COLUMBUS — For Kettlersville native and Anna High School graduate Dustin Homan, agriculture is a passion.
His passion grew to the international level after traveling to Ghana with Agricorp for eight months, then to Nicaragua most recently, to help with 4-H.
“I was a 10-year 4-H member myself. I was part of the Kettlersville Livestock 4-H Club, and FFA in high school. I went to Ohio State University and got my bachelor’s in agriculture and extension education. I spent a few years hopping around a couple of different jobs in the industry, and then traveled to Ghana for eight months,” Homan said.
“That experience provided me with the context to be able to do what I did in Nicaragua,” he said.
As 4-H starts to grow in Nicaragua, one of the needs they had was help with capacity development.
“So thinking through as we grow, what systems do we need in place, what kinds of trainings do we need to do for our adults and volunteers, so that was my role,” Homan said.
In English the 4-H’s stand for: head, heart, hands, and health. Translated to Spanish, it is 4-S, roughly translated to saber, meaning “to know”, sentimientos, meaning “feelings”, servicio, meaning “service”, and salud, meaning “health”.
“What’s cool about 4-H is that it can be adapted to other cultures,” Homan said. “In Ghana I worked with 4-H as well. There it was called 4-H Ghana, but it had things about it, like the pledge that changed about it to adapt to their culture.”
The trip was sponsored by Partners of the Americas as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. The program is supported by Congress and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In countries where the U.S. government is providing food for agricultural activities this program applies, Homan said. If the host country is looking to enhance some sort of their agricultural industry they can request an expert or professional from the U.S. come visit them for a couple weeks to help them.
From May 11 to May 25 this year, Homan worked with a non-profit host organization, Fabretto – which 4-S is ran through, to assess the needs of 12 4-S clubs in northern Nicaragua, teach adults how to facilitate the students, and develop recommendations on how the clubs can best develop in the future.
After landing in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, he traveled to his post – a school in Ocotal. Homan spent several days gathering information.
“I wanted to know as much as I could about the organization, their strengths, their weaknesses, in order to be able to provide some recommendations,” he said.
Next he provided some training for the adult advisors and the parents. “We would go to these communities in northern Nicaragua and I would deliver a presentation to them. It would go over what is 4-H, what are the qualities of a good 4-H club, and what activities they can do to help insure they’re meeting the mission of 4-H,” Homan said.
“In a 4-H club, connection, leadership, and life skills should be present in order for the club to positively develop youth,” Homan said. “So during that presentation, for instance when I talked about leadership, I facilitated some teamwork activities in the hope that they’d take those back to their clubs.”
He spent about a week of his time doing these “train the trainer” presentations to about a total of 75 adults. Next he traveled back to Managua to write reports and collect his observations for a few days, then he presented his recommendations at the Fabretto headquarters.
“This included where I think the organization can go and what things I think they need to do to get there,” he said.
Homan didn’t leave Nicaragua without doing some site-seeing, he said. He got to try “The World’s Best Coffee,” visit historical sites and landmarks, and see a dormant volcano which is now a lagoon.
Homan took four years of Spanish in high school, but said it was a challenge because he hadn’t practiced much since.
“It was a personal growth opportunity. … Few people there speak English, that was one of my misconceptions,” Homan said. “It was one of the most challenging parts of the trip, but it was motivation to pick Spanish back up again.”
One of the things that surprised Homan was the attention to the family and the community and the culture that surrounds it. “I think here we’re a very individualistic society, but down there, not so. Everything revolves around the family. To see these communities come together and support these (4-S) clubs, was incredible,” he said. “I sense that 4-H is going to rapidly grow because of that culture.”
“For people who want to work in international development, I think it’s important that you have some experience with boots on the ground work – talking with the people, understanding and working with them,” Homan said. “I think it’s important for youth in rural areas to see that you can have these kinds of experiences and that they can be very impactful, not only for yourself, but for the people with whom you work.”
Homan lives in Columbus and is currently pursuing his maters degree in 4-H youth development at Ohio State University. Homan is the son of Mike and Diane Homan, of Kettlersville.
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