In a virtual ceremony held Oct. 20, a team of University of Minnesota Extension educators was honored with a national award for excellence in agriculture education. The award is given annually to a single individual or team by the National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals.
The 4-H agronomy and horticulture team was recognized for the ways they brought new and innovative ag learning opportunities to Minnesota youth. They developed and distributed more than 1,424 at-home growing kits, hosted campus and industry tours, reached more than 2,200 youth in virtual learning sessions and piloted a teen leadership program. These opportunities created new pathways for youth to discover and see value in the many ways ag touches our daily lives.
This program, which started just 3 ½ years ago, doesn’t just reach a lot of youth, it also improves their perception of agriculture.
- 95% of youth became more interested in agriculture science.
- 98% said they see greater value in agronomy than they did before participating.
50% of Americans are concerned about the security of their food, but 48% spend little or no time thinking about where their food comes from, according to Cornell University. The 4-H ag and hort team saw this as an opportunity they couldn’t pass by. “We are bringing awareness to youth and their families about growing their own food and what it takes for food to be produced,” said Brian McNeill, program leader. “It’s our goal for youth to become change agents when it comes to food security.”
The award-winning team included educators from across Minnesota:
- Brian McNeill, Benson
- Jared Goplen, Canby
- Kirstin Koch, Morris
- Patrick Jirik, Rochester
- Nic Podoll, Pine River
- Becca Turnquist, Benson
- Anja Johnson, Northfield news
- Amy Nelson, Waseca
- Kaitlin Barbosa, Hallock
- Margo Bowerman, Crookston
“This team has done impressive work that is responsive to the needs and interests of Minnesota youth and our partners,” said Jennifer Skuza, associate dean and director of Minnesota 4-H Youth Development. “We are excited to expand partnerships with volunteers, businesses and researchers so we can keep growing the connections that youth see between themselves and agriculture.”
Special thanks to the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, who have been key partners and financial supporters of the 4-H agronomy and horticulture program. Together, we are helping to build the next generation of ag leaders and supporters. Learn more about 4-H agronomy and horticulture.