In late August, seven Nebraska youth traveled to Indiana to participate in the 2nd Annual Regional Youth Crop Scouting Competition held at Purdue University’s Beck Ag Center near West Lafayette, Indiana. These youths scouted six fields for diseases, insects, abiotic/biotic disorders, weed identification and crop growth stage and development. Teams from Iowa and Indiana also competed. Nebraska teams ranked 3rd and 6th respectably. Between all three state competitions, 195 youth competed from Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana. Top two teams from each state competed at the regional competition. Congrats to all of the youth who not only networked with agronomic professionals, but also gained the most by improving life skills related to a potential career path. Next year’s regional competition will be hosted by Nebraska Extension.
While this is one program, which impacts a very small percentage of youth, it is very important to start training the next generation of ag leaders to feed our growing population. In fact, globally there is an effort to encourage youth in agricultural positions. According to the U.N. International Labor Organization (a specialized agency of the United Nations), globally there will be about 74.2 million unemployed young people (ages 15-24) in 2017 which is an increase of 3.8 million since 2007. While it is troublesome that those graduating high school and/or college are unemployed, this could present an opportunity for those in the agricultural industry. If we can create programs which spark an interest in agriculture, there is potential to attract youth to the agricultural industry.
Getting over the stigma that agriculture is a back-breaking with little room for advancement, while in fact it is quite the opposite. As educators, we should be promoting agricultural careers as “intellectually stimulating and economically sustainable” according to foodtank.com. Programs designed to encourage young people into agriculture are in numerous countries across the world including the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in the U.S., a variety of USDA initiatives and programs like Farm Africa for youth in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda or the International Fund for Agricultural Development Rural Youth Talents Program in South America. If you know of a young person undecided in his/her career path or a youth who is passionate about agriculture, let them know of the bright future and opportunities available in agriculture.
For more information on how to engage youth in crops, visit our UNL CropWatch site at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatch-youth.