AgAmerica’s Don Harden discusses university-level ag education programs in Florida.

In my March column in Central Florida Ag News, I wrote about the great ag education programs in Florida at the college and university level, and the fact that many of them offer FFA and 4-H programs. See examples and the benefits of these programs below.

The Benefits of Collegiate and University-Level Ag Education Programs

Like their elementary and high school counterparts, collegiate ag programs continue to crop up as their benefits are proven again and again. In 2002, Tufts University partnered with 4-H to assess the benefits for scholars who participated in 4-H. The program started following 5th graders participating in 4-H in the 2002-2003 school year, and assessed their development through 12th grade. It found that students in 4-H were more likely to be civically active, to contribute to their communities, to make healthier choices and to be involved in science outside of school. See details of the study here.

While the study examined up to the high school level, the advantages of ag programs for college students are similar. These college-level ag programs take the principles of programs like 4-H and FFA to the next level. Benefits include:

  • Providing life and employment skills. Programs for agriculture don’t focus merely on the practical knowledge needed for agriculture; there is also an emphasis on leadership skills, professional development, and agvocating. These skills complement the class studies for agriculture degrees and agriculture business degrees.
  • Preparation for ag industry employment. The word from all agriculture sectors is that more leaders in the industry will be needed in coming years. Programs at the college and university level are preparing young adults for these roles.
  • Offering students a place. College students are still looking for their “place” in life, and collegiate-level 4-H and FFA programs offer a group to belong to, giving scholars a feeling of belonging and purpose.

4-H and FFA Ag Education Programs

The University of Florida’s Collegiate FFA provides students with opportunities for professional development in ag leadership, service and social engagement. UF also has the Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow program, which aims to help students strengthen skills like communication and leadership, encourage professional development, and connect students with professionals in the industry. The program was launched in 1995.

Warner University in Lake Wales established a Collegiate Farm Bureau Association in 2016. Students have the opportunity for professional development and agvocating, as well as developing connections with others in the ag industry, especially through partnering with the Polk County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers committee. Like UF, Warner also has a Collegiate FFA chapter for professional development, agvocating, service, and networking.

Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University, FAMU, focuses on small farmers with its New and Beginning Farmer Training Program. The aims of the program are to provide educational opportunities and technical assistance, offer knowledge, skills and tools, and to increase the number of small farmers and their likelihoods for success. FAMU also offers the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurship program, which works with young farmers under age 25.

Ag leadership opportunities are knocking, and college-level ag education programs help the next generation answer.  At AgAmerica, we’re proud to support agriculture and ag education in its many forms, including our intern program. Meet our growing team.