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June 22, 2015

4-H Science of Ag helps pave way to careers for youth

ST. PAUL, Minn. (6/22/2015)—The first-ever 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge brought 12 teams of youth from across the state to the University of Minnesota last week to present their research on important agricultural issues, including soil preservation, public opinion on genetically modified organisms, food waste and more.

Girl doing biodiesel researchThe Science of Agriculture program is the first of its kind in the United States. It's designed to help build the next future agricultural workforce through hands-on learning and experiences. Over the last nine months, youth have worked with adult mentors and agricultural experts to identify issues and research potential solutions. At the end of the two-day event at the University's St. Paul campus, awards were presented to three teams earning highest marks:
  • First place—Meeker County 4-H Hay Waste Team: Kayla Kutzke, Ryan Peterson and Daniel Williamson. The team researched, designed, built and tested a feed bunk to reduce hay waste of beef cattle.
  • Second place—Washington County 4-H Insects as Food Source Team: Serenna Svanoe, Theo Svanoe, Chloe Brey. The team researched insects as sustainable source of protein for humans and animals, and cultural attitudes, methods and barriers to production and consumption in western nations.
  • Third place—Le Sueur County 4-H Biodiesel Team: Brian Prchal, Anna Prchal, Tyler Fromm. The team researched and compared the efficiency and environmental impact of conventional diesel, ethanol, kerosene and 100 percent biodiesel made by team, and tested temperature, content and particulate matter.
The top three teams were awarded scholarships toward use in any accredited university, college or trade school. First place team members received $1,000 each, second place received $750 each and third place received $500 each.
"We face a shortage of ag-literate professionals. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that between 2015 and 2020 alone, there will be about 57,900 jobs annually for graduates with bachelor's or higher degrees in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources or the environment," said Josh Rice, the University of Minnesota Extension specialist who leads the program. "The 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge was developed to expose youth to the wide variety of ag-related issues that they can have a role in solving today and in the future."
The 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge sponsors were the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau, AgStar Financial Services and the Minnesota Soybean Research Council. Judges were Robin Kopel, vice-president of human resources, Jennie-O Turkey Store; Mark Hamerlinck, senior communications director, Minnesota Corn Growers Association; Adam Birr, chief executive officer, Minnesota Corn Growers Association; Ruth Meirick, director, Minnesota Farm Bureau Foundation; and Amy Smith, assistant professor of agriculture education, University of Minnesota.

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