Farmers across Wisconsin and the rest of the nation are beset by struggles of many sorts, and while those difficulties are real, there is much to celebrate in modern agriculture too.
Ag Day on Campus at UW-River Falls is April 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will highlight the importance of the agriculture sector. Many ag-related advances, such as technology-driven, farm-related jobs and efforts to open new ag markets, are signs that farming, despite challenges, has a bright future, organizers said.
“This event really helps show that no matter who we are or what we do in our lives, we all are tied to agriculture in some way,” says Katrina Hoesly, co-chair of Ag Day on Campus and a junior from Denmark who is majoring in ag marketing communications and agricultural business.
Ag Day on Campus was started in 2012 and is put on by the UWRF Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter. The attendance by many on campus and from the surrounding community is evidence of the recognition of agriculture’s importance, says Joe Schlies, who is co-chairing this year’s event with Hoesly and is a senior agricultural business major from Denmark.
“You have people from all walks of life who come to this event, people from the other programs on campus who attend,” he says. “It shows how agriculture influences all of us.”
After a 9:30 opening ceremony at the University Center mall, event attendees can visit more than 20 booths set up by student organizations and businesses, many of which will feature interactive activities. Farm animals will be on site for attendees to pet and learn about until 2 p.m.
“For some people, this will be the first time they have seen a farm animal in person,” Schlies says.
A dinner featuring Wisconsin-grown foods is scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Agricultural Science Hall on campus. The meal is free and open to all. The dinner is followed by a panel of agriculture experts discussing farm-related topics. Then, at 7 p.m., in the Riverview Ballroom in the University Center, the acclaimed Kansas-based Peterson Farm Brothers will perform their farm-related musical parodies.
Find more info on this year’s Ag Day on Campus: https://www.uwrf.edu/community/ag-day
Connecting to food
During the coronavirus pandemic, people became more interested in where their food comes from. Hoesly and other event organizers said one of their chief aims is to help people attending the event make connections with the food they consume.
Sierra Howry, a professor of agriculture economics who works to organize Ag Day on Campus, says the event “helps bridge the gap” between urban and rural communities. Local daycares are invited to attend the event, allowing youngsters to learn about agriculture.
“We hope with early exposure, these children will be comfortable asking questions and learning about where their food comes from as they get older,” Howry says.
In addition to teaching people about how their food is produced, Ag Day on Campus provides students with an opportunity to engage with others on “real-world issues in agriculture,” said Dean Olson, interim dean of the UWRF’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The event also provides attendees with hands-on agricultural experiences, he said.
“How often do community members have the chance to see a lamb or to sit in the seat of a modern tractor?” Olson said.
Student Rachel Rynda knows plenty about agriculture, having grown up on a dairy farm near Montgomery, Minn. She currently is serving as Princess Kay of the Milky Way, a role in which she speaks with groups of all sorts advocating for dairy farmers. A junior majoring in agriculture business, Rynda works to spread awareness about the importance of farming in modern society.
“There is a story before the food gets to the grocery store,” Rynda says. “Helping people make those connections, about the role that agriculture plays in our everyday lives, that is what we’re trying to do.”