Growing the Future: Investing in Today's Youth
For many in the ag community, growth is vital to forward movement and something we think of often. Those in the livestock industry hope to grow their herds or farm facilities. Crop farmers worry about the weather and pray for their crops to grow and thrive. Agriculture educators and 4-H leaders measure the success of their programs by the growth of students who are learning under their care.
We all have a responsibility to plant the seeds of agriculture knowledge into the hearts and minds of our youth. In many areas, agriculture is losing its foothold. If we don’t take action and make it a priority to pass on ag knowledge and instill a love of agriculture in the next generation, we may be in real trouble. At the very least, everyone needs to understand the vitality of agriculture in our nation. The best way to do that, is to grow future agriculturalists from the ground up.
Youth clubs in America play a vital role in this endeavor. 4-H and FFA are both great organizations that have so much to offer. The models for learning in both clubs place a huge emphasis on project based learning, leadership, public speaking, service projects, and a super diverse list of career development events and activities. Even if these youth don’t end up working in the agriculture industry in some capacity, they will come out of their time in these programs with a real world knowledge of agriculture and some great leadership skills that will benefit them down the road. Our future leaders may not have been farmers, but we sure hope they understand and advocate for agriculture in our country!
As the wife of an ag educator, I can vouch that without the generous support of his community, my husband couldn’t do what he does. I don’t mean just financial support, either. Ag teachers are pulled in a million different directions daily. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish the goals that they would like to accomplish. During judging season, he may visit a cattle stocker operation with his livestock judging team; have floriculture practice at the floral shop; visit with the local butchers who help to train his meats team; or get tool and tree ID practice from the local forestry office. They are even so blessed to receive donated materials for projects that the students can sell at their annual fundraiser. The gift of time and encouragement mean so much to an ag teacher.
The same can be said for 4-H, which is dependent on volunteer man hours and donor funding. All over the country, budgets and paid positions have been cut for the programs land grant university extension services provide. They still work hard to provide services and education in their communities, but many offices are stretched thin. 4-H clubs desperately need adult leaders to mentor these youth and to teach them how to grow into the leaders that our society seems to be in such a shortage of! I firmly believe that if we don’t really buckle down to recruit and train the next generation of agriculturalists we may lose many of our ideals and traditions!
So, what can we do to help?
Take an interest in the growth of our future: our youth. Through our actions today, we can create the future that we would like to see. Maybe you have kids who would like to join one of these great clubs? Maybe you are an alumni who knows the value of these organizations, or maybe you are retired and would enjoy mentoring young people and sharing some knowledge or skill that you have. What ever stage of life you find yourself in, you can get involved!
Five things you can do, this week, to help your local youth organizations:
Enroll your kids involved in 4-H and/or FFA. Most communities have a selection of different 4-H clubs to choose from and every good school will have an FFA program.
Call your local extension office to inquire about volunteer opportunities. I feel quite sure your offer will be much appreciated and there are many ways your skills and knowledge can help kids grow.
Reach out to your local ag teacher. Get to know them and find out what their program needs. Ask what areas you might be able to help in. Supporters from all sectors of the industry are invaluable resources.
Follow the social media accounts for your local groups. This will keep you up to date on fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, and club/chapter events.
Make sure your community supports these youth groups and encourages students to participate. Talk with city leaders, teachers, administrators, and school board members to voice your support for these clubs. Programs with community support will always have more successful organizations than those who are inadequately equipped and lacking resources.