Ag focused programsBy participating in programs like 4-H, FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America), Young Farmers and Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC), young people across Virginia are learning valuable lessons and building skills that will serve them for years to come – often while pursuing ag careers.

For example, many 4-H students grow their leadership capabilities and learn to be responsible by taking part in agriculture projects. In 2015, 80,678 Virginia 4-Hers participated in projects largely focused on animal and plant sciences. The 4-Hers can also participate in events such as 4-H Day at the Capitol, where students learn about governmental procedures and more.

“For more than 100 years, 4-H has been growing outstanding agricultural leaders,” says Dr. Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H youth development for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Today, more than ever, our youth need to understand where their food comes from. By developing leadership and other life skills, 4-H members will be positioned to make important decisions and lead the agricultural industry of the future.”

AITC is an educational nonprofit that connects K-12 children to agriculture by providing educators with ag-related training, tools and materials they can integrate into their regular curriculum. AITC also offers grants that enable teachers to start ag projects, and the program hosts an Agriculture Literacy Project each March.

According to Tammy Maxey, senior education manager for Virginia AITC, more than 40,000 children in more than 1,500 classrooms were read to during the two-week celebration in 2016. The program, she says, helps children develop ag knowledge and literacy.

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“This program also ensures teachers give students accurate information about the agriculture industry so they can make informed decisions in the future,” she says.