Photo by Michael Conti

Kansas students contribute to the state’s thriving agriculture industry by participating in youth programs focused on agriculture issues.

The inaugural Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference was held in 2017 to train a group of highly motivated high school agricultural education students about water-use issues and conservation efforts in Kansas. Participants were then challenged to share their water expertise in their home communities.

Other youth programs, like 4-H and FFA, have been around for many years.

Kansas 4-H, administered in partnership with county, state and federal departments and Kansas State University, served nearly 71,000 young people ages 5 to 18 in a variety of educational experiences over the past year.

The organization emphasizes experiential and project-based learning, engaging members through participation in focused areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); healthy living and community vitality. For example, members can participate in project-learning areas like agriculture and natural resources, and concentrate on entomology and wildlife – just to name a few of more than 30 project-learning areas.

“We want Kansas 4-H members to become active learners, communicators, contributors to their local communities and collaborators with others in effective problem-solving,” says Wade Weber, Kansas 4-H program leader. “Those four skills are critical to the advancement of the Kansas agriculture industry.”

Kansas FFA, comprising more than 9,000 members in 195 chapters, also emphasizes project-based learning. Members complete supervised agricultural experiences (SAE) and can compete in career development events (CDE) covering job skills.

Grace Roth, who is a member of the Holcomb FFA chapter and daughter of Water Technology Farm operator Dwane Roth, recently completed an SAE focused on water conservation after attending the Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference.

“Grace is just a sophomore, but she has big plans,” Dwane says. “I’ve seen unbelievable changes in her since she joined FFA.”

Many FFA members also build long-lasting connections with others in the organization.

“My favorite part of FFA is the ability to network,” says Eli Ohlde, 2017-18 president of the Kansas FFA and freshman agribusiness major at K-State. “I’ve been able to meet and connect with FFA members from other chapters and learn about their experiences with agriculture, which will serve me in the future.”


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