DISTRICT VIII CITRUS TREE PROJECT – HOW SWEET IT IS!
L. Cash, UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County, DeLand, FL and C. Woodard, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, Sanford, FL.
Situation and Objectives: Florida’s $8.6 billion citrus industry significantly impacts its economy and is part of Florida’s unique history and culture (http://flcitrusmutual.com/citrus-101/citrusstatistics.aspx). The District VIII Citrus Tree Project connects this valuable industry with National and Florida 4-H mandated STEM-based programs. Studies have shown that participants in positive youth development programs claimed science as a favorite subject (70%) and completed science-related activities not related to school work (60%) (https://4-h.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Part-4-STEM-Infographic-2.jpg). The District VIII Citrus Tree Project, open to youth in Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia Counties, has the following program objectives: (1) Financial and Career Education; (2) Agricultural Awareness and STEM; and (3) Citizenship and Leadership. Educational Methods: For the 2017-2018 project, three workshops and three field trips were held for participants to learn about aspects of the citrus industry, such as pests and diseases; technological advances; and grove management. Two “Check Up Days” provided youth opportunities to consult with growers and agents about the health of their trees. A Facebook page provided educational resources and current research. Record Books, special projects, a knowledge test, and a post-survey were used to measure knowledge gained and behavior change. An auction determined entrepreneurial success and economic impact. Results: In January of 2018, a survey was administered to participants (n=16): 94% felt that they successfully communicated with buyers and judges; 94% practiced Best Management Practices with pesticides; 94% learned about the impact of the citrus industry on the Florida economy; 86% reported that they would like a job that involves using science. Conclusion: Through the marketing efforts of the agents and youth, there is an economic impact. Industry and business partners provide financial support and in-kind services valued at over $3,500 per year. Youth demonstrated measurable gains in knowledge and have adopted Best Management Practices. Future plans include adding a stone fruit option and an increased emphasis on public speaking.