This letter was written by Jillian Ranko, a second year agricultural and extension student. She is a past president of the Pennsylvania 4-H State Council and a current member of the American Conservation Coalition.
In 2018, nearly 30% of the global workforce worked in agriculture, making it the largest industry in the world. Agriculture in the United States employs more than 22 million people, and in Pennsylvania alone, more than 300 million employees help generate $ 81.5 billion in farm income, making the industry’s largest industry. the state.
Today, young people can get involved in farming through many jobs that don’t require a lot of schooling, such as feeding animals or running farm shops. However, there are also many jobs that young people interested in farming can consider as a future long-term career.
Agriculture today is a high-tech industry that needs engineers, accountants, nutrition experts and more. Now that the baby boomer generation is retiring, many jobs are opening up in agriculture. This means that traditional and modern jobs in agriculture are ripe to be filled, and we need our young people to fill these vital roles. For example, from 2020-2030, the employment of farm equipment operators is expected to increase by 13%, an increase above the average increase for all occupations.
Something that is growing at an alarming rate is the demand for food, which is expected to increase between 59% and 98% by 2050. Our ever-growing human population needs diligent workers to ensure a sustainable food supply. Engaging young people in agriculture paves the way for innovation and the next generation of agricultural workers.
A demonstration of the agricultural innovations brought by young people at the local level can be seen in the rise of alpacas in Pennsylvania. The Alpaca Pack 4-H Club, located in Butler County, Pennsylvania, was founded in 2012.
For many years, these 4-Hs were unable to show their animals at their County Fair and Farm Show, despite their active participation in the local farming industry. This is because alpacas weren’t officially recognized as are beef, sheep, and other livestock. To change that, 4-H members spent months creating a presentation to give to the boards to allow their alpacas to be shown at the respective events.
Their efforts have paid off and alpacas can now be exhibited at the Big Butler Fair and Butler Farm Show since 2019, where alpacas are officially classified in the youth department.
Youth organizations such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America help millions of young people develop farming skills every year. In the United States, there are approximately 6 million 4-H members and over 735,000 FFA members. These organizations offer stewardship programs in a variety of fields, including gardening, forestry, earth sciences, and wildlife conservation. They also offer career development, project grants and scholarships to young farmers.
These youth organizations also teach young people a range of general skills, including leadership and citizenship. Such skills are in great demand in our society. These programs and many more help young people become the leaders, engineers and stewards of tomorrow.
The 4-H and the FFA have set up rewards programs for young people who demonstrate excellence in achieving personal goals and improving their community. National 4-H offers the Youth in Action program to recognize four members in areas such as STEM and agriculture. National FFA offers the American FFA Diploma, awarded when an FFA member demonstrates exceptional dedication to their chapter and the state FFA association. It demonstrates their applied efforts towards their supervised agricultural experience, their leadership abilities and their involvement in the community.
Members of these youth organizations have distinct priorities that separate us from previous generations. One of these priorities is climate change. A poll by the American Conservation Coalition found that 77% of right-wing youth and 90% of independent youth agree that the United States should invest in clean energy, modern infrastructure and other natural ways to reduce emissions and fight climate change.
Young farmers also have an impact at the national level. For example, the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill directly addressed the Young Farmer Agenda, which was created by the National Young Farmers Coalition. This included increased and ongoing funding to train the next generation of farmers. The conservation title of the bill focuses on programs that help farmers implement natural resource conservation on farmed land such as pasture and cropland. It also covers decommissioning and land easement programs.
Both nationally and locally, young farmers are already shaking up their industry, helping it to be more accessible and environmentally conscious. Agriculture and related organizations help young people reach their full potential, and countless jobs await them as fulfilling future careers. Agriculture empowers young people, and young people, in turn, empower agriculture.