Helping youth find passion for the agriculture industry
Adam Wehling hopes the Youth and Career Discovery Zone will spark an interest in potential careers in the ag industry for its young visitors during Farm Technology Days.
Half of the space under the Youth Tent will be dedicated to career discovery and include STEM activities, Christmas Tree Growers, Bee-keepers, a drone demonstration, several organizations and other activities that can help kids of all ages discover different parts of the ag world.
For older kids, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College will have people from their different programs to talk about animal science, agronomy, crops, soil, landscape plants, turf management and so much more.
"We really want to make sure that we're driving home the importance of careers that are connected to the agricultural industry. That's key because we need to make sure that future generations have workers to support it," said Wehling, Dean of Agriculture, Energy & Transportation at Chippewa Valley Technical College, pointing to current shortages of qualified labor in the industry. "So, let's help youth discover what they're interested in doing."
Youth from elementary grades through high school are invited to complete activity guides that help explore career options. Once completed, students will visit the Culver's Thank-a-Farmer Station where they will write a thank you letter to a farmer and then receive a coupon for free custard that they can redeem one of the Culver's Scoop Stations in Tent City.
Wehling says that students connected to agriculture have enjoyed a strong reputation for a good work ethic, and are highly sought after by employers, not only in the ag sector but in the trades programs as well.
"We have a lot of non-farm kids in our ag programs who are there because they want to produce food, work with animals or equipment," Wehling said. "All they have to do is have that work ethic, have the ability to work with people and do good quality work. We're willing to train people and we do it every day. We need all different kinds of people from different backgrounds with different experiences because there's a strong, steady demand for food and food production."
The Youth tent will also have a petting zoo and a “cow” that kids can learn to milk. There will also be a theater area where kids and their parents can take virtual tours of the three farms that are on the Farm Bus Tours – Huntsinger Farms (horseradish), Nellie’s Holstein’s (dairy), and Ferguson’s Orchards (apples and pumpkins).
Farm Technology Days will also be the site of the FFA Wisconsin High School Tractor Driving Contest which will take place over three days in the Tractor Driving Arena near the Youth Tent..
Wehling says that 60 students will compete in several areas during the contest: operating a tractor pulling a wagon safely through an obstacle course, taking a written exam and a practical routine daily check-list about the safe operation of their farm vehicle.
"It's a multi-component event that really makes sure that we have the best, well-rounded, safest operator and a person that knowledgeable about tractors," he said.