GROWING AGRICULTURAL AWARENESS AND STEM CAREERS. J.S. Kelly, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL and G. Sachs, UF/IFAS Extension, St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL
Situation: As more and more youth are being raised in an urban setting, they are less connected to agriculture and less knowledgeable of agriculture and related careers. At the same time, there is also a nation-wide shortage of students pursuing higher education in sciences, engineering, technology and math, particularly in agriculture. An annual report released the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Food and Ag Council states there is a shortage of agricultural professionals and a need for new professionals trained in STEM fields. The need for agriculture education, appreciation and awareness for youth is vital as we work to inspire youth to pursue careers in agriculture which are needed to meet the food and clothing demands of our growing population. The 4-H Raising Cane Project aims to promote agriculture awareness, provide hands-on STEM experiences, encourages youth to explore agriculture careers and fosters the development of life skills needed to become responsible and productive citizens.
Methods: UF/IFAS Extension 4-H and Commercial Agriculture Agents from St. Johns County partnered with the UF/IFAS Hastings Agricultural Research Center and community stakeholders to provide experiential, hands-on learning opportunities in crop production. Youth participated in sugarcane planting and harvesting field days, and sugarcane project books. In addition to gaining knowledge and skills, youth were exposed to a variety of STEM careers and entrepreneurial opportunities as they marketed and sold sugarcane.
Results: End of project evaluations in 2018 for sugarcane showed an increase in knowledge and interest in science and related careers. In the Sugarcane Project post survey of youth (n=**), 100% were able to name a sugarcane related profession; 47% reported that they were interested in an agricultural related career; and over 70% learned about several components of sugarcane development and sugar production.