4-H member's work on invasive pests wins National Youth in Action Award

CHEVY CHASE, MD – Matias Habib, 17, of Kendall County is the 2023 4-H Youth in Action Award for Agriculture sponsored by Bayer through the National 4-H Council. Habib will be recognized nationally for developing his own patent-pending bio-pesticide and startup business through a 4-H entomology project. 

Matias Habib of Sandwich, Ill., sprays his biopesticide product for Japanese beetles. Habib has filed for a patent and started his own company, TerraBuster. One of four national 2023 4-H Youth In Action award recipients, Habib won the agriculture award. Photo: National 4H Council.

As a national winner, Habib will receive a $5,000 higher education scholarship and spend 2023 inspiring other youth by telling his 4-H story and celebrating his leadership. In addition, he will showcase his story nationally, network with prominent 4-H alumni, and serve as the official 4‑H youth spokesperson for agriculture.

“After struggling with cognitive, social, and language barriers, 4-H gave me a place to connect and develop my passion for science and research,” said Matias. “Through 4-H, I met kids who shared my interests, especially in natural sciences. I learned how to develop a product that could help other farmers and gardeners facing the challenges my family faced in a safe and sustainable way.”

After moving to the U.S. as a child, Habib felt like an outsider and struggled with language barriers and social anxiety. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but later realized those differences were vital tools that empowered his focus on science. Through the University of Illinois Extension 4-H science program he found community and confidence.

When his family’s orchard was attacked by the invasive Japanese Beetle, Habib began researching, testing, and developing a natural solution. His bio-pesticide spray, TerraBuster, has since shown exceptional results with eco-conscious production practices and ingredients. With the help of 4-H leaders, Habib funded and staffed his growing business and is currently expanding his product to repellents for other pests that threaten healthy crops.

“Matias is a stellar example of a young person who has persevered through social challenges to create a path forward and show a great amount of entrepreneurship by creating his own bio-pesticide startup business,” says Jackie Applegate, president of Bayer Crop Science North America. “At Bayer, we are proud to support many young people - just like Matias - as they learn and develop leadership skills that can make a positive difference in agriculture and in our world in the years ahead.”

Habib is one of four 2023 4-H Youth in Action award winners who were announced during national 4-H week, October 2 to 8. The other winners announced include Norah Carter of Pennsylvania (Healthy Living), Nicole Cash of Minnesota (STEM), and Sruthi Sudarsan of California (Civic Engagement). 

“We are proud to honor our 2023 Youth in Action winners, a group of exceptional young people who have overcome obstacles and made an incredible impact on their communities through Cooperative Extension’s 4-H programs,” says Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. “By empowering these stand-out youth and fostering their skills to make change, they, in turn, can inspire thousands of other young people wanting to make a difference. When given the tools they need to lead, 4-H’ers like Matias, Sruthi, Norah, and Nicole are becoming the next generation of changemakers in their communities and for our country. ”

A senior at the Illinois Math and Science Academy, Habib plans to pursue a career in which he can develop innovative solutions to protect the environment.

Launched in 2010, the 4-H Youth in Action Awards recognize 4-Hers who have applied the knowledge gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities while overcoming personal obstacles.

To learn more about the 4-H Youth in Action Awards and to view the other pillar winners from around the country, please visit: www.4-h.org/youthinaction.

MEDIA CONTACT: Katya Myagkova, 4hcouncil@sunshinesachs.com

ABOUT 4-H 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for careers tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA, and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3,000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. Learn more about 4‑H at 4-H.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.