Unless they grew up on a farm, many teenagers never consider a career in agriculture. But some USDA employees hope that may soon change.

With so many plant scientists, veterinarians and wildlife biologists employed by the USDA on the verge of retirement, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has teamed up with the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to sponsor Ag-Discovery, a science and career exploration program for students age 14 to 17 years old who are interested in learning more about protecting plants and animals and the career options that will prepare them to work in these areas.

Students will spend two weeks on a college campus and learn from APHIS professionals and university professors, including practicing entomologists, plant pathologists, wildlife biologists and veterinarians.

Students will participate in hands-on-labs, workshops and field trips as well as character- and team-building activities and diversity workshops.

This summer’s itinerary includes visits to the Heifer International Projects Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Ark., Bayou Meto Wildlife Area, Little Rock Air Force Base, the Sale Barn Auction in Conway, Ark., UAPB farms and the Arkansas State University Ag Bioscience Building and Environmental Toxicology Facility.

Students selected for the 2009 session, which begins June 14 and ends June 26, pay only the cost of transportation to and from UAPB. Tuition, room and board, and supplies for the two-week program are covered by APHIS.

Students must be at least 14 and no older than 17 as of May 31.

A complete application packet consists of an application form, three character references, and at two-page essay on “Why I Want to Attend and What I Want to Learn.”

It must be postmarked by April 17 and submitted directly to Beatrice Jacobs at APHIS, 4700 River Rd., Unit 92, Riverdale, MD 20737.

The application forms and brochure are available on the Web at www.aphis.usda.gov/agdiscovery. Or, students can contact Shannon Hendrix, UAPB instructor, at (870) 575-8540 or hendrixs@uapb.edu; Ed Buckner at (870) 575-8537 or bucknere@uapb.edu; or Linda Okiror at (870) 575-8538 or okirorl@uapb.edu.

More information is also available from Beatrice.F.Jacobs@aphis.usda.gov.