When former cooperative extension agent Joy Wren Satcher says the 4-H youth program is her life, she's not exaggerating.
Satcher spent thirty years working to enhance the program founded more than 100 years ago as an agricultural education and outreach program for young people in rural America.
"Throughout my whole life in 4-H," Satcher said, "I've focused on and encouraged leadership for the youth in the program. Today, as agriculture is declining in Brevard County in the face of advancing technology, young people need and want those 4-H experiences that will help them grow into leaders in their chosen fields." U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is just one example of 4-H sharpening leadership skills, Satcher said, calling him one of "her 4-H’ers."
In reflecting on her days with 4-H, Satcher said, “My sixteen years in the Brevard County 4-H Program gave me the opportunity and job satisfaction of guiding hundreds of 4-H youth, teen leaders and volunteer leaders into becoming active in civic, community, district, state, and national activities.”
During her career in cooperative extension and 4-H, Satcher set goals for 4-H that continue to reap benefits today and attract young people to the clubs. For example, she helped found a 4-H exchange with other states to encourage them to swap information, ideas, techniques and knowledge.She also was on the board of the state 4-H Foundation and organized the first local foundation for Brevard.
The 4-H Foundation still is an integral part of the clubs and provides financial assistance so no member need miss opportunities. Satcher also worked to develop and strengthen National 4-H Congress, and worked for many years with a 4-H radio show.
In the early days of 4-H, Satcher said, the clubs, activities, training and classes were segregated according to gender, with boys encouraged to participate in livestock and farming, while girls participated in home life, home improvement, health, gardening and canning.
Satcher said that agents were assigned work roles according to gender. "In those days, women couldn't be county agents and could not be married. We were the home economics or gardening experts," she said.
Under her leadership, Brevard County became the first 4-H program in the state of Florida to offer an active 4-H horse program for disabled children. The county was also the first to set up an active county 4-H foundation to raise financial support for the 4-H program, and it became a model for other county programs not just in Florida, but around the country.
She maintained a high degree of visibility for the 4-H program by reaching out to the news media and sharing information about 4-H programs and activities. She was able to forge a partnership to bring Ag in the Classroom into the public school system as a credited teacher in-service training day. From 1972-1977, Satcher obtained CETA grants for recruiting, training, and supervising 24-30 summer 4-H staff, who were mostly college students. These Summer Educational Programs, called SEP, was promoted with a 50 slide presentation set to music and with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson moderating.
Satcher was the first 4-H agent to received the Distinguished Service Award presented by the newly-formed Florida Association of Extension 4-H Agents, which she received in 1975. In 1981, the Brevard County Commissioners declared “Joy Satcher” day to express their appreciation for her contributions to the community.
Her bachelor’s degree was in home economics. In 1975, she earned a master's degree in home economics management at Florida State University. She also serves on the staff emeritus of the University of Florida.
In nominating Satcher for the Hall of Fame, Lowell Loadholtz, Brevard County extension director emeritus, wrote, "Mrs. Satcher initiated numerous innovative programs that provided many opportunities for developing Florida's and America's youth people. Under her leadership, (she) inspired and motivated hundreds of 4-H youth to achieve greatness and helped them to develop into today's community, state and national leaders. She has left a legacy of excellence that we all admire, respect and are very proud of."
“During her career in 4-H youth work, she developed one of the top county 4-H club programs in Florida,” said Loadholtz. “Mrs. Satcher, for many years, gave untiringly of her energies and professional gifts in developing the leadership skills and abilities of 4-H boys and girls and adult leaders.”
Upon hearing of her selection for the Florida 4-H Hall of Fame, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson sent her a letter of congratulations. He wrote, “I’m proud of the many years of service and leadership you’ve provided to 4-H. Your contributions truly serve as an inspiration to others, including myself.”
Senator Nelson continued, “I had many positive experiences while involved in 4-H – experiences that formed the basis for my involvement in public service. The dedication and sacrifice you displayed in offering valuable training to the youth of Brevard County won’t soon be forgotten. Thank you for commitment to the 4-H program. Your recognition as a community leader is well deserved and much appreciated."
Married for 53 years, Satcher, of Cocoa Beach, retired from active 4-H service in 1995, and said, "I didn't really want to leave because it was so much fun."