The Power of Youth

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The year 2020 is in high gear for 4-H. I already have my first conference of the year under my belt. In the last week, I had the privilege of attending the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs (NCAOAF) Convention in Cary. This is a really neat organization made up of county, regional, and state fairs – not to mention carnivals and folks in the amusement industry. The association’s sole purpose is promoting agriculture.

Needless to say, North Carolina Cooperative Extension is made up to support agriculture. As you know, 4-H’s roots are in Ag, so it seemed appropriate that a 4-H Agent might be in attendance. It also seems common sense that one of the issues this organization is facing is that of an aging workforce, just like agriculture. Most folks know that the average age of a farmer in Robeson County is 58 years old. Although we do have a small number of younger folks that want to farm, increasing costs and land values make it extremely difficult for young folks to break into the business.

The Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair also has a volunteer workforce that mirrors the average age of our farming community. The fair is proactive in that regard with a Junior Fairboard, which consists of a group of high school age youth who volunteer at the fair. The youth are  often found running some of our newer contests and constantly infusing a fresh new feel to our fair. However, once they graduate, they rarely come back after the age of 21 to apply for membership track. This means our fair (and others around the state) are looking for those 20- to 30-year-olds to bring in, train, and carry on the fine tradition of the Agricultural fair.

We have fairs in this state that are well over 100 years old. As a matter of fact, we are nearing the 75th anniversary of the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair. I dare say the fair is a timeless event that, as it was pointed out at this conference, adds value not only to agriculture in our communities but also leaves a large economic impact in our communities through increased revenue, community donations, scholarships, and more.

I tell you all of this as we go into the new year to remind you of the power of our youth. Now is the time to groom, encourage, and support them to step up into our community roles, let them flourish, and help keep these important traditions alive. Traditions that will evolve with technology, interests, and changing environmental factors. It’s time to take on this challenge – find the youth and educate them. Become a volunteer with 4-H, the fair, or another important organization in our community, and let’s harness the power of youth to make the future bright.

For more information, contact Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent, at 910-671-3276, by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.

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