Norman R. Mehrhof was a pioneer in the development and promotion of the 4-H program in the state of Florida. He joined the University of Florida as the head of the Poultry Sciences Department in 1924. He had worked previously at Clemson University. Despite heavy responsibilities as a new department head, Mehrhof remained heavily involved in the 4-H program throughout his entire career. He often spoke fondly of his days in the 1920s, 30s and 40s when he worked with county and home demonstration agents and their 4-H poultry projects.
“As far as I know, he was the only department head at the University that was still actively involved with 4-H work,” said Lester Kalch, retired, Poultry Science Department, University of Florida. “Even just before his retirement he was still down at the poultry judging contest in Orlando keeping track of the scores – making sure it was being done correctly.”
Mehrhof established and was head of the poultry science department at the University of Florida from 1939-1963. He worked actively with 4-H as a faculty member for 39 years and initiated the State 4-H Poultry Show and Judging Contest in Orlando.
He also gave leadership to special county poultry programs sponsored by the Sears, Roebuck and Co. Foundation. He served 4-H actively while continuing to teach at the University.
“I first met “Prof” Mehrhof 1939 when I traveled to University of Florida for a short-course,” said Kalch, who was involved in 4-H as a youngster. “He made a big impression on me. After I graduated from high school and got out of military I thought, ‘I’m going to back to school and getting a degree in agriculture. I ran into Prof and told him who I was. I ended up majoring in poultry science and went to work with Professor Mehrhof.’”
Mehrhof’s commitment to 4-H was outstanding and his impact will be felt for many years to come. Mehrhof established the Poultry Institute for Commercial Poultrymen held at 4-H Camp McQuarrie for many years. The program taught farmers new and healthy techniques for raising their flocks. He pioneered 4-H poultry programs and was elected “distinguished fellow” by the Poultry Science Association.
In addition to his work with 4-H, Mehrhof was active in his community as a member of the Kiwanis Club and a Deacon at the First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville.