As I work with youth in the Crop Science Investigation series, I’m reminding them to consider agriculture as a career choice. Today’s agricultural world faces several challenges, one of them being the decline of our most valuable resource, the future workforce. While Nebraska’s population under 18 years of age grew between the years of 2000 and 2009, this increase was seen in only ten of the 93 counties. Rural communities, including agricultural producers, can benefit from expanding youth into leadership opportunities, therefore mentoring youth leaders (Cantrell, 2010). One strategy to keep youth in rural communities and involved in production agriculture is to involve them in projects that encourage active participation and learn about the wide array of careers related to production agriculture.
To help address this, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension offers Crop Science Investigation (CSI) programming for youth to increase their knowledge and interest with plants, science, and agriculture. Currently, CSI workshops are offered in several counties which consist of local hands-on workshops for 4-H and FFA youth.
A goal I have for the CSI program is to expand it statewide so youth that don’t have a local CSI program have the opportunity to participate. Workshop topics include: marketing, nutrient management, managing disease, insect and weed problems, row spacing, plant population, water management, etc. These sessions build life skills such as; researching scientifically based answers; problem solving, public speaking, etc.
Last week, I had the opportunity to work with ten Fillmore and ten Jefferson county youth teaching them how crops grow and other current agronomic factors. If you know of youth interested in crops, I’d be happy to provide some resources to them or check into the possibilities of forming a CSI group in their area.