Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience sets stage for success

By Whitney Hill, Ohio Valley CTC FFA Reporter

The students of the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center (OVCTC) in the Agriculture Business Management program have been learning about agricultural cooperatives with Joy Bauman and Hannah Scott from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives. Last fall, 16 11th and 12th grade students participated in the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience conducted by the Center for Cooperatives.

On this two-day trip, the students experienced several learning opportunities at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences on the Ohio State Campus. The students had the chance to tour The Ohio State University with CFAES student ambassadors and learn about college life from current students. They participated in classroom-style learning activities with meat science professor Lydia Garcia, agricultural communication professor Emily Buck, and Emily Wickham, the marketing and communications manager for the department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. The students also participated in a cooperative leader panel discussion about careers in cooperatives by Adam Specht, the director of youth programs for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives, Josh Zehentbauer, a field representative for Dairy Farmers of America, Deborah Rausch from USDA Rural Development Business and Cooperative Programs, and Tom Worley, who is the director of OSU South Centers, CFAES Center for Cooperatives, and an agricultural cooperatives course instructor.

On the second day of the trip, the students heard from Dan Durheim, the vice president of sponsor relations for Nationwide Insurance. Andy Lynd hosted the group at Lynd Fruit Farm near Pataskala. Andy’s grandfather was a founding member of the Ohio Apple Growers Marketing Association. The students were especially interested in learning about the apple marketing cooperative, because it is the supplier of the apples sold through the Ohio FFA Fruit Sales.  Andy discussed marketing strategies and the development of apple varieties that occurs on the farm as part of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association.

Next, the students had the opportunity to tour COBA/Select Sires at Hilliard, Ohio. Administrative Director Julie Ziegler hosted the group and reviewed the 70+ year history of the successful farmer-owned cooperative focused on genetic progress in the dairy and beef cattle industries.  She also explained the cooperative’s structure, with COBA being a member of the federated cooperative, Select Sires.

OSU Cooperative Development Specialist Joy Bauman said the immersive program was designed to help youth learn about the cooperative business model, education opportunities, and careers in cooperative business.

“The students learned of many opportunities for internships and employment with Ohio’s cooperatives while also learning about what next steps in education or training are necessary,” Bauman said.

With students coming from a small school in an Appalachian area, Bauman said it was good for them to hear about the similar backgrounds shared by several of the guest speakers.

“Our hope is that an experience like this can help students realize that they, too, can become successful in the agriculture industry. And that regardless of what their interests in agriculture may be, there are opportunities in the agriculture industry, especially with agricultural cooperatives,” she said.

This trip was funded by The Ohio State University through a North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Youth Educator Grant Program. The focus of the NCR-SARE grant program is on research and education. The program is part of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funding projects and conducting outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.

“This activity has allowed my students to see that there is opportunity outside of Adams County and that a college degree is attainable. These students have gained valuable insight on how cooperatives function. These experiences have created opportunities and avenues for students to make connections for future careers in agriculture as well,” said Luke Rhonemus, OVCTC Agriculture Business Management Instructor. “We were very fortunate to have representatives from COBA/Select Sires, Lynd Apple Orchard, and Nationwide Insurance meet our students and challenge them to be successful.”




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