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CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Harold “Brownie” Brown has devoted the bulk of his working life to youth education, much of it to Maine 4-H. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Brown, the current president of the Pine Tree State 4-H Foundation board was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame at an event in Maryland in October.
Brown grew up in the mountains of Rumford, and served in the Korean War before beginning his long career in youth education. In 1967 he left his position as a high school principal in Hermon and began working with the Maine Talent Utilization Project, helping young people plan for their post-high school futures. He has spent 33 years as a UMaine Extension 4-H educator and was Maine state 4-H program coordinator for 17 years. Brown led the development of Maine 4-H’s international program, facilitating exchange experiences with Costa Rica and Japan for Maine young people. He established a travel award program to fund overseas experiences for youth, and the Harold H. Brown International Travel Awards are presented each year at the 4-H Foundation’s annual meeting.
Brown is a former state president of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents and a recipient of their Achievement and Distinguished Service Awards. On a national level, he has been known to some as the face and the voice of National 4-H Congress. At home in Maine, Brown’s professional affiliations have included service as chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, chair of the UMaine President’s Advisory Council for Retirees; as a board member of Maine’s Youth Fish & Game Association, and membership on the Task Force on Fish Hatcheries.
4-H grew out of boys and girls clubs of the early 20th century organized for agricultural education. Today’s 4-H is part of the national Cooperative Extension System, which is operated through each state’s land-grant university. In Maine, 4-H programs focusing on leadership, citizenship and life skills are offered for young people aged five to 18 through University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Brown has helped Maine 4-H remain relevant for kids in the 21st century. Agriculture, he commented, while vital, is now “just a piece of what 4-H is. 4-H is moving into school-based programming, because we have to reach young people where they are. So many things compete for kids’ time and attention . . . what we offer is really quality, the very best we can offer.” Brown’s commitment to the value of 4-H is such that he has pledged support for Maine 4-H through his membership in the University of Maine Foundation’s Charles F. Allen Society. “. . . I wanted to say, in effect, ‘thank you,’ and that I believe in the program. I have been enriched as a person by 4-H for the past 30-plus years, he says.”
Hall of Fame inductees are chosen by a committee consisting of past inductees and representatives from national 4-H organizations.