Boy Scouts, Farm Bureau members agree on merits of ag
By Cyndie Sirekis
Boy Scouts in Indiana will have more opportunities than ever before to earn agriculture-related merit badges in 2012, thanks to members of Farm Bureau in Indiana who are responding to a shortage of volunteers. Farm Bureau members are training to become registered merit badge counselors with Boy Scouts of America.
Boy Scouts of America merit badge counselors must be experts in a specific subject. Counselors encourage Scouts to learn about the chosen subject and coach them in how to fulfill the requirements to earn a badge. Through the merit badge program, boys learn career skills that often prove useful later as they consider which profession to enter. Regardless of rank, they may work on any merit badge at any time. The only catch is that a merit badge counselor in the chosen subject must be available.
Agriculture-related badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America include animal science, plant science, farm mechanics, soil and water conservation, horsemanship, and veterinary medicine. Other merit badges with agricultural ties are fish and wildlife management, environmental science, gardening, and landscape architecture.
The requirements for completing each merit badge are rigorous. Typically, Scouts must demonstrate academic competency in the subject area and research related career opportunities, in addition to completing hands-on requirements. For the ag-related merit badges, hands-on requirements include visiting a farm or related agribusiness, raising a feeder pig or chicks, growing a crop, pruning plants, and helping harvest a crop.
“This is a great opportunity for Scouts to learn from experts in various agriculture-related fields while earning merit badges on their path to Eagle Scout,” explained Clay Worley, team leader in partner services at the Indianapolis-based National FFA Organization. Boy Scouts generally enter the program at the beginning of sixth grade and advance through several ranks; Eagle is the highest.
“Earning the ag-related merit badges is a great way for young people to learn about the complexity of today’s agriculture, so that they realize it’s much more than just corn and soybeans, which is a very common perception,” Worley said.
A Boy Scout leader for his son’s troop, Worley will provide training in becoming a merit badge counselor to interested Indiana Farm Bureau members at their annual Young Farmers & Ranchers Conference at the end of January.
“Our young farmer and rancher members are committed to serving their communities by volunteering and making a difference,” said Julie Roop, director of program development at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “That is why Farm Bureau and the BSA merit badge program is such a great fit,” she said.
Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.