Written by: Tim Tesconi

Ettamarie Peterson, who has been actively involved in 4-H for a half century, is the 2022 recipient of the Youth Ag and Leadership Foundation’s 4-H Alumni Recognition Award for her many contributions to Sonoma County 4-H.

The annual award honors someone who upholds the values of leadership, citizenship and community service, which are the hallmarks of 4-H.

Ettamarie, a small-scale Petaluma farmer and retired teacher, is lovingly known as Sonoma County’s Bee Queen. It’s a title she has earned fair and square after decades of educating and inspiring 4-H members about bees and their crucial role in food production and the planet’s well-being.

She has been the bee project leader for Liberty 4-H Club for more than 30 years, sharing her knowledge and passion with hundreds of 4-H members and their families.  She has launched many 4-H club members and their families into beekeeping.

“I love everything about bees, they are social and industrious and work together to accomplish something good. Bees open your eyes to the world and what it means to be part of an interconnected biodiverse environment,” said Ettamarie, who is 83.

For her part, Ettamarie said 4-H has had a tremendous impact on her life and the lives of her three children and many of her grandchildren.  Soon after settling on their six-acre Petaluma farm in 1972, Ettamarie and her husband Ray became involved in the Cinnabar 4-H Club when their children became members, raising livestock and showing at the fairs.

“4-H was a great introduction to Petaluma,” she said. “The 4-H families became our social group. It was a great time. We had so much fun.”

In later years when her grandchildren joined 4-H, Ettamarie started the beekeeping project with Liberty 4-H. She was the project leader for her grandchildren and then kept going as a beekeeping leader, continuing to this day.

Mike Nonella, president of the Youth Ag & Leadership Foundation, said Ettamarie Peterson is an iconic and respected figure in Sonoma County 4-H, someone who, on a daily basis, epitomizes the 4-H motto “To Make the Best Better.”