At Husker Harvest Days, it wasn’t only farmers and the public who had an opportunity to see the latest in agricultural equipment and technology. It was also a place for young people, many of them 4-H and FFA members, to learn about agriculture and possible career chances in the industry.
The 4-H program in Nebraska is operated through the state’s Land Grant College at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. On Wednesday, Dr. Mike Boehm, Harlan vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL, had an opportunity to tour Husker Harvest Days and emphasize the importance that young people play in the future of Nebraska agriculture.
One of the challenges facing the state’s agricultural industry: 85 percent of Nebraska’s population lives in Omaha, Lincoln and the Tri-Cities of Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney. There are fewer and fewer rural Nebraskans living outside those cities.
At Husker Harvest Days, IANR features the “Big Red Building,” where each year various Extension educators from across the state inform the public about Extension programs that improve the lives of Nebraskans.
UNL was recently voted one of the 100 ag schools in the world. Next year, UNL celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Boehm said the partnerships that exist in Nebraska between the public and private sectors are “unprecedented.” He said Nebraska’s 4-H program is one of the best in the U.S.
“We do a lot of 4-H programming in partnership with our K-12 partners,” Boehm said. “There are 245 public school districts in Nebraska, and we have 4-H presences in 188 school districts. We are at an all-time high.”
Boehm said Nebraska’s youth are the “seed corn” of the state.
“4-H and our youth development programs, along with our public schools and other programs, are really critical in raising the next group of leaders for the state,” he said.
When visiting Husker Harvest Days, Boehm gets to view the public/private partnership that makes Nebraska agriculture one of the best and most productive in the world.
“Companies do things great, the university does things great, and while we are both hitting a pretty high level of maximizing our return, we do better when we work together,” he said.
Looking ahead a decade and beyond, Boehm said Nebraska’s Extension program continues to evolve. Nebraska Extension now has 450 employees and a physical presence in 83 of the state’s 93 counties and programming in every county.
“I have been doing this for three decades, and it has radically evolved during that time, and I have no doubt that it is going to continue to evolve,” he said.
At a time when surrounding states have experienced budget cuts in 4-H programming and public education, more and more industries are looking to Nebraska, where support continues to grow for such services.
“We are committed to that in the area of youth programming and community vitality,” he said.
“We also have to be absolutely relevant to our family farmers and the industries we support in the Great Plains. More and more people are looking at us in that way.”