Agri Leader

A new generation of ag industry leaders

As anyone in the ag industry knows, it takes a lot of hard work, tenacity, dedication and perseverance to be successful.

These traits are already being exhibited by some of our local youth who are just getting their feet wet in the business. Let’s take a look at a few of the rising stars who we will likely be hearing more about in years to come.

Shelby Ball is a senior who recently graduated from Avon Park High School and is planning to spend the next year at South Florida State College to complete her AA degree. She plans on then transferring to University of Florida where she will major in agriculture education and communications. She has definite plans laid out for when she graduates. “My hope is to become an agriculture teacher and then go into Extension work later in life,” said Ball, whose mother is an educator and father is in law enforcement.

Ball spent three years in 4-H and held the title of County Council President in the past year. 4-H opened the doors for Ball to experience many skills that will translate into her career, such as the opportunity she had with the 4-H Legislature. For a whole week, 4-H members from across the state took over the capitol. “We became the senators, representatives, lobbyists and media personnel. We had a whole bill book, and we lobbied to pass or fail certain pieces of legislation,” This year, Ball was on the planning committee and was given the role of Head Media Correspondent. “I was in charge of coordinating the daily newsletter and the daily video,” said Ball.

Nathan Stephens, a high school student from Sebring, is the incoming 4-H County Council president. He has high goals for the council. “I want our council to be involved heavily in our community, whether that is fundraising, community projects, or just getting out on the street and telling people about 4-H. Our county is growing and so why shouldn’t our 4-H grow as well?” said Stephens, who explained that he also wants his fellow 4-H members to get involved in everything they can so that they will grow, develop new lifelong friends, and learn new skills to “make the best better!”

Many of Stephens’ family members are involved in agriculture. “I have an uncle who is involved in cattle ranching down in Arcadia, and most of my family grew up working outside — whether it be raising chickens, cows, hogs or having a small plot for crops,” said Stephens, who explained that his mother is also involved in the food industry, so they would go to the local farms to get the freshest of foods. That experience instilled his interest and love of agriculture. “What I love about the ag industry is that it is the basis of all industries, and also that farmers are like family to one another,” said Stephens, who added that 4-H’rs are just like family as well.

Shanayll Jones, a high school student from Avon Park, joined 4-H last year and has the full support of her family and friends. After all, her family is in the ag industry. Her mother, Temikia Jones, is a Master Gardener, and her uncle, Charlie Brown, has been in agriculture for as long as she can remember. “My mother inspired me to join our newly created 4-H club,” said Jones, who first heard about 4-H in high school.

Jones enjoys the 4-H camps, the executive board meetings and the opportunities to meet others from across the state. 4-H is also like family to her. “Honestly, 4-H camps and meetings helped me find my closest friends,” said Jones, who particularly enjoys taking care of small farm animals and participating in the 4-H events, such as a local upcoming gardening event that is taking place in a transitional housing area on July 22. Two of the local 4-H clubs will be there and working — just like a family does.

Call UF/UFAS Extension Services for more information about the event 863-402-6540.