Mechanicsburg – With Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry providing $132.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy and the industry leading the nation for production in many sectors, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega recently stressed the importance of cultivating the next generation of agriculturalists by offering kids opportunities for hands-on agriculture experiences over the summer.
“Kids are the future of the industry that we all rely on for three meals a day and the clothes on our backs,” said Redding. “It’s all of our responsibility to show them the value of farming and agriculture, to grow an interest in being a part of this meaningful industry.
“Whether you’re taking them to an on-farm creamery for an ice cream cone or talking about the origins of their favorite foods, with early guidance from caring adults, kids can explore a variety of career opportunities in ways that enrich their childhood and position them for a successful future,” added Redding.
Redding and Ortega were joined by members of the Pennsylvania FFA and Commission for Agriculture Education Excellence today at the Farm Park at Paulus Farm Market. The Farm Park is an ideal destination for raising agriculture-aware kids with opportunities to see and feed a diverse variety of farm animals and seasonal activities such as flower and pumpkin picking. Following their time on the farm, families can enjoy local agriculture products from the market or a cone of ice cream.
“Every time I visit a farm, I learn something new about the agriculture industry,” said Ortega. “Farms present hands-on opportunities for learners of all ages to explore our leading industry and create connections to a variety of engaging, rewarding careers.”
Pennsylvania has long faced a looming agricultural workforce shortage, at one point estimating a deficit of 75,000 workers as farmers retire and new, technology-based positions become available. In recognition of these workforce needs, the Wolf Administration created a 15-member Commission for Agriculture Excellence – co-chaired by Secretary Redding and Acting Secretary Ortega – and proceeded to invest heavily in the future of the industry through Pennsylvania Farm Bill Programs such as the Ag & Youth Grant Program, Farm to School Program, and Farm Vitality Grant Program.
Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry supports the state’s economy to the tune of $132.5 billion and provides more than 593,000 jobs which pay $33 billion in wages annually. The number of jobs in the industry has increased by 2.4 percent since 2018. To ensure the industry continues prosperously that food remains available, accessible, and affordable, we need to grow a new generation of agriculturalists.
Parents and caregivers of children are encouraged to seek out opportunities for hands-on agriculture experiences over the summer to foster an early appreciation of this life-sustaining industry. Careers in agriculture offer opportunities in science, technology, engineering, management, and traditional farming. It’s meaningful work that both feeds the soul and provides for families.
“Our children are our future - they are our future farmers, statisticians, engineers, veterinarians, scientists, and leaders,” said PDE’s Special Consultant to the Secretary for Career Readiness, Laura Fridirici. “Hands-on learning opportunities, like the ones you can find at Paulus Farm, build employability skills, expand awareness of industries like agriculture, and create opportunities for kids to see and even start planning for future careers.”
Opportunities to consider this summer include:
- Visit and explore one of Pennsylvania’s more than 100 county agricultural fairs
- Enjoy ice cream on a farm at a Pennsylvania Ice Cream Trail creamery
- Grow young minds with a visit to a Pennsylvania garden or arboretum
- Enroll your child in a Pennsylvania 4-H camp
- Visit a Pennsylvania farmers market, many of which offer agritourism experiences
- Pick-your-own berries, apples, or pumpkins
- Experiment at home with DIY STEM activities
“Paulus Farm Park is always changing and striving to be a genuine, hands-on and play-based agricultural experience for all ages with opportunities to explore gardens and connect with animals,” said Amy Paulus. “We created the Farm Park to provide a way for kids to enjoy a simple wholesome day on a real working farm.”
Learn more about Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry in the 2021 Economic Impact Report and explore opportunities to engage kids in agriculture by visiting agriculture.pa.gov/kidsarethefuture.