SEBRING — From citrus to dairy and ornamental plants to ranching, Highlands County students explored their opportunities Tuesday evening at the first Highlands County Agricultural & Career Fair.
Middle and high school students were invited to the event at the Smith Center at Sebring High where representatives from more than 30 ag businesses and a few colleges with ag programs offered information.
Florida Dairy Farmers event specialist Brittany Hammock provided facts about the state’s dairy industry and offered free dairy-cow key chains and Greek yogurt-covered fruit bites.
Avon Park High students senior Taylor Brown and freshman Garret Barr asked Hammock about the dairy industry.
Brown plans to attend South Florida State College for an associate in arts degree and then transfer to the University of Florida to study ag communications for a career in public relations.
The fair has helped in showing the opportunities students have, she said.
Barr also plans to attend the University of Florida.
“I want to be a game warden,” he said. “I may shoot higher, but probably end up working the farm, though.
“This is giving me a lot of information about the different farming opportunities that are out there so you don’t have to be out in the field all the time.”
Sebring High ag teacher Sarah Cleveland explained why she recommended the fair.
Her first teaching job was in Clay County, she said.
“We put one on there for the first time, and it was kind of just like this, and we brought in a lot of vendors and the kids loved it,” Cleveland said. “So I am from Sebring, born and raised, and I never heard of anything done like this here.”
This area is “huge “in agriculture so it makes sense to have an ag career fair here, she explained.
Since this was the first year, she was worried about how many students would show up at the career fair, but described the turnout as, “awesome.”
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Andy Putnam recorded a video message that was shown.
He said Florida’s farmers are getting older with an average age near 60.
“That’s why we need you, the best and the brightest of the next generation to pursue degrees and careers in agriculture and life sciences and related fields,” Putnam said.
Sebring High freshman Taylor Shoemaker’s plans include being a marine biologist and owning her own farm.
She asked Delray Plants grower Bill Lewis how plants are grown with swirl in the stem.
He said they wrap each plant around a PVC pipe to effect the twist, which is removed after a couple of days, Shoemaker said.
Sebring High junior James Dove, who is in the vet-tech class at Sebring High, plans on joining the Marine Corps.
“I am genuinely interested in animals, but right now I am just trying to figure out what I am going to do after I get out of the Marine Corps.,” he said.
Highlands County Citrus Growers Association Executive Director Ray Royce represented the citrus growers at the event.
He said the ag career fair gives young people exposure to a wide variety of agricultural careers.
“It has been a tremendous turnout and the young people seem interested,” he said.