mentor,” wrote Dean and Diane Olson.

In 1993, Geuns volunteered to be superintendent of the 4-H Beef Show at the Henry County Fair. In 2001 he added the duties of Open and Junior Open Beef Superintendent and continued these duties up until about 2012.

“Not only was he always on hand to aid 4-H’ers at the fair, but also taught them care, proper feeding, and fitting of their livestock. It was never work for him. He loved sharing his love of cattle with youth,” said the Olsons.

They added, “Knowing that beef projects need to be profitable to keep members interested and able to afford cattle, Jim also ran the 4-H and FFA Market Steer Show and Sale for 17 years. This involved not only arranging time and place, but he spent many hours soliciting buyers to make sure 4-H’ers received top dollars. In 2005, he was the first Henry County Fair superintendent honored as a Friend of the Henry County Fair.”

Fifteen years ago, in memory and honor of Geuns’ parents, Jim and Becky along with his siblings started presenting the Herdsman Award each year to a 4-H member who not only works conscientiously to perfect his or her beef project, but also reaches out to help others while always exhibiting good sportsmanship.

Geuns often is asked to judge at various county fairs through northern Illinois. He and his wife were charter members of the Geneseo Ag Alumni, and Geuns continues to be active in the Henry County Beef Association.

The Illinois 4-H Hall of Fame was started 13 years ago, said Angie Barnard, executive director of the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

“As a result of these volunteers’ years of service and leadership to Illinois 4-H, the program they love will continue to create wonderful opportunities for the young people whose lives it touches,” she said.

Each inductee received a commemorative Hall of Fame medallion.