Named as a 2020 Louisiana 4-H Hall of Fame inductee from St. James Parish, Denise Hymel has been serving 4-H for over 50 years.
She has made significant contributions to Louisiana 4-H as a member, volunteer and professional and currently serves on the Louisiana 4-H Foundation board.
Hymel is always eager to tell her story as a 4-H alumna. She can recount her experiences going to 4-H camp, attending and showing at her local livestock shows and completing her 4-H projects.
She says these things are what made her the person she is today. Growing up on a produce farm with nine siblings, they raised and grew everything they ate. There was not much time for other activities, so she took advantage of joining 4-H.
4-H built the skills that helped Hymel become the leader she is today. She says that she would have never had the confidence to speak in front of a group, but because of 4-H it has become her passion to speak about agriculture.
Hymel cannot recall a time that she wasn’t involved in 4‑H in some form. She was heavily involved while her children were growing up through 4‑H. After her children graduated, she continued to assist 4‑H agents whenever needed.
Perhaps her most significant contribution to 4-H is the creation of the Fast Food Farm. This nonprofit is a 4-acre working farm that produces edible crops throughout the year and provides opportunities for 4‑H and FFA students to work. The Fast Food Farm educates consumers of all ages about agriculture and how their food is grown.
Hymel founded the Fast Food Farm almost 20 years ago. During that time, she has educated more than 75,000 youth in St. James and the surrounding parishes on the importance of agriculture. Hymel works at least 40 hours per week through this initiative as a volunteer.
Hymel also can be found helping at various 4-H events including judging cookery contests, serving on the parish advisory committee, volunteering her time at livestock shows, coordinating 4-H Ag Days and serving on the St. James Parish and state 4-H Foundation boards.
Just last year, “Ms. Denny,” as she is known around 4-H, volunteered with her own time and resources to host a 4-H group from Montana. She set up tours and coordinated meals for youth to visit agricultural businesses and industries in St. James Parish.
Still a St. James 4-H volunteer, Hymel can be called upon to judge a cooking contest, host an Ag Day or participate in 4-H Achievement Day. Hymel has been recognized with state and national honors, including the National 4-H spotlight, American Farm Bureau Women in Ag spotlight, NRCS Volunteer of the Year, Modern Woodman Hometown Hero and now the Louisiana FFA Hall of Fame.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture