youth programs

Photo by Steven Brides

More than ever before, young people interested in pursuing careers in agriculture have seemingly endless job opportunities – including many that aren’t typically considered “traditional” career paths. And thanks to youth organizations such as the North Carolina FFA Association and North Carolina 4-H, students are well prepared to make their mark on the state’s diverse agriculture industry.

For example, with 19,301 members in 340 chapters across North Carolina, the North Carolina FFA Association is focused on helping young people develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success, which happens both inside and outside the classroom.

FFA members can participate in Career and Leadership Development Events in areas such as forestry, agricultural sales, veterinary science and agricultural communications, just to name a few, and through their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, students can explore careers in sectors such as agricultural research and entrepreneurship.

Jason Davis, state FFA coordinator for the North Carolina FFA Association, says “there’s a niche for just about everyone,” pointing to a former North Carolina FFA State Officer who now works for Frito Lay as a recipe developer and a peer who serves as an agricultural loan officer.

“There are so many job opportunities in our state’s agriculture sector, especially for a person who is willing to work hard,” Davis says. “On the production side, North Carolina has more than 200 different agricultural commodities with everything from grapes to Christmas trees to honeybees – you name it, we have it. If you want to work in ag here, the sky’s the limit.”

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Impacting nearly 263,000 youth across the state each year, the North Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program also gives young people a taste of the vast career opportunities in agriculture.

Along with participating in local clubs where members learn to connect science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with agriculture, 4-Hers can attend camps as well as state and national conferences that reinforce the organization’s goal of teaching members to be outstanding citizens and excellent leaders.

In addition, North Carolina 4-H youth have opportunities to learn more about agricultural advocacy in local and state government through the 4-H Citizenship N.C. Focus and N.C. Youth Voice programs, both designed to help youth put their passion for agriculture into action.

“Because our young people develop a strong understanding of the application of science, they’re able to apply that knowledge to the next level in their college careers, better preparing them for the jobs of the future,” says Dr. Mike Yoder, associate director and state program leader for the North Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program. “Plus, our programming covers civic engagement, team-building and goal-setting, soft-skills that will prove valuable no matter what career youth want to pursue.”

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