GAINSEVILLE, Fla. – Since 2002, Florida 4-H has inducted many outstanding 4-H alumni, volunteers, professionals, and community leaders into the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame. These members have significantly contributed to the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program by exemplifying the 4-H motto to make the best better through citizenship, leadership, career and character.
This year, the Florida 4-H Foundation is pleased to announce Don Bennink of Gilchrist County, Nate Grimsley of Leon County, the Carl and Dee Dee Grooms Family of Hillsborough County, Judy Raymond of Polk County and Marvin Weaver of Gilchrist County as the 2022 inductees to the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame.
For over 25 years, Don Bennink has supported Florida 4-H by creating opportunities for youth to learn various ag related skills at his dairy farm, North Florida Holsteins.
Bennink is known for his passion for agriculture and creating a space for youth and young adults to experience dairy operations. UF/IFAS Senior Vice President, Dr. Scott Angle, says that when Bennink opens his gates to youth to work with animals, he opens the world to them. Students that get to work alongside him experience incredible science and technology such asBennink’s advanced embryo transfer procedure. This procedure allows farmers to yield high quality dairy cows.
“Through my time in Gilchrist County, since 2015 I have witnessed Mr. Don’s generosity,” says Gilchrist County Extension Director, Jessica Cooper. “He has allowed free leases for 4-H and FFA students to choose and work with a heifer to show at our annual tri-county fair, which he also sponsors.”
In addition, Bennink hosts several international students and young farmers each year to have the opportunity to work on a high-quality, high-yielding dairy farm.
Nate Grimsley became involved with4-H when one of his daughters won the 4-H Public Speaking contest. Since then, Grimsley has served Leon County 4-H program as a volunteer.
“Mr. Grimsley has unselfishly served as my most faithful and dedicated volunteer for the past 17 plus years. Mr. Nate is a prime example of the research that confirms the reason most people volunteer,” says Marcus Boston Jr., Leon County Extension Director. Grimsley not only volunteers for his home program in Leon County but serves as a volunteer for other counties in the Florida panhandle.
In addition to his volunteer service, Grimsley continues to advocate for the 4-H program and how the program has impacted his family.
Over the years, Nate Grimsley has shared his passion for handmade crafts to hundreds of youth at 4-H camps and events. Through his guided hands, he has taught youth how to make para-cord bracelets, necklaces, macrame, belts and various objects using palm branches. Grimsley also loves using his creative platform to encourage youth to learn how to make the most out of their opportunities.
“We feel very fortunate to have Mr. Nate as part of our 4-H program as he continues to find ways to make positive impact on young people on the local, district and even the state level,” says Marcus Boston.
The Grooms Family
With their generous efforts to serve youth and adults in Hillsborough County, the Grooms family has embodied the meaning to make the best better. Their commitment to family, farming, their faith, and community has touched countless lives in the past 50 years.
Carl and Dee Dee Grooms began their strawberry farm, Fancy Farms, in 1974 with approximately 18 acres. Since then, they have taught countless Florida 4-H and FFA members about the importance of agriculture and the strawberry industry with hands-on opportunities. In 1982, Carl and fellow local farmers came together to establish the Florida Strawberry Growers Association to support industry advancements, youth scholarships and more. The family continues to be a leader in the industry by helping to advance new technologies and expanding agritourism business and outreach opportunities.
Over the years, the now 125-acre farm has been home to the annual Hillsborough 4-H Foundation U-pick fundraiser. By providing the crop, land, containers and staff, the Grooms family’s generous efforts have helped raise more than $100,000 for the local 4-H foundation.
“One of the family’s best qualities is the fact that they are always willing to help make the best better and truly enjoy serving others,” says Betty Jo Tompkins, Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District executive director. “We cannot ever express our gratitude towards them for all they have done and continue to do.”
For over 30 years, Judy Raymond’s influence on the 4-H program has impacted youth in Polk County and beyond. With well over 120 members, Raymond has led Polk County’s largest 4-H club, Home Grown 4-H.
“Judy is one of those exceptional people who can lead a large group with purpose and direction. With a kind heart that gives more than she receives, Judy treats every kid as important as the next,” says 4-H fellow volunteer, Stacey Hosegood.
Raymond has trained countless youth with the proper techniques to become excellent at public speaking. A core life skill that Raymond believes every youth should have.
She is also known for her dog training, horse project, community service projects and archery lessons.
Through her love for 4-H and charitable efforts, she has also raised funds for youth projects, funds for camp and much more.
Over the last three decades, Raymond has left her mark on youth as a passionate 4-H volunteer and leader.
“Judy is a woman of character with honesty, gentleness and integrity behind her name. I honor her presence in my life and the life of my family. She is exemplary in her lifestyle and leadership,” says Stacey.
Marvin Weaver began his career in Extension as a 4-H agent in Escambia County. It was during his time as an agent that he found his appreciation for the 4-H program. Upon moving to Gilchrist County and becoming the County Extension Director, Weaver was widely known for his willingness to provide opportunity for both 4-H youth and the citizens of Gilchrist County.
Due to Weaver’s efforts, the Gilchrist County 4-H program grew to become a huge success. During his time, Countless Gilchrist County 4-H members received national level recognition trips to leadership events such as National 4-H Congress and National 4-H Conference.
“Marvin Weaver was a phenomenal Extension employee and mentor,” says Associate State 4-H Program Leader, Stacey Ellison. “From watching him and working alongside him, I learned the importance of every child, as they represent the future of the community you serve.”
Not only did Weaver ensure funding opportunities for underserved youth, he also helped partner farmers with 4-H members to supply project animals and land leases for kids to learn on. Due to his positive efforts, many former Gilchrist 4-H members have pursued careers in agriculture.
“I can confidently say that the communities of Gilchrist County and Florida 4-H have been changed by the work of Marvin Weaver, and we are fortunate to benefit from his legacy,” says Ellison.
Friends and alumni of Florida 4-H are invited to attend the induction on Thursday, July 28 at the University of Florida by registering online at tinyurl.com/4HHOF22. Event and youth sponsorships are also available. For more information, please contact Caylin Hilton at grow4H@ifas.ufl.edu or 352.392.5432.
4-H is the youth development program of the land-grant university system and Cooperative Extension System. The program provides hands-on educational programs and experiences for youth ages 5-18 with the objective of developing youth as individuals, and as responsible and productive citizens. In Florida, 4-H is administered by University of Florida IFAS Extension and Florida A&M University. The Florida 4-H Hall of Fame is a program of the Florida 4-H Foundation.