GREENWICH, N.Y. — David Hafner grew up as an equestrian. The Palm City, Florida native was raised on a horse ranch where his family bred and trained horses, offered boarding and lessons, hosted a summer camp, and took tourists on rides through the wood trails of the 800-acre property.
In addition to growing up in a farm setting David was involved in 4-H. In high school he joined his local Bits and Spurs 4-H equine club and the Martin County 4-H Equine Judging Team. His time in 4-H proved to be influential for David. “Being in the [Bits and Spurs] club I felt acceptance and began to build my confidence to come out of my shell,” he said. “Through club activities I became more comfortable with public speaking and started to take on leadership roles.”
4-H also helped David learn about living and working in communities. “Traveling across Florida with the team competing in different judging events and meeting 4-H members from other parts of the state introduced me to what it is like to be part of something much bigger than just me,” he explained. “Many members from my 4-H club are now leaders in our community. I have sat on boards with these people, have worked alongside them completing community projects, and I know if I need help, they are still there for me and I am here for them.”
David went on to receive an A.S. in Agricultural Studies and a B.A. in Business Administration both from Warner University. Through his experiences in 4-H David developed a passion for agriculture education and youth development. Today he serves as a 4-H Agent at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Martin County.
As a 4-H agent David works to provide leadership and direction for his 4-H program. David explained, “I work with adult volunteers to make sure we are providing the best opportunities for the youth members in our community clubs. I develop and deliver fun, informative STEM and nutrition lessons to youth in afterschool programs, and I work with the youth members to make sure the opportunities we are providing are in areas that interest them.” He also works to increase 4-H’s presence in his community. “People tell me regularly that they did not know we have 4-H in my county,” David shared. “That is a problem. 4-H is an organization full of opportunities for all kids and if people don’t know we are here we cannot possibly serve them.”
4-H plays an important role in helping educate youth in areas like agriculture, nutrition, food science, technology, and more. 4-H programming is based on three main pillars- civic engagement and leadership, STEM and agriculture, and healthy living. In his work, and in the work of 4-H, David seeks to give members a well-rounded, hands-on learning experience that opens their minds to the possibility of a career in agriculture or an associated agribusiness. Even if they do not pursue a career in agriculture, they learn skills that can help in many areas of work and life. “Even if our members do not seek a career in agriculture, they are sent into their adult life with a better understanding of the agriculture industry,” David said. “A citizen who is well-educated on agricultural issues is very important to the preservation of our domestic food supply.”
David is also constantly seeking to grow his knowledge of the various aspects of agriculture. At one point David worked for a farm and feed supply store and in order to better help his customers he would attend trainings for the ag products the store sold. Prior to becoming a 4-H agent he had the opportunity to attend the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Program for several years and be a part of the American Farm Bureau Partners in Advocacy Leadership (PAL) Program Class X, both of which have helped him in his career today. Also, in his 30s he became interested in other kinds of livestock farming and he now raises cattle, swine, poultry, and goats in addition to horses.
For someone interested in working in a 4-H/Cooperative Extension setting David recommends making sure that you love it. “Working in cooperative extension and with youth is very rewarding, but it is more than just a day job. I feel to be great in this role it needs to be a part of you. If it’s not, you might see yourself burning out quickly…But 4-H is a part of me and I love it. I get paid to do what I used to do as a volunteer. I was a Martin County 4-H kid, my sons are Martin County 4-H kids, I get to be the Martin County 4-H agent, and I very much enjoy doing my part to make the best better for all of Martin County’s 4-H members, even with all the extra hours and meetings because that is how we are going to continue to improve this program. If you have that mindset this job is for you and you will love it,” he said.
Regardless of what career a student may pursue David also offered this advice: Never hesitate to step out of your comfort zone. “The fear of trying something new will keep you from experiencing the best things in life. Be vulnerable, be inquisitive, be humble, and be sure of yourself,” he said.
For anyone interested in David’s line of work he is happy to answer questions and can be reached at email@example.com.
Cultivating Ag Careers introduces agriculture students and FFAers to the wide variety of careers that exist in agriculture. Each week a new individual will be introduced, who will share their journey: their educational experiences, their work, and what role their job plays in the wide world of agriculture.
Tune in each Wednesday to learn more about the different jobs and personalities that make up the ag industry!