Youth Leadership Cooperative Experience
Preparing the next generation of scientists and leaders is a challenge upon which The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) is laser-focused. One way in which the college is meeting this challenge is by introducing students to the many career opportunities in the agricultural industry.
During an October visit to Ohio State’s Columbus campus, high school students from southwest Ohio’s Adams County participated in a leadership experience conducted by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives, based at The Ohio State University South Centers. They learned about Ohio agricultural cooperatives; explored opportunities within those cooperatives and other agricultural businesses; participated in CFAES classroom activities with faculty; gained exposure to panels of agricultural professionals; and visited local agricultural businesses.
The students were all National FFA Organization members from the Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center (CTC) in West Union, Ohio, located just north of the Kentucky border.
By Whitney Hill
Ohio Valley CTC FFA Student Reporter
The students in the Agriculture Business Management program at the Ohio Valley Career & Technical Center have been learning about agricultural cooperatives with Joy Bauman and Hannah Scott from the CFAES Center for Cooperatives. On Oct. 7 and 8, 16 students participated in the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience conducted by the Center for Cooperatives.
On this two-day trip, the students experienced several learning opportunities at Ohio State’s Columbus campus. They had the chance to tour the university with CFAES student ambassadors and learn about college life from current students. They participated in classroom-style learning activities with Lyda Garcia, a meat science professor; Emily Buck, an agricultural communication professor; and Emily Wickham, marketing and communications manager for the CFAES Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership.
The students were joined in a cooperative leader panel discussion about careers in cooperatives by Adam Specht, director of youth programs for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives; Josh Zehentbauer, a field representative for Dairy Farmers of America; Deborah Rausch from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Business and Cooperative Programs; and Tom Worley, an agricultural cooperatives course instructor and the director of South Centers and the CFAES Center for Cooperatives.
On the second day of the trip, the students heard from Dan Durheim, vice president of sponsor relations for Nationwide Insurance. Andy Lynd hosted the group at Lynd Fruit Farm near Pataskala, Ohio.
Lynd’s grandfather was a founding member of the Ohio Apple Growers Marketing Association. The students were especially interested in learning about the apple marketing cooperative, because it is the supplier of the apples sold through the Ohio FFA Fruit Sales. Lynd discussed marketing strategies and the development of apple varieties that occurs on the farm as part of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association.
Next, the students had the opportunity to tour COBA/Select Sires in Hilliard, Ohio. Administrative Director Julie Ziegler hosted the group and reviewed the 70-plus-year history of the successful farmer-owned cooperative focused on genetic progress in the dairy and beef cattle industries. She also explained the cooperative’s structure, with COBA being a member of the federated cooperative, Select Sires.
CFAES Cooperative Development Specialist Joy Bauman said the immersive program was designed to help youth learn about the cooperative business model, education opportunities, and careers in cooperative business. “The students learned of many opportunities for internships and employment with Ohio’s cooperatives,” Bauman said, “while also learning about what next steps in education or training are necessary.”
With students coming from a small school in an Appalachian area, Bauman said it was good for them to hear about the similar backgrounds shared by several of the guest speakers.
“Our hope is that an experience like this can help students realize that they, too, can become successful in the agriculture industry. And that regardless of what their interests in agriculture may be, there are opportunities in the agricultural industry, especially with agricultural cooperatives,” she said.
This trip was funded by Ohio State through a North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Youth Educator Grant Program. The focus of the NCR-SARE grant program is on research and education. The program is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funding projects and conducting outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.