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Event highlights importance of agriculture

Agriculture was visible in many ways during the Ag Day on Campus event held April 11 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

The event began with speeches by numerous people associated with ag-based organizations, including Randy Romanski, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. A large John Deere tractor was parked near a mechanical bull. A short distance away, children petted goats in a pen.

While those events are all part of Wisconsin’s agriculture scene, organizers of this year’s Ag Day on Campus hoped visitors took away a deeper, perhaps less obvious message -- agriculture is vital to all of our lives.

“We want people to have a good time, to enjoy the different events and the booths by student ag organizations,” said Aleah Cole, a senior animal science major from Sartell, Minnesota. “But we want them to think about what they see here, what they learn, and then realize that agriculture is what makes the food they buy in the grocery store possible.”

Cole and Lashawna Vogel, a junior from Denmark majoring in agriculture marketing communications, were chief organizers of Ag Day on Campus. They stressed how the event is intended to educate attendees about the many facets of agriculture.

Teaching moments were certainly occurring at goat pens set up at one end of the event. Young children eagerly petted the animals and asked many questions about them. “What do they eat?” one youngster asked about the goats. “Why is one bigger than the other?” another queried.

Cole said, “That’s what we want to see, to see those questions and that learning going on. You want people to get more familiar with what happens on a farm.”

Additional learning was occurring at a couple dozen student organization booths where students answered questions and discussed various aspects of agriculture with attendees. Later in the day, students and community members attended a dinner made of locally grown food.

Romanski, a University of Wisconsin-River Falls alum, was attending his first Ag Day on Campus event. He said the day recognizes the vital role agriculture plays in Wisconsin, where it is a $104.8 billion industry in which one of every nine state residents is employed.

Romanski said, “Where does people’s food come from? Where does their fiber come from? This event helps people make those connections.”

Michael Orth, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, noted the university’s “rich, longtime, strong reputation in agriculture.” UW-River Falls includes such ag-related amenities as the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence, Wisconsin’s only collegiate rodeo, and the Farm and Industry Short Course.

Orth said, “These are only a few of the ways that our university connects to agriculture and natural resources.”

Under sunny skies, event attendees participated in numerous activities. Students whooped and hollered enthusiastically as their friends took turns riding a mechanical bull. Others practiced trying to rope structures that represented cattle. Still others enjoyed fresh cheese curds produced at the campus dairy plant.

Katie Ketchum, a sophomore agricultural education major from Altura, Minnesota, said she hoped people at Ag Day on Campus enjoyed numerous aspects of the event. She also wanted them to learn about agriculture along the way.

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