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Youth apprenticeships promote ag careers

A Wisconsin high school is exposing more students to ag-related careers through its youth apprenticeship program.

Troy Talford tells Brownfield the Sauk Prairie school district starts by showing students where their food comes from. “We are trying to keep people as informed consumers and making them more aware of where their food comes from, and their impact on the world, and then along the way, if we can hook them in an ag career, that’s just an added bonus.”

Talford is the school’s agriculture educator for half of the day, and the apprenticeship coordinator the other half of the day. “That allows me the ability to go out and have meetings with our local businesses, to teach them about what the program is and what are the benefits they can get from it.”

Talford says their high school apprenticeship program offers skilled training in careers including ag manufacturing and food processing. “McFarlane Manufacturing is the biggest supporter of the youth apprenticship program. At their peak, they have up to nine youth apprentices at a time from up to four area high schools, but in total, I think we have close to fifty different employers this year.”

Talford says ag education used to prepare students to return to the family farm, but now, less than 20% of Sauk Prairie’s FFA students live on an active farm, so ag education and apprenticeship opportunities allow more of them to explore potential ag careers.

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