Southwest Ag (SWAG) Conference Introduces 250+ Youth to Careers in Agriculture

On Wednesday, April 3rd, more than 250 youth from schools in Adair, Adams, Cass, Clarke, Montgomery, Ringgold, Taylor, and Union Counties visited Southwestern (Iowa) Community College’s campus in Creston for the first ever Southwestern Agriculture (SWAG) Conference, hosted by Region 18 4-H County Youth Coordinators and Youth Program Specialists.
 
During this event, youth participants were addressed by keynote speaker Christie Vilsack. A former teacher and an advocate for rural Iowa & agriculture, Vilsack encouraged youth participants to “Get ready, get set, and go” explore the world around them before settling into agricultural careers. She emphasized that it’s important to explore the world to learn from people different than yourself, then to bring what you learned home. Vilsack encouraged the students to get a passport, because it is a “promise to yourself.” Vilsack addressed other concepts, including hunger in developing countries, the challenges facing agriculture in the future, and her passion for literacy. One chaperone indicated she appreciated the keynote address, saying, “I enjoyed the opening session. Great message!”
 

Youth participants attended three career exploration-focused breakout sessions, including topics like horse production, livestock reproduction, seed science, hydroponics, agricultural advocacy, and precision agriculture. Youth also had the opportunity to tour SWCC’s student teaching farm or SWCC’c campus. When asked if they would bring students back next year, one educator said, “Yes! It exposes students to more areas of agriculture than just farming. It opens the door of possibilities.” This event was provided in partnership between Region 18 Extension Districts & their staff, as well as Southwestern Community College in Creston. Financial contributions that made this event possible include: Iowa 4-H, Union County Farm Bureau, Landus Cooperatives, County Extension Districts. 
 

 
Submitted by: Jennie Hargrove, 4-H Youth Program Specialist

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