Opening Eyes to Farming

4/13/2013 7:00 AM
By Jessica Rose Spangler Reporter

Penn State Holds Fifth Annual Ag Day

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — “People aren’t as far removed from the farm as they think they are,” Morgan Hetherington said as she described Penn State’s fifth annual Ag Day on April 3.

Held annually on the Penn State campus, Ag Day is a way for the College of Agricultural Sciences to show the general student population, plus anyone else who attends, why agriculture is important and that it’s more than just “sows, plows and cows,” as Hetherington sings in an Ag Day parody video at

According to Sara Calaman, co-chairwoman of this year’s event, “Ag Day is to open the eyes of the public to ag, from the food they eat to the clothes on their back to the flowers in their garden.”

Aiming to get the message to more than just college students, Calaman and her co-chairwoman, Jeanette Blank, started a new Ag Day tradition by inviting local day care providers to the all-day event.

One hit with toddlers and college students alike was the animal agriculture display, where they got to see calves, lambs, piglets, pet therapy dogs and a donated New Holland tractor.

While those helping with Ag Day answered questions ranging from “how old are they” to “where do I get one,” visitors played with the baby animals and climbed into the tractor’s seat.

Other visitors were amazed by some of the statistics on display, such as “cows only have teeth on the bottom” or “a sow can give birth to 8-12 piglets in one litter, and can have two litters in one year.”

“I love it mainly because I love the animals,” psychology senior Robin Tuttle said as she sat on the tractor seat. “But I feel like Ag Day is really unique to Penn State. I come every year.”

Inside the HUB’s Alumni Hall — a major “hub” of student life on campus — College of Ag departments, clubs and Greek life organizations set up displays about themselves.

For example, Alpha Zeta Fraternity used a map to display how its alumni, all College of Agricultural Sciences graduates, now hold multiple careers across the country, ranging from a veterinarian in Wisconsin to a dairy farmer in Connecticut to someone working with African farmers in Texas and abroad.

“This is a great way for the College of Ag to create a buzz about what we do and show that to other students and the general public,” said Rebecca Shaw, an Alpha Zeta member and junior in agribusiness management.

The Horticulture Club had a hands-on activity — beans in a bag. By placing a wet paper towel inside a plastic sandwich bag and putting a variety of bean seeds on top, visitors could prepare an exhibit to take home that would have sprouted seeds within three days.

“We wanted to do something simple, but hort-related, that could be done indoors. And we’re all really kids at heart,” said club member David Leinbach.

The relatively new plant science majors also had an interactive activity, sponsored by Dow AgroSciences — planting a pansy in a cup. As partakers were assembling their flowerpots, the students manning the booth explained how to care for the flower and when they would be able to safely transplant it outdoors.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center brought two owls as its star attractions. While they weren’t for petting, students could get within a few feet and learn a bit about them.

But the animals, flowers and beans weren’t to be outdone by the real draw of the day — free ice cream, sponsored by the Ag Advocates.

Once Ag Day guests visited five booths and got stickers signifying their attendance, they received a free cone filled with Penn State ice cream.

While touring the attractions, students were asked to make their mark on agriculture, literally, by putting inked thumbprints on a set of logos, which will be framed and placed in each of the agriculture buildings on campus.

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