Twenty-nine 4-H members participated in the six-day Youth Agricultural Lifetime Leadership experience, or Y.A.L.L., July 14-19.
“It was a wonderful experience and lots of fun,” said Paige Quaila, Val Verde 4-H member. “We learned about agriculture, how to teach others about leadership skills and agriculture. My favorite part of the trip was going to Del Rio Dairy and learning about the entire milking process on a large scale, and getting to meet new people and develop some great friendships.”
4-H members applied to attend Y.A.L.L., and those with a strong interest in production agriculture were selected, said AgriLife Extension agents. The event, now in its fifth year, allowed youth to experience West Texas agricultural production firsthand.
Participants toured Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University and Angelo State University.
“While many youth are interested in some aspect of agriculture production for a career, many are unfamiliar with all of the job opportunities that exist in commercial agriculture production,” said Emily Grant, AgriLife Extension agent, Val Verde County.
One of the primary purposes of the Y.A.L.L. experience was to provide participants with tours of some of the premier agriculture universities in the country, Walker said. “While each university may offer differing degree programs, they share a similarity in the friendly, outgoing agriculture educators.”
The youth toured the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Lubbock where they saw the High Plains crop production facility and learned about irrigation practices. Additional stops included the Bayer Plant breeding facility and museum, milk processors, a cucumber farm, a dairy farm, a feed mill, a veterinary hospital and a quarter horse breeding facility.
“Planning and implementing the Y.A.L.L. experience for interested youth has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my Extension career,” said AgriLife Extension agent Sam Womble, Bexar County. “The contacts and career opportunities presented to the participants will serve them well into the future. It’s encouraging to see young people excited and enthusiastic about agriculture.”
“The 4-H members on the Y.A.L.L. tour had an experience of a lifetime,” said Caroline McLaren, AgriLife Extension assistant agent for Bexar County. “The youth were able to meet a wide range of leaders in the agriculture industry and tour some of the biggest agricultural facilities in the Texas Panhandle. They also learned how to be advocates and leaders in the industry and beyond.”
A range of speakers from AgriLife Extension spoke to the Y.A.L.L. tour on topics ranging from agriculture law to agricultural advocacy and other.
Other topics covered during the program included:
The value of technology in livestock and crop production.
Crop-related technology and the role of genetic modification.
Improved technology in irrigation.
The role of technology in dairy production.
Improving leadership skills as agriculture spokespersons, and understanding agricultural issues and challenges.
“This opportunity is one that is undoubtedly the most practical in terms of its goals,” said Micah Walker, AgriLife Extension agent for Mason County. “Year after year, we observe that this Y.A.L.L. experience has made a lasting impact on young peoples’ futures. We aim to promote excellence in our youth with the highest quality of leadership, education and agricultural service our world deserves.”
Sponsors included Capital Farm Credit, Ag Texas Farm Credit Services, AgWorkers Insurance, Angelo State University, Boehringer Ingelheim, Texas Farm Bureau Hale County, Gillespie County Wild Game Dinner, Merck Animal Health, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Corn Producers, Texas Tech University and West Texas A&M University.
“Thank you to our sponsors for the support they bring to this program,” Walker said. “We want everyone to know who is supporting today’s youth to help them succeed in tomorrow’s agriculture.”
“My experience with the 2019 Y.A.L.L tour was unlike any other,” said participant Graci Weber, 4-H Mason County. “I was very hesitant to attend, I was worried about every little thing, but it ended up being one of the best trips I’ve been on. We learned a lot about what goes on in the agriculture industry and we saw a lot of thing that other people don’t normally get to.
“Before this trip I was dead set on going into ag communication and photography because that’s all I knew about, but the Y.A.L.L tour really helped me expand my knowledge of other agricultural careers,” she said. “Not only did we see things like working dairies and farms, but we also got to talk to an ag lawyer which was the part that interests me the most.”
The Y.A.L.L tour allows students to gain knowledge and interest in other agriculture opportunities, said Weber. She said she’d highly recommend applying to go to other 4-H members next year.
“It’s amazing how much the agriculture family supports this program by giving monetary donations to the many people who take the time to interact and share their ag stories with our participants,” said Grant. “We are lucky to be involved in such an amazing industry and, if nothing else, I hope the kids take that away from the Y.A.L.L. experience.”