Teens Spark Their Future in Agriculture

Speak Out for Agriculture, SOFA, celebrated 17 years of giving young people a chance to explore careers in agriculture and develop communication skills to promote agriculture.  The program planned by teens, for teens included a packed two day trip to central Iowa with stops in Des Moines and Ames.  Twenty-six Adair County and fourteen Cass County 7th -12th graders participated in SOFA XVII.

A stop at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation gave participants an opportunity to explore a number of communication strategies. The communication staff at Farm Bureau led three workshops including Ag’Tivist training, video production, and social media.  During lunch students had the opportunity to have “critical conversations” with FBL employees engaging them in discussions about food production and food safety.

Technology in agriculture was of high interest to many of the teens. The group visited John Deere Intelligent Solutions, home to production agricultural equipment technologies and site of John Deere’s worldwide 24/7 call center.  Technologies in plant breeding and seed production were highlighted during a stop at the Channel BioFuture Facility, near Huxley.  Students learned about industry trends, marker-assisted selection and genomics.

 Student Ag Ambassadors hosted the group on the campus of Iowa State University.  The group enjoyed a BBQ supper and an evening tour of the campus to wrap up their first day of the trip.

ISU faculty and staff led workshops the second day of the trip.  Students chose two workshops from five exciting areas of study.  Beef students went to the pasture to figure stocking rates.  Students with an interest in veterinary science spent time in a hands-on microbiology lab experience.   Students interested in agricultural systems technologies had a chance to make their own bio-fuel.  Agronomy students toured several greenhouses and teaching laboratories. Agricultural business students got a taste of classroom experience. Each workshop stressed the many career options within agriculture.

Picket Fence Creamery near Woodward, an eighty acre family owned and operated dairy farm, creamery and country store, hosted the group in the afternoon.  Owner Jill Burkhart shared how their organic farming operation is a sustainable system that includes eighty acres of crop and pasture that provide feed for their 80 head dairy herd. They process milk on the farm and sell milk, butter, cheese, and ice cream at their store and other retail outlets.  Students enjoyed trying the ice cream produced on site.

Eight teens served on the planning team – Hawley Brent, Merritt Caviness, Jackson Doud, Tyler Ford, Emily Huntington, Zach Jorgensen, Judd Martin, and Erin Steele. Deb Hall and Kathy Rohrig served as advisors to the planning team.


SOFA participants included from Adair: Shelby Soper, Matthew Noland, Zach Jorgensen, Ward Umbaugh; Anita – Erin and Tyler Steele; Brayton: Dylan, Dustin and Morgan Ferguson; Bridgewater: Tyler Ford, Matt Evans, and  Judd Martin; Casey: CJ Rochholz; Creston: Heath, Kysa, and  Chisum Downing; Dexter: Sara Rubin; Elliot: Rob and Allison Young; Fontanelle: Cody Rasmussen, Susan Herr, Tim Settlemoir, and Joey Wilbourne; Greenfield: Merritt Caviness, Rob Mensing, Steven Pickrell, Michael Miller, and Sam Marnin; Griswold: Brian Oathoudt, John Mark Topham, and Abby Leighton; Marne: Nick Olsen; Orient: Emily Huntington, Wyatt Hensley, and AJ Kralik; Stuart: Alyssa Christensen and  Hawley Brent; Van Meter: Bailee Huddleson; Walnut: Tevin Krause; Wiota: Jessica Aupperle. Chaperones were SOFA Alumni Chris Nelson and Alyse Herr and parent, Beth Young. 


Due to the generous donations of area businesses, commodity groups and individuals, SOFA participants were able to go on this awesome trip.  A very heartfelt thank-you to every sponsor for their support of Adair and Cass County youth.   Gold Level Sponsors ($100 and over) – Adair-Casey FFA, Adair County Cattlemen, Adair County Corn & Soybean Association, Adair County Farm Bureau, Adair County Mutual Insurance, A & M Green Power, Cass County Farm Bureau, East Pottawattamie Farm Bureau, Farmers Coop – Creston & Macksburg, Farmers & Merchants State Bank, First National Bank, 1st Whitney Bank & Trust, Horizon Equipment, ISU College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, KJAN, Lincoln Guys & Gals 4-H Club, Paul & Gini Herr, Plaza Printers, Southwest Iowa Egg, R & B Feeds and

West Central Valley FFA. Silver Level Sponsors($50 - $99) – Adair County Pork Producers, Agriland FS Foundation, Bill & Diana Huntington, Bridgewater Oil, Cass County Beef Producers, Dreher Show Pigs, Everett & Julie Shepherd, Fareway – Greenfield, 1st State Bank, Hometown Insurance, Lynn Bohling Family, Mike Sorensen, Nichols Farms, Orient-Macksburg FFA, Richland Royals 4-H Club, Rohrig Show Pigs, Ron & Becky Dreher, Summerset Citizens 4-H Club, Titan Machinery, Union State Bank and Washington Stars 4-H Club. Bronze Level Sponsors ($25-49) – Adair County Youth Council, Exchange State Bank, Farmers Electric Coop, Fontanelle Drug, Nodaway Ag Center and Nodaway Valley FFA.


Applications are currently being accepted for the 2012 SOFA planning committee. Although the program is open to 7th-12th graders, students must be in high school to serve on the planning committee. Applications are available on-line at /adair/kidsteens.htm or the Adair County Extension office.  Planning committee applications are due to the Adair County Extension office by Monday, October 3.

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