The Critical Need for Youth Leaders

The Critical Need for Youth Leaders

Sarah Rogers runs a bit of a livestock library for her fellow 4-Hers and FFAers in Plant City.

 

The youngest users pet and cuddle Rogers’ rabbits, getting their first chance to learn how to handle an animal properly. Those who are a few years older work with the sheep she keeps at her family’s three-acre farm. Rogers’  high school peers tend to the chickens Rogers has donated to their school or an 800-pound heifer she loans them for free.

 

Rogers makes it possible for other young people to grow up with an understanding of agriculture, and maybe even cultivate a passion for it. As fewer Floridians seek to work in agriculture and more of them are cut off from any understanding of their food supply, we have a critical need for youth leaders like Rogers.

 

Rogers sometimes thinks of her altruism the way I do, as an ambassadorial function. More often, though, it’s just what Rogers loves to do, part of her heritage as part of an agriculture family.

 

Her generosity and her passion make the hard work—twice-daily milkings, shoveling feed or manure, spending a weekend of long hours in a paddock awaiting a few minutes in a show ring—look like fun. 

She also makes animal agriculture a haven from the things youth experience but cannot control—divorce, farm bankruptcies, moving. Rogers says a cow can be an antidote to teen anxiety and support for young people’s mental health.

 

Rogers is providing fellow 4-Hers, FFAers, and friends with three things they need to make animal agriculture a part of their youth: access to animals, space to keep them, and advice on their feeding and care.

 

She even takes them to shows, hauling their tack in her pickup truck as she caravans behind her mom pulling the trailer with the animals. It gives a few more Hillsborough-area students the thrill of a show competition.

 

She mentors the youngest students in the Hillsborough County Farm Fresh Clovers 4-H Club. She’ll give lessons at club meetings and work one-on-one with club members year-round who congregate at her home on a daily basis.

 

She’s also a regular at Simmons Career Acceleration Academy in Plant City, where her mom, Joanna Patino, is the agriculture teacher. She shows up at least weekly to coach them on how to care for 30 chickens she donated to the class.

 

Rogers has been showing cows for 11 of her 16 years. For most of that time, she’s been showing peers how to do it.

While Rogers is raising cows, she’s helping raise a generation of peers to stay connected to agriculture. This is why 4-H and FFA are so important to our future.

 

You can join 4-H or sign up to volunteer by calling your county agent or by visiting https://florida4h.ifas.ufl.edu

J. Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).