Ten youth represented Iowa at the 2020 National Youth Summit on Agri-Science in Washington, D.C., in January. The high school delegates traveled to Washington after they were selected by Iowa 4-H Youth Development program coordinators to attend the event at the National 4-H Conference Center.
This year’s Agri-Science conference Jan. 9-12 addressed the modern challenges facing agricultural production, and the role of researchers, leaders and public advocates when it comes to feeding future global populations. Through a combination of workshops, field trips and skill development opportunities, the youth explored such challenges and proposed their own solutions.
The Iowa team split into two groups to address their selected problems: loss of pollinator habitat in modern cropping systems, and how water quality is impacted in those same systems. The student-delegates detailed their respective challenges and their proposed solutions, and showcased their finished work in a “share fair,” which their peers and judges evaluated.
Cultivating a passion for ag
“As a youth from an urban community, I never thought I fit the mold for my passion of agriculture,” says Halley Blades, a senior from Urbandale. “The Agri-Science Summit helped me to recognize I was not alone in my passion for agriculture as a city kid. I hope more youth from the city and urban communities apply for this opportunity, because agriculture is the future of the world, and we can’t live a day without it.”
The conference is open to all Iowa 4-H youth who submit a questionnaire stating their interest in the summit, what agriculture means to them and their previous involvement with ag. In addition to the summit experience, delegates were able to network with 4-H members from other states and see the sights around the capital. They were chaperoned by state and county Extension staff from Iowa.
“The summit was a great learning and leadership experience for the youth. I loved that they were able to work with youth from other states and network to get new ideas,” says Maya Hayslett, crop science youth education specialist for Iowa State University, and one of the trip leaders. “It is important for Iowa youth to participate in these national events and be seen as leaders in innovation. Iowa youth have great experiences and ideas to share and need to be part of the conversation.”
This year’s Iowa delegates included Brianna Blake, Walcott; Simon Meister, Mitchellville; Caitlyn Ebert, Washta; Isaac Heilman, Underwood; Halley Blades, Urbandale; Dustin Kohn, Cherokee; Mackenzie Hermanson, Waukee; Gabriel Lane, Laurens; Caitlin Henriksen, Waukee; and Felicia Williams, Des Moines.