Aggies spend snow day Ag-vocating CSU held Ag Adventure and Ag Confessions event to educate students on agriculture
May 13, 2013
The Farmer's Almanac may not have predicted the unexpected spring snow storm that hit Fort Collins on April 16, dumping several inches. But, farmers, and their advocates at Colorado State University, rejoiced over the flurry even though it meant improvising the Ag Adventure on Campus event.
"We can relate it back to agriculture, even with getting snowed out. Moisture is so important," Jess Milstein said.
Jess Milstein, a junior and agricultural education major, and a team of eight students, along with volunteer help from members of the Ag Ambassadors, coordinated the event that was originally planned to take place on the Lory Student Center Plaza. The event was moved into the Exhibit Hall in the Morgan Library due to inclement weather.
Ag Adventure on Campus was an event created to educate CSU students about agriculture. The event was sponsored by the College of Agricultural Sciences and CSU student government. College of Ag student organizations and Colorado commodity groups set up booths with information about who they are and what they do for CSU students to develop a better understanding of the agriculture industry. The event focus was to advocate agriculture, which some students called "ag-vocating."
The College of Ag handed out free goodies and different student booths had games for students to play to test their knowledge. The Colorado Department of Agriculture had the "Wheel of Ag" for students to spin and answer questions and receive free prizes for correct answers.
"We've got a lot of great people here," Milstein said. "Everybody is trying to accomplish the same thing. And this is just one way we can start bridging the gap."
Ag Adventure is a similar but different event from the Ag Day that occurs in the fall with the football game because it promotes education. CSU has held Ag Adventure events at Agriculture Research, Development and Education Center and at National Western Stock Show.
"Ag Adventure is about education," Milstein said. "We're helping people understand where their food comes from, how it's grown and why it's grown and why we do certain things that we do."
The event took place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. But, the event and its participants were all in anticipation to the Ag Confessions event occurring later that day.
Ag Confessions was an event created to allow students to have a better understanding of the agriculture industry by talking about key issues in agriculture. Students from all majors on campus were encouraged to attend and talk about issues that concern them and develop trust among those involved in agriculture. Coordinators for the event intended to help set the dialogue for creating and bridging the gap between consumers and producers. The event was facilitated by Trent Loos.
Trent Loos is a sixth generation farmer from Nebraska turned radio talk show host and agricultural activist. Thirteen years ago Loos felt that people were too disconnected from where their food comes from. It inspired him to start his own radio show focusing on agriculture and rural America.
He launched a radio show called "Loos Tales" in January of 2001. Today, the show airs on over 100 stations nationwide and boasts 3 million listeners on-air and online. The focus of the show is to share the message about the people and places in rural America is a step toward re-connecting consumers to their food. He now also does several other radio shows: "Rural Route," "Dakota Trails and Tails," "Colorado Trails and Tails" and "Loos Trails and Tails."
"I started this 13 years ago because too many people didn't know about where their food comes from. But now too much of what they know isn't so," Loos said.
Loos attends several different events across the country, speaking on behalf of the agriculture industry. Milstein heard about Loos and decided his advocating for agriculture matched the goals for this event and proceeded to invite him to speak at Ag Confessions.
The Ag Confession, held in the Lory Student Center Theater, started off with Loos sharing some of his experiences. He then invited students to join in the conversation by asking questions or discussing issues in agriculture that concerned them.
Maneuvering around the tables set up around the theater, Loos held the microphone "Phil Donahue style" as he described it, as audience members stood up to voice their comments and questions about agricultural issues. The topics, and the speakers, changed every few minutes covering topics such as genetically modified organisms, organic farming, animal vaccinations, horse meat consumption and many others.
"The biggest challenge we have in the food, fiber, pharmaceutical and fuel industries today are that no one outside of agriculture understands that everything lives, everything dies, and death with a purpose gives full meaning to life," Loos said.
Mariana Chapela, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, was one of the many attendees who spoke up on topics that concerned her. As a graduate student working on her master in Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Chapela attended the event not expecting it to be an informal speech and open discussion on agricultural. But, she said she was happy she attended.
"It was really interesting. It's good to know people have certain beliefs about certain things, especially when we talk about hot topics like organics or GMOs. But I think the key thing, especially if you are in science, is to keep an open mind," Chapela said.
Although the goal of the event was to invite non-agricultural students to attend and participate in the discussion, the majority of attendees were students from the College of Ag. Milstein and other coordinators for the event aim to have a more diverse audience at Ag Confessions next year.
"Hopefully next year [more clubs] will get involved or if we do it again they'll get more involved. We've had a really good response to it and that's something that we're really excited about because we haven't had that in the past," Milstein said.
The thought for the name for Ag Confessions was inspired by the popular CSU Confessions Facebook page. When planning this event, coordinators aimed to come up with a name that would intrigue college students and encourage non-agricultural students to attend the event. The name might change next year, but the event will not.
Milstein said, "We're hoping we've built the foundation strong enough to where somebody can take it, run with it, bring commodity groups, bring student organizations together to show how diverse agriculture is." ❖