By Jake Zajkowski, OCJ field reporter
GrowNextGen ambassadors can be found at the county fair, library events, and even local community events. This group of young educators travels across the state, connecting soybeans with science in ways that many might not consider.
Microinvertebrates, although not something raised on a farm, are organisms that serve as crucial indicators of a healthy water system in agriculture. Shelbie Snoke talks about microinvertebrates in her role as a GrowNextGen ambassador while demonstrating water quality to children.
“We have three different water quality buckets. One contains super clean sand, while the others are so murky you can’t see through them,” Snoke said. “We have various microinvertebrates living in our water samples that serve as a visual, teaching kids how water quality can be determined by the organisms within it.”
Snoke set up her station in the Land and Living Building at the Ohio State Fair where she interacted with countless fairgoers whose sole exposure to agriculture may only be a few minutes with her. Being an ambassador allows her to initiate conversations about science and the environment, and to demonstrate how soybean farmers contribute to safeguarding these vital resources.
Water quality isn’t the only popular topic she covers in the public.
“During our time at the State Fair, we’re focusing on water quality, biodiesel, and the utilization of drones in modern agriculture. Beyond fairs, we visit schools offering a comprehensive booklet of projects designed to teach younger generations the science behind agriculture. More importantly, we’re educating them about the current practices in the world of agriculture,” Snoke said.
At the fair, the audience isn’t limited to just kids; everyone shares a connection to soybeans as consumers. One of Snoke’s favorite lessons and activities involves engaging young people and encouraging parents to join the conversation.
“I particularly enjoy the high-flying soybeans, which is our drone activity. It involves a map with a line-following robot that allows kids to code a path through the soybean fields. These drones perform spot spraying in the soybean fields to combat pests and weeds. It’s a truly enjoyable experience. Even parents are enthusiastic about learning about the new flying equipment,” she said.
Snoke, an Auglaize county native, 4-H alumnus, and sophomore at Wilmington College, recommends this internship to anyone interested in learning to teach or advocate.
“My background has always been in animal science, so coming into this experience, I’ve gained a lot of insights into the current developments in agriculture, especially in agronomy, the significance of water quality, and biodiesel,” she said. “These were areas I have not been exposed to prior to this experience, and I’ve truly learned a lot through it.”
Technology and agriculture have the power to capture the attention of young people and initiate conversations about agriculture. Snoke learned this firsthand becoming a GrowNextGen ambassador and passes this lesson on to the many people — young and old— she teaches across Ohio.
GrowNextGen is funded by Ohio soybean farmers and their checkoff.