Monday, April 8, 2019

Winston’s Agriculture Ambassadors, Cultivating Knowledge, Yielding Success

When polled, more than 90% of students between the ages of 14 and 18 can only list an average of three careers that are agriculture related. A huge misconception among young people is that to have a career in agriculture you must own land, and farm multiple acres. This misconception is keeping young people from exploring agriculture’s literally hundreds of career options that are available to them in the private or public sectors.

Knowing this, a partnership of local agriculture professional’s and Winston County Schools was formed to address this need. In addition, students interested in learning more about the options available to them in the professional world of agriculture wanted the opportunity to learn outside the classroom.

Winston County USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and MSU Extension office recently developed and introduced a new program for these youth to see career opportunities in agriculture first-hand.

Winston Agriculture Ambassadors (WAA) program is designed to provide youth with literal hands on experience with a current professional working in an agriculture career. This not only introduces the young person to future options, but also puts a face to the career. This makes learning about the professional side of agriculture personal, and gives a sense community, and purpose.

WAA’s first program was held recently, and local high school students had an opportunity see the office side of these careers, and some on the ground conservation practices at a local farm. Prior to this experience, the students stated they were unaware of MSU Extension’s educational mission, and the purpose behind the USDA’s technical assistance, and cost-share programs.

Students got to see how USDA uses topographical maps, computer programs, engineering, and the process for signing up for federal cost-share assistance. Also, the students learned about Mississippi’s Land-Grant Universities and the Extension programs offered in all 82 Mississippi Counties.

As this program progresses, the students participating in WAA will develop their own outreach effort to introduce agriculture to younger students within local schools. This will ensure these students not only learn about agricultural opportunity and educational pathways, but become ambassadors for agriculture, where our mission will be to cultivate knowledge, and yield success for Winston’s future agriculture community.

All together, these students were introduced to approximately 20 different careers in agriculture, and helped take the first step in growing agricultural awareness and opportunity for Winston’s youth.

I’d like to say thank you to the local FFA programs and USDA staff for devoting their time and effort to bring about awareness of the importance of agriculture, education, and career options to Winston’s future agriculture professionals. Lastly, I’d like to thank the students for wanting to learn about agriculture, and their willingness to share what they learn.

If you’d like more information about this program, contact the Winston County Extension office, 662-773-3091.

Submitted by: Jim McAdory, MSU Extension Agent