Reggie Brown grew up in Alachua County, Florida, but thanks to 4-H, he got to see much more of the state—and the country.
The first time he took a train was to attend the National 4-H Congress in Chicago. Later, he remembers piling into a station wagon with fellow 4-H members to attend the National 4-H Land Judging contest in Oklahoma City. They drove through New Orleans and Dallas, big cities that Reggie, who grew up in Orange Heights, Florida, had never experienced before.
“I don’t think there is a program like 4-H out there that can provide those kinds of opportunities,” he said. “It broadened my horizons and showed me how the world works.”
Reggie was drafted into the Marine Corp in the late 1960s, and returned home to pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree in vegetable production at the University of Florida. From there, he taught agriculture in North Carolina, then returned to Florida to work as a UF/IFAS Extension agent in Seminole County and as Extension director for Collier County.
For the last 19 years, he’s been the executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, retiring from the position in early 2018.
Reggie’s success as a leader in the agriculture industry goes back to training he got in 4-H, he said.
“There were tremendous opportunities for leadership at many levels. I went to summer camp, was part of the state 4-H council, and worked for the 4-H program at UF when I was a student there,” he said.
Reggie has been on the board of the Florida 4-H Foundation and is in the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame. Though 4-H has evolved since he was a youth, its impact on youth hasn’t changed, he said.
“4-H has expanded to include more STEM and to serve both rural and urban areas. But 4-H today is still based on the same principles: learning by doing, building confidence, finding mentors,” he said.