BIDWELL — For Janet Browning, 4-H has been a multi-generational part of her family, ranging from grandparents, Maurice and Marie Thomas, and her mother, Dorothy Toler, to herself and her daughter, Rochelle Halley.
And recently, Browning, 64, of Bidwell, was recognized for her contributions to the Gallia County Junior Fair by the Ohio Fair Managers Association. Fifty-four individuals or organizations were honored, with Browning as the sole recipient for Gallia County. She said her daughter nominated her for the honor and added that the hearing about came as a surprise.
“I was very honored,” she said. “I didn’t know that was even in the works or process.”
According to their official website, 4-H serves as preparation for young people to make a positive impact in their community and in the world.
Browning first joined 4-H at the age of eight as an associate member, or what is known today as a Cloverbud. At the age of nine, Browning became an official member of 4-H until she graduated high school in 1969, and also graduated into the position of a 4-H advisor — and she’s been serving as an advisor to 4-H kids for the Gallia County Fair ever since.
And to this day, her mother, going strong at the age of 91, also continues to serve as an advisor.
Browning said she’s seen generations of 4-H kids pass through the Gallia County Junior Fair, and that the experience is a positive for each generation.
“It’s good for them to learn skills; just being with people, and how to work with people,” she said.
Each year, the 4-H participants Browning advises will pick a project for the fair that is related to one of their interests, and typically goes with the fair’s theme. Browning said when she was younger, most projects for girls involved cooking and sewing, with boys typically completing projects involving animals. Today, she sees more intermingling and variety. Many of these projects have books covering the material from 4-H through The Ohio State University, but many students also create projects based on their own idea of what they want to complete, called “self-determined” projects.
Browning said that her club members will most likely begin regular fair meetings in March, which will allow the kids to learn new skills and, more importantly, interact with one another through 4-H. This, she said, will prepare them for whatever they meet in the future.
“It’s very family-oriented,” Browning said. “There are so many things (today) that pull them away from the family, so it’s just really a good thing to be able to do.”