Pathways to Agriculture: Expanding Agricultural and Livestock Opportunities

Mountain Region



Primary Topic:

Youth and Family Development

Other Topics:

Food and Agriculture

Lead Mentor:  

Merielle Stamm

4-H Youth Development Specialist

Internship Overview:

With the global population expected to reach 9.1 billion people by the year 2050, with 1.3 billion being youths, ages 15-24, it must be we must ask who and how we will feed our growing population (The World Bank, 2013)? As this question looms for many countries, their agricultural workforce is dwindling as the aging population retires, and the younger generations lack the desire to seek agricultural degrees and jobs. In addition to dwindling skilled agricultural workers, enrollment in agricultural colleges is low and there has been a mass exodus of youth from rural areas (Scott & Lavergne, 2004; Smith & Baggett, 2012; FAO, 2012).
As we contemplate these trends and questions, it is important to also look locally at these phenomena. On the State and local level, we have seen similar trends in Colorado and Chaffee County. Chaffee County has a long and rich history of agriculture and ranching. While these industries have strong roots in our community, in recent years there has been a decrease in agricultural land in production. Concurrently, Chaffee County’s rural-suburban divide has continued to grow. The gap between rural and suburban; and ranching, development and recreation has only continued to spread since the pandemic. As remote work became more popular, newcomers from urban centers like Denver have increasingly moved into rural communities such as Chaffee County.
Many of the families who have moved to Chaffee County do not have ties to agriculture, as well as some local families. Chaffee County is home to larger towns like Buena Vista and Salida, that have expansive suburban areas. As agriculture is not an integral part of life at the forefront for some of the population in Chaffee County, the need for agricultural education and exposure is more important than ever. This intern will help bridge that gap through providing community education.
The internship will help expand inclusive youth livestock learning opportunities and programming, and 4-H livestock projects, through the below avenues:
• Promotion of suburban farming and raising livestock in suburban settings.
• Investigating current public knowledge of agriculture, plus how to expand, improve and make knowledge more prominent.
• Expanding 4-H’s community presence through communication, visibility and/or locations.
• Keeping farm-to-plate education and public engagement alive through program development.
• Exploring and developing new partners for animal housing for suburban 4-H youth.
• Supplemental outreach programming through community partners and organizations (i.e. Guidestone).
• Connecting rural and suburban Chaffee County with 4-H resources.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

The overall goal of the internship is to A) provide the intern with opportunities to develop their youth engagement and programming skills; B) provide the intern with opportunities to transfer agriculture and livestock knowledge into hand-on activities and events; and C. provide the intern with opportunities to build upon their public communication skills.

During the course of this internship, the intern will: 1) informally interview and collect data from local stakeholders in the 4-H community, agricultural community, and suburban communities of Chaffee County to gauge current public knowledge of agriculture; 2) develop, delivery and evaluate hands-on animal science programming; 3) explore and develop new partnership for animal housing for suburban 4-H youth and create a local livestock producer list; 4) assist in agricultural education programs provided by outside organizations such as Guidestone; and 5) provide recommendations for future programming opportunities for Chaffee County Extension.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

The internship will work with several organizations during the internship:
– Guidestone: Guidestone is a non-profit organization located on the Historic Hutchinson Ranch. Guidestone’s strategies and programming are founded upon the belief that if individuals are exposed to experiences on local farms and ranches, they will have a growing appreciate for where our food comes from. Guidestone offers year-round programming such as the Farm to School Program, Farmhand Education Programs, and The Hutchinson Homestead & Learning Center. The intern will work with Guidestone staff to learn more about their organizations operations and assist in summer youth agricultural programming.
– Local Ranchers & Agricultural Producers: The intern will work with local ranchers and agricultural producers to get learn more about local agriculture in Chaffee County, increase connections between CSU Extension and the community, and create opportunities for leasing animals and space for youth without any.
– Chaffee County 4-H Youth and Families: The intern will work with current 4-H youth and families to gauge needs and interests surrounding agriculture and livestock programming. The intern will engage with the 4-H community through programming and events.
– Chaffee County General Public: The intern will get the opportunity to engage with the general Chaffee County public to learn more about current public knowledge of agriculture, plus how to expand, improve and make knowledge more prominent. The intern will also interact through agricultural programming.
There may be other organizations the intern works with depending on their strongest interests. This could include the Colorado Forest Service, Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative, the Chaffee County Fairboard, etc.

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

• Learn about local agriculture. The intern will learn more about local agricultural systems and production in Chaffee County.
• Building and strengthening connections and relationships. Since the intern will be working with different organizations and individuals, they will be working with people from many walks of life, with a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes. Learning to work with others, especially others who are different from us, is a valuable life skill.
• Learn and practice program planning and delivery to youth. The intern will be working with various programs, camps, projects, events and have the opportunity to plan, lead, deliver and evaluate educational programming to youth.
• Explore and understand evaluation efforts. The intern will learn how extension evaluates their programming. They will have the opportunity to create their own evaluations and feedback forms used researched methods. Using the information they collect the intern will make recommendations and improvements.
• Help build capacity. The intern will be helping build capacity for both Chaffee County 4-H and Guidestone and overall increase reach and impact.
• Learn new skills. The intern will learn and practice new skills such as public speaking, program and curriculum creation, evaluation analysis, and learn more about agricultural. The intern will also have the opportunity to learn livestock specific skills.
• Having a comprehensive understanding of how various organizations and entities operate and run. By working with non-profits and a large land-grand university, the intern can compare similarities, differences, and learn more about organizational functions.
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