Youth Leadership Cooperative Experience

Whitney Hill
Ohio Valley CTC FFA Reporter

The students in the Agriculture Business Management program at the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center have been learning about agricultural cooperatives with Joy Bauman and Hannah Scott from the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives. On October 7 and 8, 16 students participated in the Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience conducted by the Center for Cooperatives.

On this two-day trip, the students experienced several learning opportunities at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences on The Ohio State University main campus. The students had the chance to tour the university with CFAES student ambassadors and learn about college life from current students. They participated in classroom-style learning activities with Meat Science Professor Dr. Lydia Garcia; Agricultural Communication Professor Emily Buck; and Marketing and Communications Manager for the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership, Emily Wickham.

The students were joined in a cooperative leader panel discussion about careers in cooperatives by Adam Specht, the Director of Youth Programs for Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives; Josh Zehentbauer, a field representative for Dairy Farmers of America; Deborah Rausch from USDA Rural Development Business and Cooperative Programs; and Tom Worley, who is the Director of OSU South Centers, CFAES Center for Cooperatives, and an Agricultural Cooperatives Course Instructor.
On the second day of the trip, the students heard from Dan Durheim, the Vice President of Sponsor Relations for Nationwide Insurance. Andy Lynd hosted the group at Lynd Fruit Farm near Pataskala, Ohio. 

Andy’s grandfather was a founding member of the Ohio Apple Growers Marketing Association. The students were especially interested in learning about the apple marketing cooperative, because it is the supplier of the apples sold through the Ohio FFA Fruit Sales. Lynd discussed marketing strategies and the development of apple varieties that occurs on the farm as part of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association.

Next, the students had the opportunity to tour COBA/Select Sires at Hilliard, Ohio. Administrative Director Julie Ziegler hosted the group and reviewed the 70+ year history of the successful farmer-owned cooperative focused on genetic progress in the dairy and beef cattle industries. She also explained the cooperative’s structure, with COBA being a member of the federated cooperative, Select Sires.

OSU Cooperative Development Specialist Joy Bauman said the immersive program was designed to help youth learn about the cooperative business model, education opportunities, and careers in cooperative business. “The students learned of many opportunities for internships and employment with Ohio’s cooperatives,” Bauman said, “while also learning about what next steps in education or training are necessary.”  With students coming from a small school in an Appalachian area, Bauman said it was good for them to hear about the similar backgrounds shared by several of the guest speakers.  

“Our hope is that an experience like this can help students realize that they, too, can become successful in the agriculture industry. And that regardless of what their interests in agriculture may be, there are opportunities in the agriculture industry, especially with agricultural cooperatives,” she said.

This trip was funded by The Ohio State University through a North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Youth Educator Grant Program. The focus of the NCR-SARE grant program is on research and education. The program is part of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funding projects and conducting outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.