As part of his job as an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C., Danny Munch ’18 (CAHNR) spends a lot of time analyzing and talking about data. From appearances on live television with outlets like Yahoo! Finance, to crunching agricultural data for reports and studies, to traveling the country discussing policy issues with farmers and ranchers. While numbers are important to Munch’s job, he always thinks about the people behind the statistics. That’s something he gained early in life thanks to his experience as a UConn 4-H member.
“UConn 4-H really fast-tracked my career in agricultural policy. The program got me into agriculture and that’s driven my entire life,” Munch says.
At Farm Bureau, Munch’s portfolio includes dairy policy and economics, transportation and infrastructure, disasters, and invasive species, among others. As an economist, he’s responsible for running data analysis on agricultural policy and the resulting impacts it will have on farmers, as well as tracking general market trends and disruptions. He writes for the market intelligence article series, communicating the statistics in short and easy to understand pieces for Farm Bureau’s audiences.
Munch grew up in East Lyme, Connecticut and joined the Grassy Hill Bears 4-H Club when he was only eight years old. He participated in beef showmanship, numerous poultry shows, and other 4-H events. Munch credits Tom and Nancy Kalal of Cranberry Meadow Farm and Kathryn Christensen of Green Acres, Inc., his local 4-H leaders, with spurring his passion. He is also grateful to his parents, who constructed a chicken coop on their property when he was 10, and allowed him to keep a menagerie of other animals throughout the rest of his childhood, further supporting his love of agriculture.
Youth can become more involved in UConn 4-H as their interests grow, since programs evolve as the participants do. Munch pursued this path and was president of the local 4-H club for three years while also being involved in planning the county 4-H fair and serving as county 4-H fair board president.
“I’m not naturally an extrovert. I wouldn’t have been on TV or delivered speeches to hundreds of people without the UConn 4-H experience and the skills I learned. The organizational and management skills – all those helped too. You don’t understand what you’re learning at the time, but we were so ahead of the game.”
Applying to UConn was a natural next step from his 4-H involvement. Munch created an individualized livestock management and policy major, combining coursework in animal science and political science, with an agricultural and resource economics double major. He was on the academic fast-track, completing his degree in just three years thanks to 4-H’s time management and organizational lessons, while also participating in a summer program in Australia and New Zealand. Munch’s extracurricular activities included serving as president of the UConn poultry science club and as a CAHNR student ambassador.
“UConn 4-H provides life transformative experiences and allows youth to create their own path. Danny Munch was an exemplary member and continues giving back to the 4-H program and agriculture,” says Bonnie Burr, assistant director, and department head of Extension.
Thanks to his 4-H and CAHNR experience, Munch got a taste for Washington, D.C. He spent a summer internship with Congressman Joe Courtney after graduation, and even landed paid positions through his UConn professor Steven Zinn and the American Society for Animal Science. This type of hands-on experience further sparked his interest, and he completed a master of science with Cornell University in agricultural and food economics with a focus on dairy.
Munch started as an associate economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation in April 2021 and was quickly promoted to economist after work on measuring crops losses from major disasters, tracking the impacts of milk formula price changes on dairy farmers, and the impact of invasive feral hogs on ag production.
As he advances in his career, Munch says he feels he’s where he wants to be professionally. He says he has UConn 4-H to thank for some of that success.
“Being an economist with Farm Bureau has been my dream job, giving back to the farmers that put so much into us as kids – that’s coming full circle for me. UConn 4-H has always been there for me, and I’m still involved. With new opportunities in fields like robotics and technology, 4-H has something for everyone. It gives youth opportunities they just couldn’t have anywhere else,” Munch concludes.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.
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