Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day to be held July 23

Published 9:00 am Friday, July 8, 2022

Vicksburg Community Garden will host a Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day on Saturday, July 23, from 9 a.m. to noon with a goal of introducing urban agriculture to local youth to help address food insecurity.

A variety of programs and activities will be provided at Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day, such as Flying Drones in Farm Aviation, a petting zoo, ATV certifications, talk with a veterinarian, children’s interactive inflatables, youth and college opportunities in agriculture, garden tours, health screenings and COVID-19 vaccines. There will also be raffle prizes every 20 minutes, including earbuds, Fitbits, thumb drives, gardening tools and more.

Melvin Miller, Project Manager for In Touch Community Services Inc., said the event would not be possible without the help of sponsorships from Shape Up Vicksburg, Alcorn State University Extension Program, In Touch Community Services Inc., City of Vicksburg, Amerigroup, Champions for Health, International Paper, E&L Development Foundation and USDA-NRCS.

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“This is our second Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day,” Miller said. “The first one was a success and we’re anticipating increased participation this time.”

Miller said the idea for the event came from Samuel L. Thompson, Director of In Touch Community Services Inc., who said the goal is to give the youth early exposure to careers, jobs and opportunities that are overlooked in agriculture.

“USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide the opportunity for the young person to acquire experience and education in agriculture-related skills through loans to student organizations and individual young persons to start and operate income-producing projects with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA or similar agricultural youth organizations,” said Linda Fondren, Executive Director of Shape Up Vicksburg.

Warren County and the surrounding communities have a great need to reach the youth showcasing opportunities for the underserved communities to attract future farming operators — and Miller expressed this as the reason why there needs to be an increase in the number of people interested in careers in agriculture. 

“The future of agriculture in Warren County is going to rely heavily on the involvement of underserved people in our surrounding communities,” Miller said. “In 2017, the decrease of operating farms was lowered by 33 percent.”

Fondren said that Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day helps raise awareness of the importance of agriculture and its importance to the community in an engaging way, from a new perspective. 

“The food we eat, the clothes we wear and the fuel that powers our lives is produced through agriculture. When we think of agriculture, we may think of overalls, straw hats and mules. Agriculture is so much more!” Fondren said. “Agriculture can help reduce poverty, raise incomes and improve food security.”

Fondren said the best part about being involved in the event is the ability to engage the community to help bring success and opportunities to the people in her own community and surrounding communities.

“The event’s purpose is to provide awareness and outreach activities for USDA-NRCS agricultural programs and services for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, veterans and youth in Warren County and the surrounding communities,” Fondren said. “Our mission is to provide a range of educational exhibits, programs and services to help our young people learn about agriculture and connect with the community and the world around them.”

Marcus Shorter with the National Resources Conservation Service said that agriculture is becoming a lost form and there is not enough youth getting involved. He thinks that introducing young people to agriculture helps teach them about the importance of knowing where food comes from.

“So many people don’t really know how their food gets to that plate,”  Shorter said. “All they know is that they’re going to Walmart and the food is there.”

Shorter said that his daughter helps him in their garden and it still surprises them the way the fruit and vegetables multiply from just seeds. 

Gardening is not the only way to get involved and learn about agriculture. Shorter said that agriculture is not “hands in the soil” all the time.

“There is more to agriculture than being out there on a tractor or with any other garden tools,” Shorter said. “You have the business, you have marketing, and all these different aspects of agriculture.”

Shorter also said that the office at 2660 Sherman Ave. takes young volunteers that have a real interest in becoming involved and learning about agriculture in depth.

“Young people can come in and volunteer and we can kind of take them out and show them some practices that we do.  Introduce them to some of our sister agencies and see what they do,” Shorter said. “I would advise young people to go to some of these USDA offices and ask to shadow somebody and see what we’re doing.

Additionally, Fondren and Miller said Youth Agriculture and Health Extravaganza Day is not just for the kids but the community at large, and it is a place to bring the whole family. The event is for children of all ages, educators, youth-serving organizations and community leaders.

“Not only are we targeting the youth for agriculture but we also emphasize the importance of good health,” Miller said. “We want the entire family to come out and enjoy the opportunities that are available to them.”