Between 1950 and 1970 the number of people living on farms in the U.S. declined by half. So, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture decided to do something about the problem of young people leaving the state’s farms and ranches.

In 1972, the NDA recruited 18 young men and women to represent the opportunities available in agriculture and share their passion for agribusiness with young people across the state. This group was the first Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council.

Next year will mark the 48th anniversary of the NAYC. The, now, 21 young men and women elected to the council continue to offer insight and enthusiasm through many outreach experiences; their definitive event being the annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute.

Nearly 200 high school juniors and seniors, called delegates, attended the 2019 NAYI in July. The delegates are what make NAYI what it is, said NAYC advisor Christine Hamm of the NDA.

Delegates are chosen through an application process. The procedure focuses on their interests, participation and achievements in agriculture.

The weeklong institute affords them the chance to learn more about opportunities in agribusiness. This conference features speakers, workshops, agricultural education, networking with peers and industry leaders, professional development and leadership experience.

Hannah Moseman, 18, is a seventh-generation ag producer from Oakland, Nebraska, and is the daughter of Rob and Anne Moseman. She initially attended the NAYI as a delegate with the intent of learning more about farm management.

“I was interested in learning more about farm management and what farmers truly go through,” she said. “We examined everything from the uncertainty of weather all the way to crop insurance. It was very insightful to see how unsure farming really is.”

She also learned about the multiple uses of soybeans during the commodity boards. She said that while she has been around soybeans and corn her entire life, she did not know of the versatility of the soybean.

“I learned that soybeans aren’t only used for livestock and cooking, but they can also be used for plastics and tires,” Moseman said. “It was illuminating to discover that the United States is the number one biodiesel producer in the world.”

Moseman said that coming into the institute she was looking forward to learning about agronomy and agricultural communications.

“I was excited for the sessions about agronomy since this summer when I had an internship crop consulting,” she said. “Ag communications sparked my interest last year when I attended the National FFA Convention and Expo.”

The Rural Futures Institute taught her that everyone has the opportunity to be a leader. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from you can do anything if you have the vision and passion for it, she said.

“Many people think that they have to live on a farm to be involved with agriculture, which is not true,” Moseman said. “Anyone can be an advocate for ag and spread awareness of how important it is.”

There isn’t one thing about agribusiness that interests Moseman; she wants to be involved in several things.

“NAYI helped me realize that there are so many opportunities out there for ag,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what specifically you major in, you always have a place.”

After going to NAYI, Moseman still wasn’t sure about her major for college, but she was able to eliminate some things. Later in the year, she consulted her FFA Advisor and was told that perhaps agriculture education would be a good fit. After thinking it over, she thought the comprehensive scope of the subject area would allow her to explore more broadly.

“Next year I plan on attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in ag education,” Moseman said. “I am very excited for my future in agriculture and I can’t wait to take all of the lessons I learned at NAYI with me.”

That is one of the biggest tenets of the NAYI: For delegates to take home a better understanding of the agricultural industry, learn how to become better advocates for agriculture and develop ideas on what future career paths are available to them in the agricultural industry, said Steve Wellman, director of the NDA.

The 2019 NAYC and NAYI were primarily funded by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Nebraska Corn Board and Hoegemeyer Hybrids of Hooper, Nebraska. The Nebraska Soybean Checkoff, Nebraska’s Natural Resource Districts and Kaapa Ethanol Holdings of Kearney, Nebraska, along with the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority and the Nebraska Grape & Winery Board among others provided additional funding.

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net.

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