4-H Agronomy Pilot Program
By Brian McNeill, Extension Educator
For more than a century, 4-H has engaged youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This has traditionally meant a solid focus on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship, and natural sciences. Today, 4-H has grown to include rocketry, robotics, bio-fuels, renewable energy, computer science, environmental sciences, and more. 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology provides hands-on learning experiences to encourage learning about the world around youth in partnership with adults who care about your learning and are crazy about STEM.
At the beginning of 2018, Minnesota 4-H teamed up with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association re-energize programming in crops, soil science and plant science. Program dollars were made available to regions in the state of Minnesota with innovative ideas. A pilot team was formed in the Southwest region to create an innovative plan and revive the crop science project area.
Prior to program creation and implementation, an internal partnership was formed between the Center of Youth Development and the Center of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Extension Educators. To identify program focus, a needs assessment was conducted to identify potential counties (in the Southwest Region), identify growth areas, and identify program interest areas. Using FairEntry (software used for entering 4-H members for county and state fair), five counties were chosen based on project enrollment, county and state fair participation: Cottonwood, Lyon, Renville, Stevens and Swift Counties. Once the five counties were chosen and staff identified, 4HOnline (a member based software) was used to contact program participants. In the beginning of December, a Qualtrics survey was created and sent to 702 4-H members in the participating pilot counties. Within six days, 40% of the surveys sent were completed by families. From that data, the team learned about the current participation by grade level in Crop Science, Plant and Soil Science and Vegetable Gardening and which project areas there is interest in participating. Families also shared what type of opportunities they would like to see in the Agronomy project areas: County Fair Exhibits, Project Start Up kits and Agronomy businesses tours ranked the highest.
The 4-H Agronomy team comprised of Extension Educators, Brian McNeill and Jared Goplen and 4-H Program Coordinators, Crystal Reith (Cottonwood Co.), Sam Jens (Lyon Co.), Marisa Kroells (Renville Co.), Kirstin Koch (Stevens Co.) and Janelle Negen (Swift Co.) are currently underway with program implementation. The team has been busy with action steps to encourage participation by members starting this spring: organizing categories in the County Fair premium book, creating three start-up project kits for youth to use for county fair exhibits, scheduling summer Agronomy Tours, redesigning county fair exhibit areas and developing a 4-H Agronomy day in early winter. This team also presented at the Center for Youth Developments annual staff development conference to 4-H staff across the state.
If you have questions, comments, and/or people or businesses to connect with, please contact one of the pilot team members. The goal is for a complete regional rollout in 2019 with potential rollout to the state of Minnesota in 2020.
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