UMaine, UVM earn $6.5M USDA grant for Youth Innovators Empowering Agriculture Across America (YEA) program

August 17, 2023

The University of Maine (UMaine) Extension will work with the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension to “increase the number of youth studying food and agriculture, increase the capacity of communities to promote food and agriculture, and increase the capacity of the Cooperative Extension System, through the 4-H youth development program, to better connect with youth and parents from immigrant, refugee and asylum-seeking communities.” The two states will work together to host a teen youth council that will help guide the work. UVM intends to work with AALV, an organization that helps new Americans in Vermont gain independence in new communities while also supporting Vermont’s migrant farmworker population.

Funding for this work is provided from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Learn about the USDA NIFA funding and other awarded programs at

Read a full press story on the work here:

Excerpted from the story:

The new program, called “Oh Yea! 4-H Grows True Leaders,” will provide experiential learning, practical knowledge and life skill development to hundreds of young Mainers over the next five years. The funding will increase involvement from traditionally underrepresented communities in the Maine food system. UMaine Extension 4-H will partner with community organizations such as Mano en Manoin Milbridge and the Somali Bantu Community Association in Lewiston.

The Maine True Leaders program is an innovative approach to nurturing future advocates of food production and healthy living in Maine. It focuses on migrant, immigrant and refugee families, promoting evidence-based indicators important for families learning to navigate a new country. The program’s key indicators include openness to challenge and discovery, hopeful purpose, positive emotions, resource maximization and cultural membership. The goal of the program is to prepare youth from underrepresented communities for careers in the Maine food system and help them understand the role of food in their daily lives. 

“This project is a meaningful example of Extension’s ongoing work to meet the state’s ever-changing needs,” said Hannah Carter, associate provost of online and continuing education and dean of UMaine Extension. “An important factor in solving our ongoing workforce challenges is to embrace and support the growing number of people who want to build a life here. At Extension, one way we can do that is through the lens of Maine’s food system, which plays an important role in a strong economy and thriving population.”