by MARY TOOTHMAN
We asked Sweetheart Milli Jones, 21 and a junior agricultural education and communications major at the University of Florida, for suggestions on getting young people psyched about the cattle industry. Her recent experience working as a substitute teacher has enhanced her insight into how to give young people positive ideas about the industry.
Here’s what she offers:
“The responsibility of every generation in the industry is to share our heritage and knowledge with the upcoming generations, so we can preserve the beef industry. With only 2 percent of Americans involved in production agriculture, it is imperative that we seek opportunities to teach the youth about our lives as producers and the positivity associated with our industry.
I approach every age group differently. When working with children from around kindergarten through third grade, it is easy to read a cowboy book and talk about life on the ranch. Then it can be related back to the yummy cheeseburgers and tacos their parents cook for them. At this age, kids still fantasize about being a cowboy when they grow up, so it is fun to bring in some items such as a cowboy hat or rope to get them even more excited.
When working with an intermediate age group, it is still important to talk about life on the ranch, but an activity is always fun, too. Talking about all the products that come from a cow really grabs their attention. An easy way to keep them interested is to bring in materials for a small project, such as making whipped cream or butter in a jar. I like to bring in strawberries for them to dip in their homemade whipped cream. This really helps bring a full circle that hamburger is not the only thing that comes from a cow — which they find to be super neat.
High schoolers can be tricky because most of them have a preconceived idea about agriculture. I think the best way to talk to them is to address ways they can get involved: Show a steer in 4-H or join the National FFA Organization.
Unfortunately, many of the kids who have no idea about the industry tend to live in places that do not have easy access to these programs. I would also talk to them about perhaps participating in a ranch tour if they want to see more.
Young people at this age also dream big about future plans. Many want to become a doctor or lawyer. It is important to show them that there are more ways to be involved in agriculture than to become a cowboy.
We need scientists and lawyers, and policymakers to keep the industry thriving. At their age, everyone wants to make a difference — so it is important to give them hope and ideas for opportunities.”
Great insight offered to us here at Central Florida Ag News. We encourage all of our readers to participate in activities that involve educating the youth about our beloved industry. Thank you, Milli, for sitting down and giving us a few pointers for the future!