Visitors to the Becker County Fair in Detroit Lakes this past Friday afternoon were likely to have noticed that there was a booth and some activities set up outside the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources building.
Though these activities were part of the official 2019 fair schedule, they were actually set up by a past Becker County 4-H participant named Myla Lewis.
"I loved 4-H," Lewis said. "4-H was my life growing up. I was a Becker County 4-H Ambassador, and I've been to the Minnesota State Fair many times."
During her years with 4-H, Lewis said, she exhibited just about every type of animal at the county fair, "except sheep and cattle."
A graduate of Lake Park-Audubon High School, Lewis is currently a junior at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC), majoring in agricultural education. Through her studies at UMC, Lewis learned of a program established by the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) known as the Minnesota Teach Ag Ambassador program, and decided to apply.
This past April, Lewis was one of six ag education students statewide to be named as Minnesota Teach Ag Ambassadors for the 2019-20 school year. As part of her outreach activities this summer, Lewis decided to come to the Becker County Fair and spend an afternoon teaching kids about agriculture.
"It's really important to get kids more involved in ag," she said. "Agriculture runs our world, and I don't think most people realize that. Many kids — especially those that don't grow up on farms — don't know where their food comes from, or that many of their clothes come from agriculture."
Lewis hopes to change that, as well as to encourage others to pursue careers in agriculture — and especially, ag education.
"We're doing a lot of outreach this summer, doing presentations about all the different careers in agriculture and ag education, and what ag colleges (like UMC) have to offer," she said of herself and her fellow Teach Ag Ambassadors. "It also allows me to fund activities like this (at the fair)."
Starting this fall, she will be spending part of her junior year at UMC going out to area middle schools and high schools to do presentations "about why kids should pursue a degree in agriculture."
Myla is the daughter of Shannon and Mary Lewis of rural Lake Park. She has one brother, Zeb, who will be a junior this fall at Lake Park-Audubon.
More about the MN Teach Ag Ambassadors
The Minnesota Teach Ag Ambassador program is designed to utilize current collegiate students majoring in agricultural education to represent the profession and encourage others to teach agriculture. This program was developed by Minnesota’s State Teach Ag Results (STAR) committee, which is coordinated by MAELC.
STAR is a component of the National Teach Ag Campaign and designed to assist states in creating sustainable and effective recruitment and retention strategies to help fulfill the agriculture teacher shortage. This year’s Teach Ag Ambassador program will run through December.
Along with supporting National Teach Ag Day activities on Sept. 19, the 2019 ambassadors will spend their term encouraging high school and postsecondary students to consider a career in teaching agriculture. The ambassadors will use several different outlets to accomplish this task including social media, email, workshops, booths, and presentations. They will also be attending the Minnesota FFA State Convention and visiting Minnesota high schools to answer questions about Teach Ag and agricultural education.
If you are interested in having a Teach Ag Ambassador visit your local high school or college, please contact Kari Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.