Manhattan, Kan. — Kansas youth are getting a head start toward new innovations in agriculture thanks to a program now underway through the state’s 4-H program.
Kansas 4-H was selected by the National 4-H Council to implement Ag Innovators Experience, a program that encourages youth to take an interest in agricultural innovation and careers.
Kansas is one of six states awarded an Ag Innovators grant by Bayer Sciences this year. Each state trains youth leaders who aim to involve 1,000 youth in challenges that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills; teamwork; communication; and workforce development.
Kelsey Nordyke, the Kansas 4-H ag sciences specialist, said Kansas’ youth leaders received training in early March.
“Our goal as adults is not only to teach teens how to teach the challenge to other kids, but also expose them to what’s available in agriculture, and the technology associated with careers in agriculture,” she said.
Nordyke said Kansas’ program is an ‘escape room’ challenge with the theme, Unlock Ag Innovations. An escape room challenge is one in which youth are given a clue or code to begin with, and must figure it out in order to know where they go for the next step in the challenge.
Along the way, they learn more about the convergence of innovations in such areas as seed and animal genetics, biologics, crop protection, digital tools, precision equipment and agronomic practices.
“We want to let youth know about technology and careers available in agriculture,” Nordyke said, adding that teens will help other youth understand where food comes from and ways to produce it.
“It becomes increasingly important that consumers know where their food comes from; not only that, but understand what goes into producing their food.”
Nordyke said 27 Kansas youth have currently been trained to present the challenge. The primary site for the program is the West Plains District with 4-H Youth Development agent, Janet Harkness.
Additional teen leaders from across the state were selected to be a part of the Ag Innovators Experience. The program gives those teen leaders further exposure to agriculture; they will travel as a group to a diversified farm operation in Kansas, as well as to Bayer Science’s labs in Kansas City to learn about technology careers in agriculture.
They will also be teaching the program throughout their communities. “In some counties,” Nordyke said, “this is an opportunity for new partnerships to be established between the teens, their local extension agents and local school officials or other local small groups.”
Those interested in having the Unlock Ag Innovation challenge taught to youth in their communities can contact their local extension office.
“If there is not a teen in that local unit that can present the challenge, the office will connect with us and we’ll get someone out to present this,” Nordyke said.
More information on this and other activities also are available online from the Kansas 4-H Youth Development program.