Feeding Our Future: Junior Ag Leadership program helps youth envision careers

A man holding a sugarcane stalk speaks to a small crowd near a truck in a field.

Sugarcane specialist Kenneth Gravois, left, discusses insect management with participants in the Junior Ag Leadership program. Provided photos.

With an ever-expanding world population that could increase by as much as 2 billion people over the next 30 years according to United Nations’ estimates, finding agricultural solutions to grow our food supply is of vital importance.

Here in Louisiana, youth in the Central Region were encouraged to participate in a Junior Ag Leadership program to learn how they can be a part of our agricultural future. Participants were selected based on their interest in pursuing an agricultural career and given several opportunities around the state.

The Junior Ag Leadership program’s objective is to increase awareness and education of youth regarding food, fiber and natural resources. This includes the sectors of production, research and extension programs that support Louisiana agriculture and related academic opportunities.

In the fall of 2021, participants headed to Baton Rouge to visit the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, the LSU College of Agriculture, the LSU Hill Farm Teaching Facility and the Botanic Gardens at Burden. The tour was intended to show degree programs and career paths.

Participants also toured the Sugarcane Research Unit in Houma where they learned about best management practices, plant breeding and varietal selection. A sugarcane harvest site and mill tour showed them the sugar process from farm to market.

Youth met with Louisiana foresters for a mill tour and sessions to learn about the state’s top crop — timber. The foresters emphasized safety measures, training and business practices in the industry, as well as forest products and preservation of wildlife habitats.

A job shadowing opportunity gave students the chance to follow a host employer during a typical day while asking questions about agricultural careers. After the experience, youth shared their perspective and considered future goals with 4-H agents.

Finally, youth visited the Louisiana State Capitol to see the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee in action at the House of Representatives. They also met Rep. Clay Schexnayder who serves as Speaker of the House.

Throughout the program, participants were able to learn agriculture, from the farm to the legislature, and the processes that keep our food, fiber and natural resources safe and managed. By offering a first-hand glimpse into agricultural careers, Junior Ag Leadership helps youth recognize their potential and grow the skills needed to feed the world for generations to come.

A teen male looks into a microscope while another teen male stands behind him.

A Junior Ag Leadership trip included a tour of the Sugarcane Research Unit to learn about genetics and plant breeding.

A group of teens dressed in business attire stands on a sidewalk.

Junior Ag Leadership members visited the Louisiana State Capitol to see the Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development Committee in action. Provided photos.

3/2/2023 3:06:49 PM
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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture