More than 150 Latino students are experiencing agriculture and learning about career opportunities in the industry thanks to a program called Juntos 4-H and the backing of Farm Credit Mid-America's community investment program.
Juntos 4-H – which translates to 'together' in Spanish – helps Latino youth gain the knowledge and skills they need to bridge the gap between high school and higher education. It offers many of the same benefits found in traditional 4-H settings; clubs focused on academics, tutoring, life-skill activities and community service. But it's also designed to improve the sense of belonging among Latino students in their schools and communities, increase student success by improving attendance, grades and graduation rates as well as raise the percentage of Latino students pursuing college.
Farm Credit Mid-America’s investment helped build an aeroponics farm at Seymour High School in Jackson County, Indiana where Latinos make up more than 35 percent of the student population. Aeroponics is the process of growing plants with only water and nutrients. This innovative method often results in faster growth, healthier plants and higher yields using fewer resources.
"Constructing the aeroponics farm not only gives students access to healthy foods, it exposes them to various facets of food production and allows our teachers to contextualize agriculture in very hands-on and impactful ways," says Lori Tennell, vice president of retail operations who brought the Juntos 4-H program to Farm Credit Mid-America.
As importantly, the project is creating an interest in farming among new and diverse audiences. "We want to make agriculture a welcoming and inclusive space," says Lori. "Through Juntos 4-H, we want so show students – regardless of their backgrounds – that an exciting career in this industry is well within their reach."
Based on the success of the Seymour High School aeroponics farm, two more farms are slated to be built this fall in Marion and Lake Counties in Indiana. Farm Credit Mid-America is backing those projects as well.
The Juntos 4-H Aeroponic Farms represent one of fifteen 4-H programs Farm Credit Mid-America supports every year with 4-H partners across its four-state territory, ranging from Leadership Summits, to Youth Institutes, and National Congress initiatives. In total, Farm Credit Mid-America invests nearly $150K annually with 4-H with an additional $100K in state fair programs that positively impact 4-H youth.