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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


Faces of Ohio 4-H — Fran DeWine

Fran DeWine

Over the years, thousands of young people have taken part in the Ohio 4-H program and carried the skills and experiences gained with them throughout their lives. Each month, we highlight one of these outstanding alumni who continues to make the best better in their everyday lives and careers. This August we are excited to share the story of Fran DeWine, Ohio’s first lady and a 4-H alumna who continues giving back to the program.

Growing up in a small village in Greene County, Fran DeWine chose non-livestock projects that included cooking and sewing. “Sewing projects were so popular during the ’60s that there were hundreds of girls and The DeWine children among the campers at Camp Clifton in 1984young women taking them each year to our Greene County Fair.” These experiences led her to study home economics at Miami University and had an impact on her future. “All the things I love to do as the wife of an elected official — my love of homemaking, my cookbooks, making pies for our ice cream social, and love of children — really were influenced by those early years of 4-H.”

She works to encourage today’s youth to learn more about where their food comes from, a project she is passionate about. “At the Ohio State Fair, I cook with children. I like to show them where their food comes Mrs. DeWine helps her oldest son, Pat, shampoo his lamb before his first show in 1977.from, so we start by grinding wheat and making pizza dough. With that and my work with childhood literacy and the Imagination Library, I sometimes feel that I’m the home ec teacher for all Ohio!” Teaching children is certainly a trademark of Mrs. DeWine, especially when it comes to introducing them to the 4-H program. All eight of her own children were active members, and they spent 33 consecutive years taking on 4-H projects!

One of Mrs. DeWine’s most prized memories comes from her children’s early years in 4-H. With a move to Washington, D.C., in 1983 when her Mrs. DeWine discusses the lamb show with her daughter, Anna.husband was elected to Congress, the DeWine children were worried they would miss their club meetings and not be able to participate in 4-H. Mrs. DeWine took matters into her own hands to ensure the spirit of 4-H was kept alive in her family. “We invited our whole club to come to our home in Washington. They chartered a bus, and advisors, parents, and kids came to our not-so-big house in the suburbs and stayed for several days! The parents helped cook the meals, kids slept on the floor in sleeping bags, and we had a great time touring Washington and seeing the Capitol and all the monuments. It was a great experience and many of the kids and their parents still talk about it.”

Looking back on these experiences and others, Mrs. DeWine recognizes that 4-H advisors and volunteers played a vital role in the lives of her children, and now in the lives of her grandchildren. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, and our 4-H community was our village.” Now, Mrs. DeWine continues to advocate for the Ohio 4-H program and supports local 4-H youth through county fair auctions and events. She encourages young people to discover the importance of 4-H and be involved.