4-H has never had a better "mother hen" than Audrey Johnson. Johnson began working with 4-H in the early 1960’s and continued for more than 35 years before retiring in 1998.
"4-H gave me the opportunity to teach my son and many youth in Immokalee important skills and values. There was little for kids to do outside of school and we made a big difference. My 4-Hers have all turned out real well," Johnson said.
According to Linda Denning, retired Collier County Extension Agent, Johnson and many of her 4-H members had a love-hate relationship.
“Miss Audrey was both loved and hated by her 4-H children. They knew she loved each one of them and expected the very best from them at all times,” said Denning. “Her strong discipline and high expectations were not always what her kids wanted as teenagers. But once they became parents they realized Miss Audrey was a woman who loved and cared for her 4-H’ers as her own.”
Johnson was quick to remind everyone that decisions should be made based on what was best for the young people, not what would be the best for financial gain. She applied this belief repeatedly in her leadership role as a 4-H leader and later as a founding Collier County 4-H Foundation board member and Collier County Fair manager in the 1980s and 1990s.
Johnson was instrumental in creating strong financial support for local programs through the Collier County 4-H Foundation and in creating a place for youth to receive recognition at the fair.
Johnson wanted her 4-Hers to build character and instilled in them the values symbolized by the “Four H’s”. Because of her work inspiring others to give back, 4-H members conduct the “Audrey Johnson Founder’s Pet Food Donations Night” at the Collier County Fair. Fair attendees donating pet food receive free gate admission. Donated pet food is given to a local organization that helps find homes for animals.
Johnson was involved in her community in other ways, including membership in the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce, the Cattle Woman’s Association and Agri-Business Women.
She passed away in 2002.