by Hannah Majewski
Five 4-H members from New Hampshire are taking the charge to lead the next generation of agriculture. In mid-March, the group traveled to Washington, D.C. to represent the state at the National 4-H Summit on Agriscience. These delegates were chosen from a competitive application process. This conference brings young agriculturalists from across the country to learn about career opportunities in the industry and network with like-minded youth.
“I learned about the 4-H Agriscience Summit when I attended the virtual series during the pandemic. When I heard it was going to happen in person for 2022, I knew I wanted to apply,” said Logan Courtright, one of the 2022 NH delegates. “I had to start from scratch and write a 4-H resume, cover letter and submit a video about why I wanted to attend the conference. I then was selected to attend a group interview, which consisted of a ‘mini-presentation’ about an agricultural need in my community.”
During the summit, all the state delegations were challenged with creating a “Lead to Change” project. The task was to look deep into their communities and find an ag issue that they want to help find a solution for. The team from NH tackled this assignment with purpose. The issue they chose to solve is the decreasing number of youth involved with agriculture, specifically within their 4-H communities. All of them felt that they have been able to receive benefits on multiple levels by working with animals and want to make sure that future generations of youth are able to have the same experiences in their 4-H careers as they have. To solve this issue, the group is creating a “Livestock Exploration Day” where new and returning 4-H members can have a hands-on experience and learn about the livestock project areas in 4-H.
“We need more people participating in agriculture as well as members in 4-H and we want to keep people engaged in the program for many years,” said Andrew Saunders, a NH delegate. “We want to hook people into 4-H and increase participation in animal and agriculture project areas.”
Their Livestock Exploration Day consists of workshops about how to raise animals, prepare them for the show ring and what a day in the life at the fair looks like for a 4-H member. This will create an opportunity for young 4-H members to ask questions and see who their older 4-H mentors are. The delegates have an elaborate plan to advertise the event and hopefully add some new 4-H members to the program.
“The team did an excellent job networking and working together to create an amazing project,” stated Mary Davis, a trip chaperone and NH 4-H animal science field specialist.
The NH team has a few short weeks after the conference to finish their plan and present it to a panel of judges made up of the National 4-H Council and 4-H sponsors. The team must be able to explain the call to action, their solution and how they will measure success. The top 12 teams will be awarded $2,000 grants to get their projects off the ground. This may be a tall order for most, but this dedicated group of 4-H members will rise to the occasion.
In addition to the “Lead to Change” project, conference delegates participated in a variety of workshops at the summit. Many of them were hands-on and made the 4-H members think outside the box about agriculture across the U.S. Some of the topics included farm safety, “agvocating,” eating bugs as a sustainable protein source, pollinators and more. Many of the sessions were taught by 4-H alumni or Cooperative Extension staff. The workshops were meant to educate the delegates on a specific topic so that they could then implement the projects in their own 4-H clubs and communities. Along with workshops, the summit featured keynote speakers like the CEO of Bayer Crops and Agriculture and the “Farm Babe” (a social media agricultural influencer), who gave the delegates their unique perspectives on the industry. Norah Falcone, NH 4-H delegate, noted that some of these experiences were the highlight of her trip: “My favorite part has been when we rotated through activities, and we did a pin swap with people from different states and hearing about their various 4-H experiences.”
For many of the 4-H delegates attending this conference, this was a return to normal. Throughout the pandemic, many of them participated in virtual workshops series, but they missed the experience of connecting with each other.
“Last year we got to hear a lot of speakers [at the virtual summit], and they had amazing topics. In-person allowed us all to connect on a different level, and increased our opportunities for career awareness,” said Lauren Gardner, who attended the summit virtually last year and in person for 2022.
The National 4-H Summit on Agriscience is part of a series of summits that the National 4-H Council offers for 4-H members across the country. The summits consist of a packed four-day deep dive into various pathways in the 4-H program. Besides agriscience, the series includes Healthy Living, Photography and STEM summits. 4-H members with common interests join to participate in workshops, network and bring back ideas to their home states. Sarah Gardner, a longtime 4-H volunteer and 4-H alum, has chaperoned the Agriscience Summit multiple times and can speak to the benefits that it has offered her 4-H members. “All the kids have grown through this experience, and I’ve watched them step out of their comfort zone,” she said.
The NH 4-H program looks forward to the return of national 4-H experiences. For many, this is a pinnacle experience in their 4-H career. Austin Hatch, another NH delegate, attended his first national 4-H experience through this summit is already looking forward to the next adventure.
“It’s been a lot of fun and quite the learning experience,” he said. “I’ve met 4-H’ers from across the United States and I can’t wait to attend more trips.”