An Outdoor Career Exploration event was held May 10 at Kennebec Valley Community College in Hinckley. Nearly 500 seventh graders from Skowhegan, China, Madison, Valley, Warsaw, and Waterville schools in the event. More than 40 organizations and businesses presented hands-on learning opportunities in fields such as logging, forestry, recreation and agriculture. Local colleges were also on hand to inform students of related training opportunities, according to a news release from DACF.

The Concept Outdoor Career Exploration was inspired by conversations DACF Farm Labor Link Network staff had with farmers. Yvette Meunier, promotional coordinator for the DACF, explained that “Over the summer I met with farmers and listened to their ideas for supporting Maine’s next generation of farmers,” according to the release. From these conversations “two themes became clear 1.) The need to strengthen our industrial arts programming and 2.) Opportunities to engage younger students with insightful agricultural and outdoor career information.

The event concept was a good fit for the JMG team as well. Tracie Travers, workforce development manager for JMG, stated “JMG provides a continuum of support to 9,000 students a year from grade six through post-secondary education and into the workforce. Exposing students to pathways to success is what we do and our hope is this event will inspire more young people to begin planning for promising futures,” according to the release.

Outdoor Career Exploration is designed to introduce students to outdoor careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to inform and inspire teachers to bring agricultural literacy into the classroom. Prior to the event, Maine Agriculture in the Classroom staff and JMG specialists delivered an Ag Explorer Career Finder pre-teach curriculum created in partnership with National Farms for the Future and Discovery Education to several of the schools attending the event. Career Finder compares a student’s strengths and interests and matches them to the myriad of career paths in agriculture.

“Careers in agriculture are careers in STEM. From the biology of plants, soils, and animal health, to learning how to be good stewards of the environment, to using technology for precision agriculture and running efficient operations, teaching agriculture is essential to fostering an appreciation for and interest in sustaining a productive landscape,” said Kelsey Fortin, program assistant with Maine Agriculture in the Classroom, according to the release. A copy of the pre-teach curriculum can be found at

Schools received a donation of a fruit tree from ReTreeUS to start their own school orchards. ReTreeUS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting an environmentally sustainable, socially just food system by planting orchards with local schools and providing educational programs that empower young people and their families to grow their own home orchards and gardens. According to Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS Program manager, ReTreeUS “Believes that by engaging students in the process of growing their own food and caring for trees, we can create a lasting impact for both the schools and their students,”  according to the release. The organization also will be available to the schools to teach lessons on their role in the orchard, starting with a conversation about the impact growing their own food has on their health and that of the planet.

The event was hosted by The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in Augusta teamed up with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, in partnership with Skowhegan Savings Bank and Kennebec Valley Community College, to hostThe Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry in Augusta teamed up with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, in partnership with Skowhegan Savings Bank and Kennebec Valley Community College.

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