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Teaching Agriculture from the Ground Up

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Youth learn about pollination and nutrition at the pumpkin station. The center grows several varieties to demonstrate the diversity of the plant family.

What has 1600 eyes, 1600 legs, can be male or female, and has enough energy collectively to send a rocket to the moon? The 3rd – 5th graders that participate in the multi-county 4-H Ag Adventures Program! This educational adventure is held annually during September at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida.  This event helps youth understand where their food comes from, the importance of agricultural industry in Florida, and career opportunities in agriculture related fields. Students are introduced to field crops as they rotate through stations that cover peanuts, corn, cotton, pollination, pumpkins, and soils.  At each station county extension agents and IFAS research faculty provide “hands on” presentations that are prepared to enhance the students learning experience.

In addition, this event is a platform for youth to learn the current trends, issues and challenges farmers face as they continue to try to feed our increasing population. Some of these trends and challenges include food safety and bio-security, farm labor, bio-security, land use, pest and disease control, and the use of technology in agriculture. This issues encompass all four of the “H’s” in 4-H: Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.

While some youth still associate “agriculture” with increasing negativity (thinking of the hot sun, extreme fatigue, very hard work, minimal income), a recent poll shared on the website Worldbank.org/youthink/ states the top three reasons youth should consider a career in agriculture are the following:

1. Agriculture matters to the future of development,

2. Agriculture can be a gold mine for young entrepreneurs,

3. Agriculture research needs young brain power.

Regional 4-H Agent Heather Kent shares:

“Although this event is geared towards teaching youth about agriculture, the parents and teachers that attend learn just as much and often have more questions that the youth!  The adults are just as curious and amazed at how much agriculture affects their daily lives- especially if they do not have an agricultural background. Most of them have no idea how many careers are related to agriculture or how much today’s farmers utilize technology.  It’s a real eye-opener for them.”

Ag Agent Jed Dillard teaching youth about cotton. Do you know how many pairs of jeans you can make out of a bale of cotton?

Ag Agent Jed Dillard teaching youth about cotton. Do you know how many pairs of jeans you can make out of a bale of cotton?

This program is sponsored by UF/IFAS, it is also supported by both Florida Farm Bureau and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.  These organizations not only provide funding to help pay for the transportation for students to attend, but they also provide corporate volunteers to help make the event happen.  If your child’s classroom missed out on this opportunity, it’s not too late.  The North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy is hosting “Art in the Garden” festival Saturday, October 1st from 9AM -2PM.  The event is FREE and open to the public.  This event is a great way to learn about agriculture in a fun and family friendly way.  There will be trolley tours, demonstrations, games, arts and crafts and food.

In the near future the students that pass through our stations will grow into the adults that will be making important decisions about our food systems. It is in that spirit that we must continue to teach them ….from the ground up. Visit http://faitc.org/kids  for more information on careers in agriculture.

If you have a passion or agriculture, consider serving as a 4-H volunteer or advocate to help inspire the next generation.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.