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.
"Way back in the early 1940s, I was sectional vice president for the Iowa association, so I've always had a soft spot for FFA," says Smith. "Seeing those young boys and girls continue the traditions makes me proud."
Individual FFA chapters also decided how the funding would best impact their organization. Fairview High School FFA used their donation to support a variety of activities, including convention trips and officer retreats. In addition to sending members to camp this summer, Fort Recovery High School FFA also used the money for convention trips.
"As a farmer, I have seen young kids shine at the National FFA Convention for years," says Smith "I wanted to support my local chapter through the America's Farmers Grow Communities donation so that students will continue to have the opportunity to participate in such a fine organization."
America's Farmers Grow Communities partners with farmers to help them positively impact their communities. This program is part of the Monsanto Fund's overall effort to strengthen rural America.