Ag Day event shares true story of agriculture with students, community

Michelle Stangler
Organizations were represented from many areas in agriculture, including the Horticulture Society, which has seen recent success in growth of the club’s activities and membership.

The agricultural industry continues to grow thanks to the availability of information about emerging technologies to ensuring resource availability for the upcoming generation, which is key for continued success. All of this and more was available during Ag Day on Campus at UW-River Falls (UWRF), an annual event hosted by UWRF Collegiate Farm Bureau that works to showcase Wisconsin agriculture on campus and the local community.

Ag Day on Campus is an annual event hosted by UWRF Collegiate Farm Bureau that works to showcase Wisconsin agriculture among the UW - River Falls campus and community. The event provides UWRF students and community members an opportunity to engage with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) student-led organizations and agriculture-related companies to tell the true story of agriculture.

This year, three Collegiate Farm Bureau chapters across the state hosted Ag Day events on their respective campuses, UW-Platteville, UW-Madison and UWRF. Through support of industry partners, organizers encouraged all college students, staff and community members to learn more about agriculture.

“It’s a partnership throughout our entire campus,” said Joe Schlies, co-chair of the event, adding that the celebration highlighted over 20 campus-related agriculture booths and the input of industry experts in areas of conservation, dairy, equine, business, and fraternity and sororities.

This year's theme was “Deep Roots, Bright Future” which acknowledges the traditions and the backgrounds people come from to continue the legacy of agriculturalists for the future.

Activities at the Ag Expo provided many ways to engage with CAFES organizations, including the campus Rodeo Club.

Participants wanted to share the story of how the nation’s farmers and ranchers are leading the way in climate-smart practices and reducing emissions, enriching the soil, and protecting the water and air, all while producing more food, fiber and renewable than ever. 

“You have people from all walks of life who come to this event, people from the other (college) programs on campus who attend,” Schlies said. “It shows how agriculture influences all of us.”

Co-chair of the event Katrina Hoesly said the industry already has so many traditions, and the event strived to continue its goal of connecting even more people to the field of agriculture.

“As we look toward the future, there are no limitations to what agriculture may look like in years down the road,” said Hoesly.

Interim Dean of the College of Agricultural Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Olson, has been in agriculture his entire career starting at the university in 1997.

“As a person with a lifelong connection to production agriculture, I am amazed by the changes and advancements in agriculture since I drove my first tractor on my dad and grandpa's farm,” said Olson, who is serving as interim CAFES dean since fall. He also wears the hat of professor of agricultural engineering technology.

Through Olson’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the event, he acknowledged that by 2050, there will be 2 billion more people to feed and asked the students how that could happen.

“One thing that has not changed – there will always be a demand for smart, hard-working and dedicated individuals that are passionate about agriculture,” Olson said, answering the question of who will step up to feed the world.

Chancellor Maria Gallo, a crop scientist who teaches courses in crop improvement and genetics, also shared her passion for agriculture.

“Today is about celebrating the positive impact agriculture has on all of us – the innovation taking place in the agricultural industry and the practices producers and growers are taking to better preserve our environment,” said Gallo.

Greg Peterson of Peterson Farm Brothers finished the event with performing a few of the group’s parodies and how he has helped advocated for the agricultural industry.

The event, which was held indoors this year, included activities throughout the day which ranged from sampling cheeses, practicing rodeo skills, listening to speakers including UWRF student and Minnesota’s Princess Kay of the Milky Way, Rachel Rynda. Event-goers also wandered through the expo, perusing campus organization and partner booths.

Guests were also treated to an activity focused on sustainability followed by a panel discussion featuring industry leaders representing farm machinery, nurseries and ag finance. A dinner featuring Wisconsin-grown foods was followed up by a session led by Greg Peterson of Peterson Farm Brothers. Peterson shared how he and his siblings advocate for agriculture via parody music videos brimming with catchy ag-related lyrics.

At the end of the day, the activities enjoyed by hundreds of students fulfilled the day's main goal: connecting more people to the agricultural industry.

“This event really helps show that no matter who we are or what we do in our lives, we are all tied to agriculture in some way,” said Hoesly.