Award Year

Marla Behrends was so influenced by 4-H as she was growing up, friends say that she seems to have made it her “life mission” to introduce as many children as possible to the world of agriculture. Whether it be hosting them at her farm to see pigs, teaching them about dairy at the state fair, or simply sharing her life stories, Marla said she cannot imagine her life without 4-H and she wants as many children as possible to share her experience. Marla was a ten-year member of the Milks Grove Jr. Farmers & Farmerettes of Iroquois county. 

Marla worked as a farm broadcaster for many years, and she felt that covering 4-H events and reporting on youth in agriculture and rural life was an integral part of her role. She sometimes “took some heat” from other broadcasters who felt covering 4-H fairs, county achievement nights and other youth activities were not the best use of her time. But friends and relatives of the 4-Hers she covered tuned in to hear her programs, and when farm broadcasters were set up in a prominent place at the Illinois State Fair, about noon show time, what seemed like out of nowhere, a large contingency of 4-H youth from across the state would just “show up” to see Marla. Marla fought to keep the youth and 4-H press room at the Illinois State Fair staffed and open because she saw such great news value for local communities in the work being done there.

Currently, Marla is the Illinois Industry Relations Manager for the Midwest Dairy Association. She frequently speaks to local 4-H clubs about dairy and agriculture in Illinois. She also provides education packets to 4-H groups to be used during dairy awareness month.

Marla also gives back to her community, where she donates her time to aid a variety of local organizations. As a 4-H volunteer, she served on the Kankakee County Extension Council and the Illinois 4-H Foundation for many years. She raises money for the Heartland FFA Auction, the American Cancer Society, and participates in the McLean County Relay for Life.