BY AMY BETH GRAVES
Lydia Black knew immediately what she wanted to do after she and her teammates won the Ohio Youth Capitol Challenge. She wanted their policy proposal to become something tangible and not sit on a shelf. It’s already been adopted into policy by the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, and local legislators attended a special presentation by the group Oct. 7 to give their input.
“I was really inspired by last year’s winners who said their biggest regret was that they didn’t do more. I wanted to put our plan in action, and it’s so cool that it’s happening,” said Black, a junior at Milton Union High School.
A couple of months ago, Black along with Sarah Landis and Kara Griffith won the Capitol Challenge, which is sponsored by Ohio Farm Bureau, 4-H and FFA. The contest brings together youths age 14-18 from around the state to discuss community issues and concerns and find ways to solve those issues through policies and programs. The contest started in February with the final competition during the Ohio State Fair.
The students’ proposal is called “Project Levi: Farm to Food” in honor of fellow teammate Levi Montoya who was killed in an accident over the summer. The goal of their project is to teach third grade students that their food comes from farms and not grocery stores.
As part of their project, they made a new version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate graphic, which illustrates what percent vegetables, grains, fruits, protein and dairy should be part of a daily diet. Their version shows examples of animals or food that fall into each of the five categories.
“We figure the pictures of the animals and food will help kids make that connection with what their food is and where it comes from,” said Sarah Landis, a freshman at Sinclair Community College.
Montgomery County Farm Bureau supported the project by not only adopting it into their policy but giving $500 toward the posters, which would be displayed in school cafeterias or classrooms, and to help get it started in county public schools. The long-term goal is to have it adopted statewide.
Another component of the project is to have college interns go into the classrooms and teach about agriculture, the students said during a presentation to state Rep. Mike Henne, Sen. Bill Beagle and two candidates running for state office.
“My goal is by the time I’m a senior in college that I’ll be one of the presenters in the program and be able to say I helped start it,” Landis said.
Henne said he was impressed the students specifically chose third graders for their project after they explained that is the age youths can first join 4-H.
“The more you can promote our No. 1 industry, the more people will listen,” he said. “I like the concept and hope in a few years to see a finished product wind up in the state legislature.”
The three students said their participation in Capitol Challenge improved their communication and speaking skills. Griffith, a freshman at Wilmington College, said she believes her experience led her to be invited to the college’s first lobbying trip to Washington D.C. for ag students.
“The skills I got from Capitol Challenge were great and it really stands out on my resume,” Griffith said. “It’s a great experience for youths, whether they’re in agriculture or not.”
Photo by Amy Beth Graves