It starts with the youth.
For more than 40 years now, that saying has been particularly relevant for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) and its program known as the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI). The NAYI is a five-day conference held every July for high school juniors and seniors, teaching them many aspects of agriculture.
“It’s the longest-running program of its kind in the nation,” says Christin Kamm, advisor for the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council, which coordinates the NAYI. “The Nebraska Department of Agriculture believes the NAYI is important to get youth involved in agriculture, so it’s something we obviously feel very strongly about.”
“We usually have around 150 participants each year,” she adds. “The students learn about agriculture, how to be a good advocate for the agricultural industry, and about agricultural careers available and how to get those careers through college majors.”
The annual Institute features a variety of programs and speakers, and there are many opportunities for participants to interact in small-group settings. They become involved in areas such as career development, leadership and education. NAYI delegates have the opportunity to participate in a computer-simulated farm management game, or serve as ag communicators through daily newsletter writing, video editing and the use of social media.
“The Institute is designed to educate rural and urban youth alike. We’ve had many students from urban areas that were curious about agriculture attend NAYI in the past,” Kamm says, “many of which have decided to pursue an agricultural career path. The Institute shows students the vast opportunities available to them in the agricultural industry.”
NAYI is coordinated through the NDA by members of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council (NAYC). The NAYC is currently comprised of 19 college-age men and women with a passion for agriculture and educating others about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives.
“The Council also coordinates other youth educational events throughout the year including elementary school visits, and taking urban youth to farm settings to look, feel and smell agriculture,” says Kamm.
Kamm encourages any high school students interested in learning more about careers in agriculture to consider participating in NAYI.
“It’s not just about learning to be a farmer or a rancher,” she says. “The diversity of job opportunities is truly amazing.”