Every year, around the first week of June, school-busses and vans flood the rural backroads of Carroll County, Ohio, shuttling student leaders from all around the state to the banks of Leesville Lake, where they will attend Ohio FFA Camp Muskingum. The National FFA Organization seeks to develop the future leaders in science, business, technology, and Agriculture. FFA Members from Ohio’s 315 local chapters can attend one of five general camp sessions where they will participate in leadership development, conservation education, and outdoor recreation activities.
In the summer of 2018, the Ohio Soy Sustainable Summer Program was able to attend all 5 sessions of Ohio FFA Camp, where we introduced Ohio FFA Members to different segments of the bioeconomy and soybean industries. Fortunately, we were able to return to camp this summer and continue our valuable collaboration. Campers are able to sign up for specific “camptivities” that align with their personal and career interests, each session allowed us to interact with Ohio FFA Members that have a particular interest in the soybean industry and sustainable biomass production. We started each of our activities with a group discussion about the bioeconomy, and the specific advantages of biobased products. After our group discussion, we conducted an experiment that allowed each camper to manufacture their own piece of soy-based plastic. This experience helps campers visualize biomass processing and provides a first-hand look at how soybeans can be transformed into a range of valuable products.
To reflect on the experiment and the earlier discussion, we introduced the campers to the Billion Ton Study and the Bioenergy Career Map. The United States Department of Energy has published their Billion Ton Study, that indicates the capacity for annual U.S. biomass production by the year 2030 will be 1-Billion dry Tons. The Billion Ton Study goes on to show the implications of reaching that production capacity, for example, this level of production would require 1.3-Million new careers in the bioeconomy. This is a significant segment of the workforce that will need to be filled by qualified professionals, Ohio FFA Members are perfect candidates for this massive opportunity. Additionally, the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy has created a Bioenergy Career Map that identifies 5 industry sub-sectors: Infrastructure; Communication, Education, and Outreach; Engineering and Manufacturing; Agricultural, Life, and Physical Science; Operations, Management, and Business. We asked the campers to brainstorm specific careers that might fall in one of the bioenergy career sub-sectors, then we asked the campers to share any career aspirations they might have that fit into the bioeconomy. After participating in these discussions, it is apparent that the future of the bioeconomy and soybean industries are in qualified hands.
Campers were able to put some of their new bioeconomy knowledge to the test in our final activity. In small groups, campers were presented with the challenge of creating a short presentation to pitch the idea of building a fictional soy biomass processing facility in Ohio. Campers had to identify how professionals working in the different industry sub-sectors must work together to create the most efficient processing plant. Throughout the summer, campers proposed a variety of locations, manufacturing processes, and products to be made in their fictional facilities, but they all displayed a genuine interest in supporting the Ohio Soybean Industry.
This article was written by Brad Collins, OBIC Program Assistant.