Nurturing a youth's interest in agriculture is important to many farmers. FFA conventions and 4-H fair competitions were their starting grounds for agricultural success. This year, through America's Farmers Grow Communities, 26 Ohio farmers were able to fund ag youth programs they still value today.
Sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, Grow Communities provides farmers the chance to win a $2,500 donation for a local non-profit organization of their choice. In Ohio, nine winning farmers directed their donations to 4-H programs and 17 winning farmers directed their donations to FFA chapters in their communities. In total, local farmers gave $65,000 to Ohio ag youth programs.
Randie Bolender, the winning farmer from Brown County, supported his local 4-H program because of the opportunities 4-H has given him and his family. "My whole family was involved in 4-H, including my two children," says Bolender. "Through 4-H, my daughter learned about food production and nutrition, which sparked her interest in becoming a dietician."
Each 4-H club decided how the donation would be used based on needs for supplies, program funding and participation in local fairs. Coshocton County 4-H plans to utilize the money to expand the livestock exhibition at the fair, which will benefit the 800 members throughout the county. Brown County Junior 4-H will use the donation to award scholarships to help defray summer camp costs for its members.
"Local 4-H organizations are volunteer-driven, with financial support coming from fundraisers and donations from local businesses or organizations," says Tom Archer, assistant director, Ohio State University Extension. "The more financial resources available to local 4-H clubs and local 4-H committees, the more opportunities those groups will have to conduct youth development programs."
Malcolm Smith, the winning farmer in Huron County, also supported ag youth by directing a $2,500 donation to the Monroeville High School FFA. He has been a lifelong supporter of the program.