Louisiana’s oldest living 4-H’er, Elaine Marchand Edmonston, and the Louisiana 4-H organization have some notable things in common.
This year, both Louisiana 4-H and Edmonston are 100 years old. Both were born in 1908, and both have touched the lives of many young people.
Edmonston’s father, James Marchand, was the first county agent in Ascension Parish in 1912. So it came as no surprise that Elaine would join 4-H – particularly in an era when 4-H was almost the only club for youngsters.
“I was a 4-H member in 1922 – an 8th grader at Dutchtown High School. We had a wonderful club that tended to all the young people of the parish,” Edmonston said in a videotaped interview that will be used in the Louisiana 4-H Museum in Mansura, La.
“We learned to use our hoe, a shovel and all the tools that a gardener uses because our project was gardening at first – and canning,” she added.
Edmonston was in 4-H for four years, growing vegetables and raising Rhode Island Red chickens and cows on land she now owns. In fact, she still lives in the same house – and on the same white picket-fenced property – where she was born and raised.
The highly mobile, good-natured and quick-witted Edmonston remembers using this land to complete her 4-H projects:
“Well, we had courses in cooking; we had courses in planting; we had courses in gardening; and we had courses. . . especially how to cook!” she said, double emphasizing the cooking aspect (something she still enjoys doing).
But much like 4-H’ers today, some of her fondest memories stem from social events.
“I guess my favorite thing about 4-H was the mingling of young children together as we had our picnic at Lake Villar, where we could enjoy nature,” she said. “We could go swimming; we could walk along in the woods [and] enjoy our walk along the trail.
“We worked very, very diligently with each other and with our teachers, and with our county agents,” Edmonston continued. “We worked very well with them. 4-H helped me in having all the faith that a person must have to live in this world.”
After earning a teaching certificate from State Normal Teacher’s College – now Northwestern State University – in Natchitoches and later a teaching degree from LSU, Edmonston embarked upon a 38-year career teaching elementary school in Ascension Parish. She also gave back to 4-H by volunteering time to work with 4-H’ers and host club meetings in her living room.
Now Elaine Edmonston is a living symbol of Louisiana 4-H. Her life is a prime example of how to continually educate and serve others.
“I wanted to do what was supposed to be done,” she said. “To be faithful to my parents and also faithful to the good Lord and also to the good earth – return what it gives back to us.
“Thank you, Lord, and thank you for this interview,” she said with a smile after completing the video interview with Louisiana 4-H Museum coordinator Rose Anne St. Romain.
Family members and Ascension Parish 4-H staff had been crammed into Edmonston’s living room and kitchen to watch the interview. And the taping concluded with spontaneous, spirited applause.
“I just want you to come sit in the museum and talk to people all day!” St. Romain said following the interview.
There will be even more applause on her 100th birthday – September 9 – when she will have something else in common with 4-H. She’ll officially begin celebrating the centennial of her life.
4-H is the youth development and outreach program of the nation’s land-grant universities and is operated in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter. It involves young people in educational projects, camps, activities, trips and school enrichment programs that foster development of life skills in science, engineering and technology, citizenship, healthy living and much more.
Writer: Randy LaBauve at (225) 578-0794 or email@example.com
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