By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
They come from opposite backgrounds but two Roosevelt County women the one thing that brought them to dedicate years to the county’s 4-H program is their children.
They used their mothering skills to guide countless children through the program and now Fran Welch and Janie Hardin are being recognized for their work as two of the state’s newest inductees into the 4-H Hall of Fame.
Roosevelt County has 21 inductees in the Hall of Fame.
The New Mexico 4-H Hall of Fame was established in conjunction with 4-H’s national centennial celebration in 2002, according to the ag extension office.
Hall of Fame members were selected for their impact on the lives of 4-H members through their roles in 4-H.
Welch, 69, grew up in Kenna on a cattle ranch and describes her childhood being similar to the characters of “Little House on the Prairie.”
“I grew up as a country girl. In first and second grade I went to school at a one-room school house,” said Welch, who graduated from Elida High School.
Welch said her love for horses drew her to participate in 4-H as a child, but she didn’t give as much then as she did as volunteer leader for nearly 15 years, seeing two of her children through the program.
“I had four brothers, but daddy told me I was his best cowboy because I was always ready to ride,” Welch .
She said similarities between the program then and now would be the friendship students make. She also said 4-H is a family affair.
“They learn discipline and life skills to make them successful,” Welch said.
The mother of three became a 4-H parent in 1986 and was involved in the Valley 4-H Club and the Rodeo and Show Club, as a parent and a club leader. Welch continued as Roosevelt County 4-H Queen coordinator, even after her children had outgrown 4-H eligibility.
It was Welch’s daughter who sparked her years of service after they watched a 4-H queen competition at the Roosevelt County Fair.
She said when the contestants were asked who they would want to be other than themselves, it was her daughter’s response to the question that surprised her the most.
“She said, ‘I would just be me,’ I thought isn’t that a wonderful attitude to have instilled in a child?,” Welch said.
She wanted to help children build self-esteem like that of her daughters. Welch said her daughter was the epitome of 4-H’s motto, “To make the best better.”
“4-H helped me stay involved with my own children, it was fun and rewarding to see all of them learn and reach their goals,” Welch said. “I hoped for the better.”
Hardin, 67, of Portales said she didn’t know much about 4-H before her years of service. She didn’t get involved until her son became 4-H eligible.
“I figured 4-H was for farm kids and didn’t really realize how much they had going on,” Hardin said. “When Stephen (her son) got to be that age, it kind of evolved.”
Hardin worked at the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home, which has a lamb and pig farm. Cattle are also raised there, so many of the children participate in 4-H. Hardin was the home’s 4-H club leader.
Hardin said her son is originally from India but only knew Portales as home as a child because she adopted him when he was a baby.
“He was kind of shy. When he got more involved with the upper mechanics of 4-H, it really just gave him a boost and he was able to do a ton of activities because of his 4-H involvement,” Hardin said. “It teaches all kids that they have something they can do no matter what it is, from quilt making to raising calves.”
Her work at the home kept her involved after her son aged out of the 4-H program. She said a lot of the children she worked with loved playing with the animals, which also taught them responsibility.
“God kind of just allowed me to combine two of my great loves; and that’s children and animals,” Hardin said. “I finally quit last year. I decided I wasn’t able to chase pigs and kids across the field anymore.”
She said nothing brought greater joy to her than to see children grow.
“When you see a kid make a breakthrough with an animal, that’s the best feeling in the world, to see that light come on,” Hardin said. “That’s the main reason I kept involved with it. I was able to combine my two loves into service. I benefited more than anyone else.”