- Education and Training: extension, youth education
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives
The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Center for Cooperatives conducted the Cooperative Student Leadership Experience Pilot, an educational program for high school students in the Appalachian region to learn about cooperative business and careers in agriculture, and develop leadership abilities in young ag leaders. The inaugural experience on October 7 and 8, 2019 engaged sixteen students at the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center (OVCTC) in Adams County, Ohio. During an immersive two-day experience, students visited The Ohio State University and agricultural cooperative businesses in the region where they experienced college-style learning opportunities, engaged in hands-on leadership and team-building activities, discovered educational and career paths in agriculture, and connected with cooperative leaders. Students learned about the cooperative as a sustainable marketing and management model for agricultural enterprises.
The educational approach involved sessions and tours with leaders from the Ohio State University CFAES Center for Cooperatives, USDA Rural Development, and cooperatives such as Nationwide Insurance, COBA/Select Sires, and the Ohio Apple Growers Marketing Program, through which students learned about the cooperative business model as a sustainable marketing and management model for agricultural enterprises, including farms and agribusinesses. Students participated in classroom and lab activities with OSU CFAES faculty and staff in the areas of meat science and agricultural communications. Through these interactions, tours, and class sessions with college faculty and staff, the students were introduced to many career possibilities in agriculture and in cooperative business. The college-style learning experience helped students to become more comfortable with classrooms and labs on a college campus, and the campus tour and session with college ambassadors helped to increase their overall comfort level with higher education.
Students participated in cooperative leadership and team building activities, including developing an elevator pitch for their school’s Agriculture Business Management Program and school farm, as well as a “marshmallow challenge” cooperative team building activity, and an agricultural careers activity/game. On day two, the group toured a member farm and market which is owned by a member of the Ohio Apple Growers Marketing Program, a commodity marketing cooperative, as well as COBA/Select Sires, a farmer-owned cooperative for cattle semen.
At the conclusion of the two-day Experience, all students evaluated the program using a written evaluation form. The evaluation results showed 87.5% of the participants rated the overall Experience as “extremely good.” The survey responses showed the favorite activities were the tours of cooperative businesses, the meat science session, and the leadership and team building activities.
In a follow-up visit by staff to the school three days after the Experience, students and staff wrote thank-you notes to the presenters, panelists, and tour hosts to show gratitude for their contributions the Experience. A student reporter was selected from the participants and worked with a Center for Cooperatives staff member to develop a news release about the Cooperative Student Leadership Experience, which was submitted to local newspapers, Ohio’s Country Journal, Farm and Dairy, and Ohio Cooperative Living. The article appeared in the Ohio State University South Centers Connections, and was featured on the front page of the OSU CFAES website. Highlights of the Experience were shared widely by the CFAES Center for Cooperatives through Facebook and Twitter, and on the Center’s blog page, Collaboration Nation. The Center’s Facebook post highlighting the Experience was shared 11 times, reached 664 people, generated 245 engagements, and had more than 130 additional comments and reactions to the posts that were shared by others.
By participating in the Cooperative Student Leadership Experience, students learned about cooperative principles, different types of cooperatives, member roles and responsibilities, and the benefits of cooperatives for agriculture. Students engaged with cooperative leaders, Ohio State University faculty, staff and students, gaining insight about higher education and future internship and career opportunities in agriculture and in cooperatives.
Students were engaged in all the activities and all of them took turns asking thoughtful questions of our speakers and panelists. They were especially interested in finding out what types of career and internship opportunities existed in each of the areas they learned about. The students especially seemed to enjoy the leadership, team building, and agricultural careers activities led by Center for Cooperatives staff members. The students cooperated as teams to draft an elevator speech about the OVCTC agriculture business program and/or school farm, and then stood up and gave their 30-second speeches. The students were supportive and encouraging of each other throughout the activity. During the marshmallow challenge team building and the agricultural careers guessing game activities, the students worked well together and were very competitive with their teams, while they had fun, developed some collaboration skills, and learned about some agricultural careers they might have not even heard of previously. The activities were very positive and a great way to end the first day of the Experience.
Throughout the tours and time on campus, staff members shared information with the students about the University and what they could expect if they would attend OSU. They explained to them that Ohio State University is a Land Grant College, and that even if an applicant may not be admitted to the Columbus Campus, where admission is highly selective, that they could still enroll at one of Ohio State’s regional campuses, including the Agricultural Technical Institute at Wooster.
Both the students and their instructor expressed that the Cooperative Student Leadership Experience was a valuable experience. From the participant evaluations, the tours of the cooperative businesses where they could learn from cooperative leaders was the most valuable part of the Cooperative Student Leadership Experience.
- Educate students on the cooperative business model as a sustainable marketing and management model for agricultural enterprises, including farms and agribusinesses.
- Introduce students to a variety of agricultural careers by engaging with college students, faculty/staff, and cooperative leaders as well as through cooperative site tours.
- Expose students to college-style learning experiences to increase their comfort level with higher education.
- Provide students with information about higher education opportunities in agriculture.
- Share the Experience as a model for youth education through a conference presentation and articles in cooperative and/or agricultural publications.