Research Project

Increasing Mississippi Youth Interest in and Entry to Sustainable Agriculture Practices and Careers

Investigators: Tinuola Osho, Himmy Lo, Drew Gholson, Leslie Burger, Beth Baker, Mary Love Tagert, Manola Erby, Carolyn Banks, Jacqueline McComb, Sonia Eley, Karla Turner-Bailey, and Steele Robbins

Funding Agency: Sponsored by USDA-NRCS under award NR204423XXXXC116

Date: 2022

Project Summary


Mississippi agriculture is facing increases in the rate of technological advancement, the intensity of economic competition, and the complexity of environmental challenges. To propel the continued success of this important industry, Mississippi must develop a skilled and motivated workforce to fill agricultural jobs and must cultivate a conservation-minded citizenry to support improvements in sustainability. Therefore, educational efforts that stimulate Mississippi youth interest in and entry to agriculture are essential to securing a thriving future for Mississippi agriculture and the rural communities that depend on it.

To amplify such efforts, a collaboration was formed between Mississippi State University, Alcorn State University, Hinds Community College, and Mississippi Delta Community College. The project focuses on three goals. First, high school students will better understand the scientific principles and societal importance of soil and water conservation. Second, high school students will become more aware of the breadth and prospects of college and employment options in agriculture and natural resources. Third, disadvantaged high school students will gain greater opportunities for hands-on learning related to agriculture and natural resources.

Classroom Program

In 2022, the project reached roughly 1,000 high school students in and around the Delta through a classroom program. Students were taught two interactive lesson modules. The first module focuses on sustainable agriculture, emphasizing soil and water conservation and also sharing knowledge about plants, animals, and food. The second module focuses on career pathways and introduces students to the diverse jobs in agriculture and the education required to pursue them.

Questionnaire responses from participating students proved clearly that the classroom program raised their interest in agriculture and its careers. Before the program, 19% of respondents indicated that they were interested in agriculture and its careers while 48% indicated that they might be interested. After the program, 42% of respondents stated that they were more interested in agriculture and its careers, 76% stated that they were more aware of the diverse jobs in agriculture, and 85% stated that they were more aware of how agriculture is related to STEM. Furthermore, 37% of respondents marked that they were more likely to take classes related to agriculture, and 37% marked that they were more likely to join extracurricular activities related to agriculture. Given such positive results, the project team looks forward to expanding this proven program across the state in the upcoming years.

Field Trip

In 2022, the project organized its first field trip, hosting a total of about 65 students from O'Bannon High School, Yazoo County High School, and Greenville Christian School at Mississippi State University's Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, MS. The first part of this field trip followed a career fair format, where students rotated between nine booths to learn from agriculture and natural resources professionals about careers in their respective disciplines. These professionals included employees in government, university, and industry and discussed careers in USDA-NRCS, hydrology, forestry, apiology/ apiculture, Cooperative Extension, plant pathology, aquaculture, food science, and cotton processing. The second part of the field trip was a multi-stop tour that demonstrated and explained agricultural equipment and operations. Students experienced soil moisture sensing, sprinkler irrigating, drone flying, GPS-guided planting, and catfish feeding. The project team is committed to arranging additional field trips that broaden youth exposure to agriculture and natural resources.

Other Efforts

In 2022, the project also launched its digital outreach program on Facebook (www. and Instagram ( Educational information and links about various topics related to agriculture were shared with social media followers. The project team is grateful for its successes thus far and will continue to strive to increase Mississippi youth interest in agriculture and its careers.

Project Photos
Increasing Mississippi Youth Interest in and Entry to
Sustainable Agriculture Practices and Careers
  • Topic:
  • Decision

Contact NCAAR

General Information
Kaye Sullivan

Showcase Demo
Drew Gholson, Coordinator
Himmy Lo