HB 592: Urban farmer youth program needed, rep says

Larry Limpf

A bill pending in the Ohio House of Representatives would appropriate $250,000 in each of the next two fiscal years to establish the Urban Farmer Youth Initiative Program if it becomes law.
House Bill 592 requires the Chancellor of Higher Education, in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension Services of The Ohio State University and Central State University, to establish the program.
The purpose of the pilot program is to provide agricultural programming and support to people in urban areas between the ages of six and 18.
The bill allows the chancellor’s office and OSU and CSU extension services to use up to 15 percent of the 2022 appropriations to start and develop the pilot program and partner with local entities to deliver programming.
In testimony last month before the House Agricultural and Conservation Committee, Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson, the bill’s primary sponsor, said a joint effort of the two land grant universities “will provide needed information on how we can attract urban youth to a career in agricultural and food production. While the traditional farming educational programs have merit, this pilot program is geared for the urban youth farmer who may not have the opportunities and challenges that the traditional 4-H programs have had in urban areas.”
Jacqueline Kirby Wilkins, associate dean and director of the OSU extension and chair of the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said the university is “uniquely positioned to collaborate and help carry out” the pilot program.
“In addition to projects for individuals, OSU extension offers many group-oriented and school-based opportunities for youth to learn about growing food,” she told the committee. “One such opportunity is the national Farm to School program, which supports procuring, serving, and teaching about local foods in schools and early childhood education sites.
“Since 2011, Ohio State University Extension has led the Ohio Farm to School program and convened a state-level Farm to School Network. In partnership with the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio Department of Education, OSU extension is currently working to create eight regional farm to school networks within Ohio.”
Tia Stuart, owner/operator of The Narrow Way Farm, told the committee that many urban youths are largely unaware of where their food comes from.
“While they may know that food is grown on ‘a farm’ the only place that they truly come in contact with food is at a grocery store or restaurants,” she said. “Food growing on a farm is a generic idea that is disconnected from the reality of where and how their food is grown.”


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