Number of kids interested in agriculture dwindling

ABC7 News at 11pm
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 6:33 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Sarasota County Fair is in full swing at Robarts Arena, giving people a glimpse of the agricultural community.

While the fair keeps getting bigger and better each year, the number of kids interested in that industry is dwindling.

According to Sarasota 4-H Leader LeeAnn Albritton, their numbers have dropped from 375 to about 113 over the past couple of years.

She said she believes those numbers are trending downward due to the amount of farmland being sold to developers to build more homes and businesses in the area.

She also said many young people are deciding not to follow in their parents’ footsteps to become farmers, causing them to lose interest in groups like 4-H and the Future Farmers of America.

Albritton explained even some of her own kids have decided not to go into farming due to some of the trials she and her husband are facing with their business.

“We’re in the citrus business. The decline in citrus in the state of Florida — it’s the worst it’s been since the depression,” she said. “With canker and all your different diseases killing ... greening being the newest. They can only fight so long they feel like and they don’t see an end in sight so sometimes they think, ‘I’ll move on.’”

But, Albritton isn’t giving up. She’s determined to show young people there’s a lot more to agriculture than milking cows and picking fruit.

In fact, she said many 4-H members aim their focus on things like photography, robotics, the performing arts, and cooking.

Rilyn Stiegler and Schailynn Sherrard are helping in that fight.

“I’ve had friends come to 4-H because of me,” said Stiegler.

She said she’s brought at least 101 of her friends to 4-H, who have in turn gained an interest in agriculture. The two girls believe the issue is a lack of exposure.

“I feel like it’s not put out there as much. It’s not talked about that much. Maybe if it was people would get into it?”