Last summer, 4-H teens from Miami-Dade County worked on a five-week apprenticeship to address food insecurity by growing food in unconventional spaces in Overtown.
Now, two of the six interns will take what they learned to the Ignite by 4-H national conference.
This March, Grace Aquino, 17, and Karol Gonzalez, 18, will travel to Washington, D.C., to co-present with UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade agents what they learned and developed during the apprenticeship. As part of the four-day conference starting March 9, delegates participate on panels and workshops and enjoy entertainment while making connections among attending 4-H’ers. At the conference, participants work to transform their initial idea into a program or process that can be implemented in communities.
This year, the conference will feature U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy and provide participating youth from across the country the opportunity to explore the best 4-H has to offer in STEM, agriscience, healthy living, career readiness and emotional well-being.
Last summer, Aquino and Gonzalez, along with four other 4-H members from various high schools, explored basic concepts of controlled environment agriculture as part of the AgriTech Apprenticeship program. University of Florida scientists from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), along with South Florida nonprofits and businesses representing the hydroponic farming and food industry, led students on a five-week, hands-on training.
“This program has helped me take a bigger step towards my future goals. It has taught me about nutrition, agriculture, leadership and teamwork,” Gonzalez said.
The growing agrotechnology industry promotes food security by developing environmentally sustainable technology for food production using vertical gardens, hydroponics, precision technology and more.
“The group gained invaluable life lessons that have prepared them for future success,” said Kenan Bridges, one of two 4-H agents at UF/IFAS Extension Miami Dade County who led and facilitated the program. “Every student participating in this program was a first-time 4-H’er. Their exceptional performance led to the offer of presenting at the national conference, an extremely high honor for members. I believe this is a testament to the power of our positive youth development program.”
During the program, the teens not only learned about how agrotechnology can enhance food security, but also cultivated entrepreneurial and innovative engagement in food systems and agricultural sciences. During the conference, delegates and agents will co-present Connecting Youth in Urban Communities with AgriTech, highlighting key elements and outcomes of the summer program.
“With the environmental and public health challenges of this century, it is essential to prepare the next generation with the skills of innovation and resilience. This unique program empowers students to solve today’s issues for tomorrow’s future,” Kenan said.
By Lourdes Mederos, firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
WHY FOOD IS OUR MIDDLE NAME
Feeding a hungry world takes effort. Nearly everything we do comes back to food: from growing it and getting it to consumers, to conserving natural resources and supporting agricultural efforts. Explore all the reasons why at ifas.ufl.edu/food or follow #FoodIsOurMiddleName.