The Tennessee State Fair Association presented the 2012 Distinguished Service Award on September 12, 2012. This award is given to persons who helped develop and maintain the traditions of the Tennessee State Fair. The 2012 recipient is Cherry Lane Darken.
Cherry Lane Darken is from Columbia, Tennessee, and earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville in Home Economics. She lived in Georgia and worked for a few years for the Georgia Extension, then returned to Tennessee and began work in 1974 in Davidson County becoming Extension Leader in 1990.
She was the 4-H Coordinator and gave leadership to one of the most successful programs in the state and the nation – when you look at the statistics for enrollment, participation, and volunteer development, leadership and citizenship opportunities, exchange trips, public speaking and other communication skills development – earning many state and national 4-H project winners and scholarships for the 4-H’ers. The Davidson County program was excellent in all areas. She achieved an outstanding record in Extension, 4-H and other professional associations. She was one of the earliest female Extension Directors and one of the few who continued to do 4-H work as a County Director for Davidson County.
As a leader she was exceptionally good at working with government officials, volunteers and donors and supervised a large staff of professionals and supportstaff. Her Extension colleague and best friend of 35 years describes her motto as always to “Do Right.”
As Davidson County Extension Leader from 1990 until 2001, she was responsible for the Agriculture Hall at the Tennessee State Fair, working with exhibitors, county extension offices, organizations, and many volunteers to coordinate the agricultural exhibits and programs, such as 4-H judging contests, into educational and fun opportunities.
She retired from Extension in 2001 and continues with volunteer efforts through the Williamson County Fair Board, her local FCE Club Garden Club and her church. She is a member of the Downtown Nashville Kiwanis Club, serves on the Farm Bureau Board as well as the Ag Museum Board, the Williamson County Agricultural Committee, and the Middle Tennessee Ag Club.
She enjoys life in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, spending her free time gardening and canning and even finds time for beekeeping and chickens.