Leadership Insights from Billi Hunt
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Investing in the future of Iowa agriculture

Leadership insights from Billi Hunt, Executive Director of America’s Cultivation Corridor

As temperatures warm, Iowa’s farmers are gearing up for the busy planting season. Each year’s planting season is an investment in that year’s crops, but also in the long-term sustainability of the farming operation.  

April is also a busy time of year for another investment in the future of Iowa agriculture, with thousands of students involved in education and leadership development programs. My experiences in 4-H — from sewing and baking to showing cattle and serving on state 4-H council and as a state officer — gave me a passion for agriculture and the leadership, communications skills to succeed in college and my career.  

The 67th annual Iowa 4-H Youth Development’s State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa was held April 4-5 at Hilton Coliseum on the Iowa State University campus. More than 600 students in grades 6-12 presented their STEM projects in a diverse range of topics. The event not only encourages students to learn about science and engineering processes, but also demonstrates the importance of problem solving and effective communications.  

Ten days later, more than 6,000 FFA members and guests from across the state gathered at Iowa State for the 96th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference April 15-16. Students competed in leadership and career development events and were recognized for achievements. They were also inspired by state’s leaders and fellow FFA members.  

While the sea of thousands of blue jackets is impressive, even more exciting is the work that happens all year long at the 263 student chapters across Iowa. The state’s 19,000 FFA members invested 4.3 million hours and earned $39.3 million from their supervised agricultural experience projects, giving students the opportunities to dig into new ideas for innovation and entrepreneurship and be recognized at chapter, district and state levels. 

On April 29, students from across the state will participate in the Iowa Youth Institute, a partnership between World Food Prize Foundation and Iowa State University, that gives 8-12 graders the opportunity to engage with leading experts on critical global challenges. The daylong event is a life-changing experience for students who present their own research on a food security issue and explore exciting ways to make a difference in Iowa and around the world.  

These are just a few high profile examples of the work that is happening in every corner of the state. Thank you to the educators, extension team members, volunteers, parents and more who encourage the next generation of Iowa’s leaders to learn, grow and lead.  

My experiences in 4-H taught me many things, but most importantly, it taught me how to learn from others and work with others and make the connections that are still so important in today’s world. I’d love to hear about the programs and experiences that inspired you! 

Photo of Executive Director, Billi Hunt, showing her steer as a 4-H participant.


Published April 2024. 


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