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December 13, 2015

Youth to compete in second annual 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge

By Bev Durgan, Dean, University of Minnesota Extension, for "Minnesota Counties" newsletter

In Extension, we have long understood that agriculture is vital to Minnesota communities, and that won’t change as baby boomers retire and young people grow into their future.

One of the challenges communities face is a shortage in the professional agricultural workforce. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects 57,900 annual job openings for graduates in ag-related areas, but there are only 35,400 graduates in these areas each year.

I’m excited to tell you that the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge that launched in 2015 is back for a second year of opportunities for youth. Several teams have already registered, committing to agricultural topics in the areas of animals, technology, environment and lifestyle. New this year, regional events will take place in north, south and central Minnesota, all leading up to the June 21-23 State Challenge event on the University’s St. Paul campus.

The teams work for several months with mentors to tackle tough issues, and then spend three days on campus for the State Challenge event, which includes a college and career fair. Judges and sponsors include Minnesota agricultural leaders. The 2015 winners presented research on loss of feed in livestock feeders (Meeker County), insects as food sources (Washington County) and biofuels (Le Sueur County).

Each year, thousands of youth complete agriculture-related projects as a part of their 4-H experience. The 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge honors that tradition by fostering highly focused learning opportunities and rewarding youth with college scholarships.

Counties invest in Extension’s 4-H youth development because young people raised in 4-H give back and often become leaders. In this sense, all 4-H participants are winners. Minnesota communities win too, because our future is in good hands when 4-H continues to be a part of the journey of growing up and finding where one can best contribute.

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