STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Planting the Seed Tour visited State College recently, as Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding congratulated participants of the Pennsylvania 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge — a state competition that challenges student teams to work with mentors and industry leaders to create solutions to agriculture-related issues in their communities.
The 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge focuses on the pillars of agriculture literacy — the relationships between agriculture and the environment, food, animals, lifestyle, technology and the economy — while connecting students with local and national agribusinesses and fostering an understanding of workforce needs. Members of the top three teams will receive scholarships to support their post-secondary education pursuits.
“Agriculture connects us all, from the clothing we wear to the tools we use and the food we eat,” said Secretary Redding. “The Science of Agriculture Challenge encourages students to use their knowledge and skills to the benefit of their communities, a mission that speaks to the role that agriculture plays in our lives each and every day.”
More than 86,000 Pennsylvania students participate in 4-H, which teaches leadership and life skills to children ages 8-18. Through competitions like the Science of Agriculture Challenge, 4-H helps develop abilities and interests in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, complementing Gov. Tom Wolf’s PAsmart initiative to secure better jobs for stronger communities.
In his 2018-19 budget, the governor proposed PAsmart — a first-of-its-kind workforce development proposal to invest $50 million for STEM and computer science education, support hands-on technical education programs, and encourage employers and schools to work together to help students get the skills employers need. The proposal provides for an additional $10 million investment for career readiness programs, allowing high school students to earn both a diploma and post-secondary credentials and helping non-traditional students and workers earn post-secondary credits and credentials aligned to in-demand careers.
“We know that the commonwealth’s landscape is changing, that the agriculture industry is changing, and it is incumbent upon us to make the necessary investments today that will prepare Pennsylvanians for those opportunities,” Redding said. “Programs like 4-H help plant the seed in our youth, engaging them in the activities and the pursuits they’ll need to have a successful, meaningful career in the agriculture industry.”
Agriculture is a $135 billion industry facing an aging workforce. Attrition, growing demand for certain products, and advancing technologies will result in a workforce deficit of nearly 75,000 over the next decade. The Planting the Seed Tour aims to engage and educate the next generation of agriculturalists about the opportunities available in Pennsylvania agriculture.
For more information about the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s programs and services, or to read the state’s Agriculture Economic Impact Study, visit the Department’s website at www.agriculture.pa.gov.
— Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture