4-H Workforce Preparation – Guides the Pathway to Career Choices

Removing the skin for rinds and trimming the meat. Photo credit: Shaelyn Toman.
Tessa learning to break down primal cuts. Photo credit: Shaelyn Toman.

4-H Workforce Preparation is a clear indication that sometimes, we don’t acknowledge the work that goes into the food at our table, and this program gives a hands-on opportunity for the participants to have this insight. Tessa Toman is a senior 4-H member of the Feathers and Furs 4-H club with eight years of active participation in 4-H. Her parents are Christian and Shaelyn Toman, and she is the first of two children; her younger brother is Jasper Toman. Homeschooled as part of her workforce preparation, Tessa is dual enrolled at Southeastern University for her associate degree. She hopes to continue her education at the University of Florida for a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. Tessa’s main 4-H project interest, or “central SPARK,” has been the Hog and Ham 4-H program. It is her interest and aptitude to become a Butcher by profession. Tessa is the Feathers and Furs 4-H club president and the 2024 Saint Lucie County Fair Queen winner.

When I asked Tessa to tell me what she was most proud of since being in 4-H and what she hopes to achieve from her involvement with the Hog and Ham 4-H program, her response was: “The Hog and Ham program is a workforce preparation opportunity for members of 4-H to have hands-on experience in raising, processing and marketing pigs, all through the University of Florida. For me (personally), it has been an experience that has shaped my life and my future as well, as I am now working towards becoming a butcher. Every part of this program encourages the growth of knowledge in an area largely overlooked: the meat industry. The processing of the animal itself isn’t the only part of it; the participant must also keep a record book of the swine and conduct a retail grocery audit and a restaurant audit that gives a unique insight into the food and meat industry. A PowerPoint presentation to close out your Hog and Ham experience is another example of what I’ve had to do in this workforce preparation program as a participant.”

Tessa continued to expound that “this workforce preparation program is so unique and certainly cannot be found anywhere else.” “If I had not been a 4-H participant, I wouldn’t have found the career path I wish to pursue. It is so interesting to see the amount of effort it takes for just one pig to go from pig to pork chops. I ultimately hope to become a Butcher with my own Restaurant, Butcher Shop, and Farm.” “This program is a significant step towards that goal, and I’m so thankful that the University of Florida and 4-H offers an opportunity like this that exists for me and fellow 4-H members.”

2024 St. Lucie County Fair Queen. Photo credit: Stacy Dale.

Tessa hopes to give back as 4-H alumni one day, stating, “I’d love to help cultivate an interest in agriculture in the next generation. 4-H has played a considerable role in shaping who I am and my future. I’d love to contribute to other 4-H members exploring interests and opportunities they may not have otherwise explored in any way I can! I certainly wouldn’t have imagined becoming a Butcher if 4-H did not have a program in place for me to explore that possibility. Therefore, I hope to do the same for others based on their interests.” “Tessa’s story is yet another testament to the transformative power of the Florida 4-H youth workforce preparation program with a sense of satisfaction experienced by all the 4-H professionals, parents, volunteers, and the supporting community sponsors throughout the years,” Ferguson added.

For more information, contact the 4-H Extension Agent @ john.ferguso@ufl.edu, 4-H Program Specialist Candace Wickham @ wickham.c@ufl.edu, Terri Zuidema @ tzuidema1@ufl.edu, or Wren Underwood @ e.underwood1@ufl.edu.


Prepared by John Ferguson (4-H Extension Agent), with support from Shaelyn Toman (Parent).


Posted: June 27, 2024

Category: 4-H & Youth, Agriculture, , Money Matters, UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: #4hGrowsHere, #4hOpportunityForAll, #H4HOutreach, #slc4h, 4-H, Extension, Financial Education, Florida 4-H Youth Development, St Lucie County, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County

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