4-H youth put a face on future of agriculture

D.J. Cain and Julia Heller

Two teens will represent Illinois 4-H at the 2021 National Ag Day Student Leadership Program. This program of the Agriculture Council of America prepares and engages young people to raise awareness of the importance of the agricultural industry and its impact on our nation’s society and economy.

D.J. Cain of Knox County and Julia Heller of Ogle County will represent Illinois 4-H when the program is held virtually in March 2021.

“We are exceptionally proud to have two of our Illinois 4-H members selected to represent Illinois,” says Katie Duitsman, 4-H leadership youth development extension specialist. “4-H civic engagement and leadership programs strive to bring youth voices to the table, and this event will be a great opportunity for D.J. and Julia to advocate for the agriculture industry with our elected officials while networking with other aspiring agriculture leaders from across the country.”

Both teens have a passion for agriculture. Heller has served as a State 4-H Livestock ambassador, promoting 4-H livestock projects, and was active in planning the State 4-H Jr. Livestock Conference.

“Julia has made a mark on Illinois 4-H and continues to provide leadership, and is respected by her peers,” says Tina Veal, 4-H alumni and constituent engagement manager. “She has not only excelled in her 4-H project work, but also has a strong interest in animal and vet science projects.”

Heller plans to study animal sciences at University of Illinois and hopes to become a veterinarian one day.

Cain began raising Cornish-cross chickens at age 10 as a 4-H project. Today, he has expanded his meat poultry business, D.J. Cain Poultry, to nearly 800 head. He successfully raised and sold 1,380 birds in 2020. D.J. credits 4-H with preparing him for the business and work aspects of his entrepreneurial venture. D.J. continues to build his poultry business while a college student at University of Illinois, majoring in agriculture.

Representatives will participate in a series of virtual sessions that include special governmental guests, experts and advocates in the ag industry with the goal of empowering youth representatives to become the face of the future of agriculture.

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