Blue Ribbons and Breaking Through Obstacles: What Carla Hall Learned in 4-H

By National 4-H Council June 29, 2020

Carla Hall has popped up in pop culture so much over the last decade that you might not remember exactly where you first saw her. Maybe it was one of her two turns on “Top Chef,” or maybe it was on the daytime talk show “The Chew,” which she co-hosted for eight years. It could be from a variety of other TV appearances, or one of her three cookbooks, or the restaurant she ran in Brooklyn. The point is, Carla Hall has done quite a few things – and she credits much of success to the lessons she learned through 4‑H.

For Hall, who attended St. Vincent De Paul— an all-black Catholic school — in Nashville, 4‑H provided a much-needed dose of self-esteem. An early foundational experience for her was winning a Blue Ribbon for her artistic entry in a 4‑H competition.

“I learned my art was blue ribbon-worthy, which gave me the confidence to go on. I was such a shy kid and it gave me the confidence to keep doing things,” Hall remembers. But the value of that experience was less about winning something, and more about realizing there was a world beyond her own small town. “The experience was about us supporting each other within the walls of our small school community and knowing that we were learning how to reach out to a larger community, to our state, to our country, and on into the world,” she said.

While 4‑H’s roots are in agricultural education, for Hall, participating in 4‑H was about learning the skills she would need throughout her life, and she has said that 4‑H provided “the foundation for my future.” For the chef/entrepreneur/author/television personality, “busy” isn’t just a temporary status but an entire state of mind. Fortunately, Hall isn’t one to crack under pressure. She attributes her ability to be the very embodiment of grace-under-fire to those life skills she picked up in 4‑H.

“When there is an emergency, you want me on your team,” Hall said. “I’m going to calm down. I’m going to have Plan A. If that doesn’t work, I will have Plan B.”

It’s been more than 40 years since Hall first got involved with 4‑H, but she believes the organization is still as relevant to students today as it was to her as a teenager back at St. Vincent’s.

“4‑H’ers make a significant difference in their communities,” she said. “They are a living, breathing cultural revolution for doing the right thing — breaking through obstacles and pushing our world forward to make a measurable difference right where they live.”