Sumter County 4-H and FFA Peach Tree Project
McAvoy, C.E. and Taylor, K.A
1) Situation and Objectives: Starting in 2014, the peach tree project was offered to 4-H and FFA youth in Sumter County as an opportunity to learn how to grow a food crop. This project was first developed by the Osceola County Fair Association as an alternative to the citrus tree project. The 4-H youth development and commercial horticulture agents collaborated to adjust the project to fit into the Family Living Exhibit of the Sumter County Fair. The objective of this educational program was to educate youth on the basic plant science knowledge and horticultural skills necessary to produce a tree fruit crop.
2) Educational Methods: The project consisted of two educational workshops, a field trip to a local peach tree orchard, a record book, and completion of two educational activities. An instructional PowerPoint was emailed during the project to educate youth about pruning and preparing the tree(s) for fair. Youth cared for one to two tree(s) for a total of 11 months. Providing basic care, monitoring the weather on a daily basis, taking measurements, and evaluating the health.
3) Results: A total of 22 youth enrolled in the project over the two years. Twenty-seven percent (n=6) completed the project and exhibited their tree in the Sumter County Family Living Exhibit. All youth were able to sell their trees as part of the project in a silent auction. Since the completion of year two on March 11, 2016, several parents and 4-H leaders continue to request that they be notified of the start of the next project year.
4) Conclusion: With an aging population of farmers, half of American farmers are 55 and over, it is vital the agriculture industry attract a younger generation. Providing hands-on learning programs such as the peach tree project can help introduce youth to agriculture while educating them in basic plant science, horticultural skills, and entrepreneurship.