Rebecca Byrne attends 4-H summit

President of West Milford 4-H Velveteens learns of agriculture's critical role in the world


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  • New Jersey 4-H delegates at the National Agr-Science Youth Summit in MD. Front row, L-R: Isa Perkins, Newark; Trevor Hettrick, Montclair; and Rebecca Byrne, West Milford. Back row, L-R: Brittany Smith, Oxford; and Susan Asali and Victoria Bruno, Belleville. Photo credit: Jeanette Rea-Keywood.



Rebecca Byrne of West Milford was one of six New Jersey 4-H members representing four counties (Essex, Hudson, Passaic and Warren) who attended the National Agri-Science Youth Summit this winter held at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The purpose of the conference was provide youth with an opportunity to learn about and develop an understanding of the critical role of agricultural science innovation in addressing the world's most pressing issues.

Rebecca qualified for this event for her work with restoring the chestnut trees to West Milford and getting the seed bank built at the West Milford Town Library, which has provided seeds to Nepal and Zimbabwe.

"The culture was the best part about the summit," said Rebecca, who is president of the West Milford 4-H Velveteens. "Hundreds of students raised in entirely different circumstances and backgrounds came together, and no two people had the same perception of the world or of the problems facing food security that we addressed as a conference."

The New Jersey 4-Hers joined 85 youth and adults representing 15 states at the National Agri-Science Youth Summit. In addition to Rebecca Byrne, New Jersey delegates attending the conference included: Susan Asali and Victoria Bruno of Belleville, Trevor Hettrick from Montclair, Isa Perkins of Newark and Brittany Smith from Oxford.

Today, many young people are generationally and geographically removed from farming and agriculture. Yet, it is vital that these young leaders and future decision makers understand the critical role agriculture plays in our society, according to a release from 4-H. Currently, it is estimated that there will be 54,400 annual job openings for those with agricultural college degrees. While the percentage of these opportunities in production agriculture (farming) has declined, 27 percent of these jobs will be in science and engineering and 47 percent will be in management and business. A shortfall of graduates for these science and business positions is projected, especially for the anticipated demand in animal and plant biotechnology. These emerging areas of agriculture are addressing some of the world's most pressing issues related to food security, nutrition, energy, and sustainability.

During the summit, participants attended workshops, engaged in hands-on activities, listened to guest speakers and interacted with agricultural researchers and advocates who helped them to gain knowledge and skills in agri-science related to the production of food, feed, fuel, and fiber as well as learn about career opportunities.

"We learned a lot about how many more jobs in the field of agriculture there are than many people imagine, and how we can find a job supporting whatever our particular interest is with respect to agriculture, what we do best and love the most," said Rebecca. "Many of these people could not believe I was a vegetarian in the midst of all these young meat producers!"

The summit provided the New Jersey delegates with an excellent opportunity to learn about the challenges facing agriculture, including global food security and sustainability, and they can play a role in addressing these challenges today and in their future said Jeannette Rea-Keywood, state 4-H agent, Department of 4-H Youth Development.

The 4-H Youth Development Program is part of Rutgers, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station - Cooperative Extension.

For more information about the New Jersey 4-H Program, visit the website at http://nj4h.rutgers.edu/.

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