College-level ag programs offer training and open doors

AGRICULTURAL PROGRAMS like FFA and 4-H are celebrated for their ability to get America’s youth interested in ag, but did you know there are similar programs at the college level? These postsecondary ag programs take the principles of programs like 4-H and FFA to the next level. The word from all agriculture sectors is that more leaders in the industry will be needed in the coming years, and programs at the college and university level are preparing young adults for these roles.
Collegiate ag programs continue to crop up as their benefits are proven again and again, and several Florida schools other programs designed to help students succeed as adults in agriculture. Both the University of Florida in Gainesville and Warner University in Lake Wales offer collegiate FFA chapters, providing students with opportunities for professional development in ag leadership, service, and social engagement.
These universities also have Collegiate Farm Bureau associations with teams competing in the 2017 state competition for a chance to compete at the national level later this year. The association at Warner University was founded in 2016 and fosters professional development and “ag-vocating.” Students can also develop connections with others in the ag industry, especially through a partnership with the Polk County Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers committee.
UF has the Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow program, which aims to help students strengthen skills in communication and leadership; encourage professional development; and connect students with professionals in the industry. The program was launched in 1995.
Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (FAMU) focuses on small-farm growers with its New and Beginning Farmer Training Program. The program aims to provide educational opportunities and technical assistance; offer knowledge, skills and tools; and increase the number of small-farm growers and their likelihood for success. FAMU also offers the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurship program, which works with beginning farmers under age 25, introducing concepts of agricultural entrepreneurship and business plans and practices that will allow them to start successful agricultural business ventures.
Ag leadership opportunities are knocking, and college-level ag programs are helping the next generation open the door.
This column is sponsored by AgAmerica Lending.
BIO: Donald Harden, the Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up in the cattle and citrus business, managing a family ranch of several thousand cattle and horses. He has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate business, and more than 20 years specializing in agricultural sales. Don has owned and operated farm and ranch supply stores, machinery auction companies, and farms. He has served as a director and on the board of the Cattlemen’s Association, as the manufacturer’s representative for ag equipment companies, and as a beef cattle specialist for a national feed company. Don has traveled across the U.S. as a sales rep, conducting seminars and fostering long-lasting business relationships. Don enjoys his work at AgAmerica, as he has never met a stranger. For more information, visit

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