(BPT) - You don't have to grow crops or raise livestock in order to understand the vital role both play within society, nor do you have to reside in rural America to understand the value of the farmers and ranchers that do. From the food we eat to the health of the local environment, the importance of agriculture is boundless.
But for agriculture to continue to advance, it's essential to educate and inspire young minds, invest in the next generation, and turn today's youth into tomorrow's agricultural leaders.
That's where youth agricultural organizations come in.
According to Phil Reiter, vice president of marketing at Tractor Supply Company, the nation's largest rural lifestyle retailer and a longtime supporter of AG-centric programs like 4-H and FFA, members of these organizations are not only learning invaluable life skills but they're also having a great time while doing it.
'These programs were designed to be a fun and effective way for students to explore a critically important industry,' said Reiter. 'Aside from learning about responsibility and leadership, members also have the ability to form strong, long-lasting relationships with peers that share similar interests and passions.'
Through involvement in youth agricultural programs, students can look forward to the following:
Agricultural organizations give students the opportunity to be actively engaged in projects and events that involve socializing with friends and meeting new people from across the country. From attending local fairs to competing in contests and career development events, members have the opportunity to travel and work alongside classmates that have similar interests as them.
Group meetings provide a fun setting for members to interact with both peers and adults. Throughout the year and during fair season, members are often required to address large crowds. Whether it's presenting animals to a panel of judges or giving a speech, high-pressure situations like these teach students about preparation, poise and public speaking.
Both 4-H and FFA focus on empowering young people to take on leadership positions within their respective organizations. While in FFA, members elect their own officers and are responsible for planning and conducting activities throughout the year.
Giving back is a primary component of 4-H and FFA, and throughout the year members spend ample time coordinating various fundraising campaigns to benefit their communities.
Participating in youth agricultural organizations means being surrounded by a variety of adult role models. Throughout the year, members attend events and meet executives from some of the country's top corporations, through which many members form connections and receive recognition for their hard work.
Tractor Supply frequently recognizes individuals who have displayed exemplary service and commitment to their community. Last year, the retailer presented dozens of hardworking 4-H and FFA members with commemorative certificates during special ceremonies at state and county fairs.
From June 8 to October 22, the company will send its Mobile Fair Tour to 19 fairs across the country where they will continue to acknowledge members of both organizations. This year, honorees have been selected as winners of Tractor Supply's first ever 'Great Neighbor' Essay Contest, which encouraged 4-H and FFA youth to submit a short essay detailing how their participation in these organizations has empowered them to be a better neighbor.
Tractor Supply's Mobile Fair Tour will offer visitors the 'Out Here' experience. Attendees will have the opportunity to lasso a 'runaway pig,' test their strength on the high striker bell-ringing game, and attend the special recognition ceremonies.