Being an active citizen. Living healthy. Learning science literacy. Knowing how to lead and be a team player. Ag education is a practical tool help youth develop the skills for success in life. The USDA and its partners offer a range of programs to help youth meet and exceed their potential and unlock countless career paths.
4-H is USDA’s positive youth development and education program. The unique partnership with the Cooperative Extension System through land-grant universities and the National 4-H Council empowers young people to lead for a lifetime. 4-H uses experiential learning—learning by doing—as a primary teaching approach to learn life skills such as leadership, citizenship, community service, STEM education, and public speaking. Membership is open to all youth beginning at age 8 or 4th grade. Land-grant university extension 4-H offices deliver local programs. Additionally, military 4-H clubs offer quality educational experiences that allow youth to continue their 4-H work wherever they move when their parents are deployed.
Astronaut Credits 4-H with Early Success
“Where you come from doesn’t have to be limiting; extend yourself and anything is possible. I dreamed of becoming an astronaut and achieved that dream.” So said NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson, a proud 4-H alumna of the Ringgold County, Iowa, 4-H club. USDA, 4-H, and NASA teamed up with Whitson to develop Expeditionary Skills for Life, online lessons and content based on the skills needed to become an astronaut that students can also use to succeed in life.
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of more than 650,000 student members and more than 8,500 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FFA seeks to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.
The USDA and National FFA are collaborating on initiatives to motivate and prepare young people, connect them with opportunities in agriculture, food, and natural resources systems, and build appreciation for the reach and importance of agriculture.
FFA Hands-On Skill Building
All FFA members take part in a supervised agricultural experience (SAE), a student-led, instructor-supervised, work-based learning experience. New Mexico FFA member Madison Blanton talks about her SAE working for a local water conservation district. "I've learned a range of skills, from financial management, to government policies and procedures. The financial skills I’ve learned will help me for my future, my personal life, along with the practices I’ve learned for our family ranch."
CYFAR marshalls the resources of the land-grant and cooperative extension systems to offer research-based educational programs that equip at-risk families and youth with the skills to lead positive, productive, contributing lives. Programs are based on the principle of working across the lifespan in the context of the family and community.
Young People Create an Urban Oasis
Ohio State University uses gardening to teach at-risk youth about teamwork, nutrition, community engagement, and entrepreneurship. The Urban GEMS (Gardening Entrepreneurs Motivating Sustainability) project teaches students in Franklin and Mahoning Counties how to grow leafy greens using vertical tower gardens, as well as how to prepare and cook their harvests, teach their peers and families about healthy eating, and donate produce to the homeless. So far, there are tower gardens in nine locations in the region. The research team has plans to create a sustainable business growing food in food deserts with as many as 90 gardens in the next five years. "A lot of students are still wrapping their minds around the fact that Ohio State University and people who have resources are willing to invest in them,” said Dr. Deanna Wilkinson, researcher at Ohio State University. “They are just not used to that. What I want them to know is that they deserve all of the same opportunities as kids who live in communities with more resources.”
Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) seeks to empower underrepresented students and professionals pursuing careers in agriculture, natural resources, and STEM-related industries. The national society consists of more than 65 chapters at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Individual chapter activities, regional events, and the annual national conference are designed to develop a partnership between students in agriculture, natural resources, and professionals from academic institutions, government agencies, and private industry.
Forestry Student Branches Out
MANRRS member and Penn State forestry student Sky Templeton is a champion for forestry and education. During her studies, she has worked with Penn State Extension’s Center for Private Forests which educates forest owners on land conservation. In Pennsylvania alone, 70 percent of the forests in the state Pennsylvania are privately owned. Templeton saw the need for more accessible forestry information so she developed a guide to help people identify and control invasive plant species on their land.
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a nonprofit national career and technical student organization for young men and women in family and consumer sciences education in public and private school through grade 12. FCCLA seeks to promote personal growth and leadership development among its 164,000 members in more than 5,300 chapters in 49 states. Participants develop skills for life focusing on the multiple roles of family member, wage earner, and community leader.
Agriculture Future of America provides personal and professional development experiences for college students and young professionals in food and agriculture. AFA leverages relationships with universities and agriculture and food businesses to foster professional development opportunities and networks beyond the college campus.
Do you want to start a club or chapter?
Contact a youth organization near you. Some examples include:
- 4-H is USDA’s flagship youth positive development and education initiative. Join or start a 4-H club by contacting your local 4-H office.
- Jr. MANRRS encourages minority students in grades 7-12 to pursue STEM studies. Contact your local MANRRS chapter to learn more.
- FFA develops youth leadership skills, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. Find a chapter near you.
- Agriculture Future of America (AFA) offers career development for college students and young professionals in the agriculture and food industry. Learn more at AFA.