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Florida 4-H featured alumni: Ben Campen

Ben Campen can still remember how his 4-H agent, A. T. Andrews, would run the bases during the softball games at 4-H summer camp.

“If he hit a single, he’d try to make it a double; if he hit a double, he’d try for a triple; a triple, he’d go for a homerun. Mr. Andrews led by example, challenging us to be better at whatever we were doing. I was very fortunate to have him as a leader,” Ben said.

Ben became a 4-H member in Alachua County at age 10, and was involved in tractor driving, vegetable gardening and public speaking. “I would go around the area giving safety presentations, especially about electrical safety.  As a young kid, I had accidentally shocked myself once with electricity—that was a real ‘learn by doing’ experience!” he said. His family owned a restaurant and farm in Waldo, Florida, where he lived until he was 20 years old.

Ben’s father passed away when he was just 16, and A.T.—or Mr. Andrews, as Ben called him at the time—became both a 4-H leader and father figure. Ben attributes his success in real estate development to lessons he learned through 4-H and from A.T., who eventually became part of his company, once he had retired as the Alachua County Extension Agent in the early 80’s.

In the future, Ben hopes more kids have the opportunity to be a part of 4-H and learn to believe in themselves as he did. “Nothing breeds confidence like accomplishments, and 4-H offers that opportunity to anyone and everyone” he said.

“Starting my business when I was in my early 20’s, I had the confidence to say, I can and I will. I felt like I could make it happen by working hard—which was engrained in me by 4-H.  I felt I could always do more and be better, which was a result of A.T.’s direct teachings as well,” Ben said.

In 2004, Ben and A.T. were a part of the first class of inductees to the National 4-H Hall of Fame. “I was extremely honored to be included with A.T.,” Ben said.

Are you a Florida 4-H alumni? Give back to the 4-H community by voting for Florida in the Raise Your Hand campaign. Your vote will help support opportunities for current Florida 4-H members.