When Hariot Greene and her husband, Barney, invested in Mel Fisher’s search for the shipwrecked Atocha, they were skeptical that they would ever see a profit. But miraculously, the sunken Spanish galleon, which sank to the ocean floor in 1622, was found in 1985 by Mel’s company, Treasure Salvor’s Inc.
Both the Greenes and the Florida 4-H Foundation benefited. The Greenes donated their shares in the bounty - which was literally a wealth of antique coins, silver bars, gold bars, and emeralds - to the Florida 4-H Foundation and to citrus research.
By meeting Hariot through this experience, the University of Florida extension service became so impressed with Greene that they asked for her help.
“Extension asked me to help them with a big capital fundraiser but they didn’t have a list of 4-H Alumni,” said Greene. “My husband and I decided that wouldn’t do, so we donated more money so they could do some research and get an alumni list. I’ve worked with 4-H ever since.”
One of the silver bars was melted down and made into 4-H clovers, which were sold for years as a fundraiser for the Florida 4-H Council. While the silver clover pins and charms have meant a great deal to many 4-H members and supporters over the years, they have taken on a symbolic meaning to some. At least one bride who met her intended through the 4-H program has carried a silver clover in her bouquet on her wedding day to represent “something old.”
In addition to her family’s generous financial contributions to 4-H, Greene has learned as much as she can about the 4-H program. She continues to work hard to get to know as many volunteers and staff on both the county and state level as possible.
She has attended county 4-H camping programs and other 4-H activities to understand in person what 4-H is about. Greene has served as a member of the Florida 4-H Foundation Board for seven years and was treasurer for two years.
Greene found that she benefited personally from her involvement in 4-H. “Serving as a board member of the Florida 4-H Foundation has been very rewarding,” said Greene. “The friendships gained through this involvement are very special. The most rewarding part has been in our relationship with the young people involved in the 4-H program. To see them grow and mature and become responsible citizens brings me great joy. I have reaped far more than I have sown by my involvement with 4-H.
Although Greene says she prefers to stay in the background, her financial and moral support have made it possible for many 4-Hers to participate in 4-H programs. Greene and her husband have personally networked and tapped contacts to generate financial support to help 4-H members to attend camps and participate in other 4-H programs that they might not otherwise be able to participate in because of financial constraints.
“I think involvement in 4-H is even more important today than it used to be,” said Greene. “Life is more transient today than it used to be, and so many kids are coming from broken homes. This gives kids somewhere to go where they belong, where they have roots and can stay grounded. With both parents working we need a place that provides a place for children to learn.”
Greene is also happy to see 4-H clubs not only in rural, more traditional settings, but traveling into inner cities as well.
“I love to hear that 4-H clubs are in inner city schools and community centers,” said Greene. “It’s so important for kids to have a safe environment where they can learn life skills such as cooking and taking care of their health. It’s also good for kids to have a place to go where not every minute is planned, where they can have a little freedom and have time to be creative.”
In addition to their work with 4-H, the Greenes have also established the Greene Academy, a school on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, to teach high school students the fundamentals of agriculture so they have skills to support themselves. They are also active members of the First United Methodist Church in Vero Beach, and assist with the maintenance and repair of a church in a low-income community.
The Greenes have been partners with their four children in the management of Greene Groves and Ranch, LTD, and Green River Marketing and Packing. They manage more than 2,000 acres of citrus fruit. They pack and market about three million cartons of citrus each year.
The Greenes have been recognized on state, national and international levels for their innovative leadership in the agricultural industry. They have been recognized by the Florida 4-H Council, the Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents, and the Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents for their contributions to extension programs.