Mary Klopfenstein of Delphos has been named ExploreAg and ag literacy program specialist for Ohio Farm Bureau.Read More
When Jayden Porter was in elementary school, his dream was to own his own restaurant.
The Columbus City Schools senior spent lots of time in the kitchen cooking with his family during the holidays and loved it. He liked to create his own recipes as well.
Fast forward a few years, and Porter decided to attend Fort Hayes Career Center in Columbus and enter into its biological science or culinary arts program.
Making this change during the height of the pandemic was challenging and programs were short-staffed, so Porter eventually joined the science program path. Ever since an encouraging phone call with a family friend who worked in senior product development at Nesquik, he has been full-steam ahead on a food science career path.
“I thought it would be cool to be part of product development, but (food science) is so diverse,” he said. “There is flavor creation, sensory testing, marketing, business development, and agriculture. Ag is huge and jobs are everywhere.”
As part of his journey, Porter started to research colleges with food science programs, and he landed on Iowa State.
“They have a good food product development team, but colleges look at activities and internships, too,” he said.
So Porter went on the hunt for food science internships and learning opportunities. He said he directly contacted 25 companies and asked about available internships. Those companies wanted college kids with some experience and no one would take a chance on a high school student.
He then changed strategy and began looking into summer food science camps and programs, and it was through this search that he stumbled upon Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation’s ExploreAg program.
He was attracted to the fact that the camp is free. He applied and was accepted, marking a significant milestone for his journey into a food science career.
“(ExploreAg) completely opened my eyes – the innovation, technology and science of farming. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know,” he said. He attended the ExploreAg weeklong camp in Wooster in June 2022. “It was my first time in the country, and I didn’t expect to make so many connections.”
Porter’s experience is one that Melinda Witten, Ohio Farm Bureau senior director of leadership development, hopes is replicated as students think about their future plans.
“Reaching an enterprising student such as Jayden, who is interested in food science, through ExploreAg is an incredible opportunity to engage students in suburban and urban districts who may not know the career they are interested in is related to agriculture,” she said. “That is what the ExploreAg program is all about.”
The camp itself was insightful for Porter, but so was meeting the other high school students who attended camp with him. He was amazed how many of them had no social media and who thought city water had nothing on the well water they drank in their rural communities.
“It was a real experience,” he said, noting that he would encourage anyone who wants to apply to ExploreAg to “just do it.
“It’s an opportunity that will help you in the future – very based in agriculture and food science,” Porter said. “Coming from the city to rural Ohio and making those connections, it’s opened a lot of doors for me.”
One of those doors included a job as a State Fair Ambassador, where Porter spent over two weeks working at the Land & Living Exhibit for Ohio Farm Bureau.
“All I can say is thank you for the opportunity,” Porter said. “I learned so much and made a lot of friends.”
2023 ExploreAg Camps
Three weeklong camps are being planned for 2023, and four mini camps. Apply by April 10, 2023.
- OSU Columbus Campus, June 11-16
- OSU Wooster Campus, June 18-23
- University of Findlay, July 9-14
- Wilmington College June 4-7
- COLT Electric Lineman Training, June 9
- Rio Grande, June 30
- Hocking College, July 31 – Aug. 2
New in 2023: Parent Information Sessions
Online Extra: Hear from Amy Browning, an ExploreAg parent, about her daughter’s experience with the ExploreAg camp.
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