Building Aquaculture Acceptance Through 4-H
4-H began at the end of the 19th century as a way to bring new agricultural techniques to
farmers through rural youth programs. The reluctance of farmers to adopt new agricultural
practices was circumvented by introducing youth, who were more open to new ideas, to
innovative farming methods that they would then bring back to the adults in their
communities. Today 4-H is dedicated to youth development in communities nationwide.
With a focus on STEM advancement, 4-H offers in and out of school programs, clubs, and
camps for youth ages 5 to 19. With roots in agriculture and animal science, 4-H is a
natural fit for aquaculture advancement programs.
Through an innovative summer internship program developed by the University of Maine’s
Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research and Hancock County Cooperative Extension
4-H Youth Development Program, high school students were introduced to the role of
sustainable aquaculture in the global food system. The group of seven students formed a 4-
H club with the purpose of demonstrating sustainable aquaculture to the public at a local
agricultural fair through a 4-H exhibit.
The students spent their summer, over an eight-week timeframe, at the Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research (CCAR), in Franklin, Maine. While at the CCAR, students
were responsible for the production of 165 yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi). Emphasis
was placed on the development of skills needed to rear fish and run and maintain a
recirculating aquaculture system. In addition, participants learned about the history of
aquaculture, engineering, and business.
We believe this may be the first time a farmed fish has been shown as part of a 4-H
program at a rural agricultural fair. By exhibiting aquacultured products alongside
traditionally farmed crops, it is our hope that one day farmed fish will be as socially
accepted as farmed beef, pork, and chicken.
Funding for this project was provided by Maine EPSCoR/SEANET