A growing population puts an increasing demand on agriculture to feed the world. Who better to look for new ways to solve the problem than our young people? The National 4-H Council and Monsanto recognize the creative minds and natural inclination of youth to help others. The two organizations together created a new initiative to get today’s kids interested and involved in agriculture. The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience will not only spark enthusiasm but also help youth develop skills that would help them succeed in future agriculture-related careers as well as careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). And these future farmers and scientists may be on their way to solving the world’s hunger problem.
The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience is being piloted in eight states and Michigan is one of them. Michigan 4-H Youth Development received a $15,000 grant to fund the program. Michigan State University Extension educator Betty Jo Nash coordinates the program for our state.
Three teen 4-H members attended training this spring at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. The teens will in turn train other teens as well as local 4-H clubs. In the end, a thousand youth will have participated in Michigan and as many as 8,000 are expected to participate in the eight states taking part in the initiative.
The pilot program involves the “Fish Farm Challenge.” Participants will engineer a simulated fish-food distribution system using limited resources. Ultimately, they should recognize the value of aquaculture while stimulating innovative approaches to a real-world problem – ensuring farm-raised fish have equal access to food. After completing the challenge, participants can create a video to show their ideas to their local communities. Four winners of $2,500 each will be chosen. Look for further details about the video contest on the National 4-H Council website after June 1.