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Agriculture is Pennsylvania's leading industry, contributing over $135 billion annually to the state's economy. And over the next ten years, we will need more than 75,000 new pairs of hands to work in the industry.

Roots and wings are the most valuable gifts parents can give a child. These traits offer children a sense of belonging and a zest for making their own unique contribution to the world one day.

With early guidance, children can explore different career opportunities in ways that enrich their childhood and position them for a successful future. Good jobs that can feed a family, while feeding the community, the nation and the world.

Children who enjoy animals and the outdoors could become first generation farmers, dairy herdsmen or a veterinarian.

Do you know a child who is fascinated with trucks? There is a need for more precision agriculture technicians to operate and repair tractors and other farm equipment.

The need extends to diesel truck mechanics, industrial machinery mechanics and food batchmakers to prepare industrial sized recipes in food factories.

Farming is part of a supply and distribution chain that extends to food processing, food distribution, and consumer consumption of food.

An ongoing conversation with children, starting as early as preschool, can help plant the seeds of career planning.

Preparing a meal with a child in the kitchen? It's a teachable moment to talk about where the ingredients come from or, talk about how a restaurant chef makes many meals at the same time.

On a hike with a child? Look at the trees together, explain where the different varieties of wood come from and tell how, when a tree is cut down, more trees are planted, making trees a renewable resource. 

Or, stand by a stream and talk about the importance of clean water and soil.

Do some gardening together; visit a farm; introduce children to agriculture workers and learn about their jobs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has identified 28 occupations that will be most in demand by the agriculture and food Industry over the next decade.

Normally, when we think of the agriculture and food industry, we think of farmers, but opportunities in agriculture go well beyond traditional farming and include forestry, wood working, food processing, landscaping, butchers, bakers and soil and water conservationists.

Agriculture is one of the most hands-on concepts to teach children because everything on their plate— such as an apple, peanut butter and a glass of milk – is connected to agriculture.

The more time young people spend pondering careers, the more likely they will have a direction by the time they are in high school when they need to start making decisions about higher education.

Older kids can connect to agriculture by joining 4-H or FFA.

The 4-H program, open to children ages 8-18, includes mentoring and career readiness as core elements in all its projects. Members complete hands-on projects in areas like science, health, agriculture and civic engagement.

Project are diverse enough to include rocketry, learning about computers or raising and showing chickens, pigs, cows, horses, dogs or cats.

FFA is a career and technical student organization based on middle and high school classes. It promotes agricultural education. In FFA, students participate in equally diverse Supervised Agricultural Experiences such as breeding and marketing sheep, bee keeping, or conducting a water quality study.

A career in the agriculture industry offers lots of opportunities in science, technology, engineering, management, and traditional farming. It is fulfilling, allowing workers to connect physically and psychologically with nature.

With guidance from parents and caregivers, the next generation will come to appreciate how food gets to their table, and they will consider a rewarding career in agriculture.