Fall Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Day a Great Success at OSU South Centers

The CFAES Center for Cooperatives recently held the second Youth Cooperative Leadership Experience Day at the OSU South Centers on Friday, October 6, 2023.  The day-long event welcomed 36 juniors and seniors from four area high schools- in Scioto County, Green High School and Lucasville Valley High School, and in Pike County, Piketon High School and Pike Christian Academy.

The students began their day with a welcome from OSU South Centers Director, Dr. Tom Worley, where he provided the students with an overview of programs and research being done as well as opportunities available to them for future careers at the Center.

Students were then provided with a wagon tour of the campus hosted by South Centers staff of experts, Dr. Logan Minter, Ryan Slaughter, and Thom Harker.  The team described in detail the various types of crops grown in the farm plots and high tunnels, such as strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, and hops.  They were then given a tour and in-depth look at the hatchery, where they were able to learn about how to raise and care for various types of fish and view the Center’s famous sturgeon.

Students then had the opportunity to experience hands-on lab demonstrations of soil testing, with Dr. Arif Rahman, part of South Centers Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources team.  They were shown how to field test the soil to estimate quality, active carbons, and nitrogen fertilization, as well as recognizing what the coloration of the soil means.  All students were provided soil test kits they could take home to do their own soil testing.

Small fruits are a major research focus at South Centers and Dr. Dan Remley and Ryan Slaughter demonstrated many ways strawberries and apples can provide key sources of information.  Students were taught how to measure natural and artificial sugar levels using fresh apples and apple cider, as well as how to extract DNA from strawberries.  Students were also shown how to measure the starch level in various types of apples and demonstrate the ways orchards grade their apples to determine when they are ready for harvesting.

Microgreens was another fun lab activity students enjoyed, and was demonstrated by Associate Professor, Dr. Logan Minter.  Microgreens have become a very popular, healthy, easy, and enjoyable way to grow delicious greens from virtually anywhere in a very small area or limited amount of space.  The greens can be grown in small plastic containers, similar to restaurant takeout containers, and placed in a window.  Students were provided, potting soil mix, the opportunity to select from lettuce or kale seeds and were then able to plant their seeds with information about providing care and the growth of their microgreens from their home.

The aquaponics lab was a popular activity of the day and Research Associate, Thom Harker, gave students a first-hand account of what running an aquaponics system looks like, and provided detailed information about care of the fish and their importance in the growth process for the crops.

During lunch, students enjoyed a taco bar while hearing from several cooperative business leaders as they provided details about their cooperative, job opportunities available and the education and/or skills set needed to perform those jobs.  Companies represented were South Central PowerFarm Credit Mid-AmericaAtomic Credit UnionAdams Rural Electric CooperativeDairy Farmers of America and United Producers, Inc. Following lunch, students were able to engage one-on-one with each of the business leaders while visiting their tables during the Co-op Career Fair.  Company representatives not only offered students information and potential job opportunities but provided hands-on displays and a look at a bucket truck and lineman’s tools from Adam’s Rural Electric Cooperative.

Students also had the opportunity to speak with representatives from Ohio State University Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), who provided details available to them through their high school internships program.  Under this program, the MEP assists manufacturers with their workforce needs, while also providing students valuable career skills.  Financial assistance is available to those manufacturers who hire interns through this program, reimbursing 50% of the students’ wages, for a maximum amount of $1500 per student.

When asked how educators plan to use the information they received during the event, educator Kristen Campbell of Piketon High School said, “We are continuing to research different Cooperatives in the area for potential employment after high school and are planning on implementing some of the lesson plan activities at the school and dive deeper into the practice of Aquaculture and Hydroponics. As well as, looking at the advantages of a “greenhouse/tent system” for the availability to grow crops all year instead of in the spring and summer months.  The activities and the tour were both amazing! We also enjoyed the meet and greet with the different employers. Honestly, the entire event was very beneficial for my students!”

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