Ag-ed club students weigh in on nat’l issues

The club aims to inform about the process it takes to produce our food.

Rachel Raveling

For the first time last Thursday, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Agricultural Education Club brought Minnesota students into a national discussion about health, agriculture and food prices.

The club, along with many commodity groups from around the state, hosted the Food Dialogues viewing party.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance held a national panel discussion in Washington, D.C., while five other points around the country joined in, including members of the agricultural community in St. Paul.

Students observed the national discussion and held a local panel on the UniversityâÄôs St. Paul campus, with guest speakers including state representatives discussing government policy and farmers discussing natural resources and food supply.

The goal is to inform Americans and start a conversation about where their food comes from, how it is raised and what its impact is on their health, the health of the earth and the economy.

The Agricultural Education Club was asked to help host the event just a couple of weeks prior, said Julie Tesch, past and unofficial adviser for the club. She also helped coordinate the event.

Kirby Schmidt, an animal science and agricultural education student and an officer in the group, had the opportunity to represent the University, and Minnesota, in the nationally broadcast dialogue last week.

 âÄúWe all depend on agriculture because it is the foundation to our food, fiber and fuel, so it is important that we all become properly informed and educated on the values and importance of agriculture,âÄù Schmidt said.

He said the global population is growing so rapidly that the agricultural community needs to produce more food with less land and natural resources. He said he guesses there will be another similar event in the future.

The panel conversation was centered on how the next generation of consumers and agriculturalists is transforming.

Tesch said she hopes there will be more events like this one, because it is a great way to start a local discussion and bring many important people from the agricultural community together.

The ag-ed club on campus

The club also maintains a strong relationship with the national Future Farmers of America organization.

They work with FFA, which is based in grade schools across the country, to help youth improve their leadership skills and gain a professional platform in agriculture.

The club, one of the oldest on campus, was developed as part of the Applied Economics department at the University.

âÄúMy dad always said, âÄòEveryday youâÄôre a farmer, youâÄôre taking a gamble,âÄôâÄù said Kristen Wingert, the clubâÄôs president.

She said the group ties together all aspects of agriculture in an effort to reach students in a positive way. Managing money and economics is a large part of farming and agriculture because the market is unpredictable, she said.

The club organizes and sponsors events and competitions each year that bring FFA and 4-H, another youth agriculture club, members closer to their career goals.

Assisting Minnesota FFA members in career development at the University is one important aspect of the clubâÄôs itinerary.

In order for students to uphold standings in FFA, they must maintain an agricultural study program at the high school level. The Agricultural Education Club organizes and volunteers for events. They give young students the chance to network, compete and receive recognition for their achievements.

Most of the 45 students in the club are in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. The group tries to diversify each year by reaching out to students of other majors. Increasingly, horticulture and animal science majors have become involved with the group.

The club is funded partially by grants from CFANS, but the largest contributor to the group comes from the âÄúAll You Can Drink Milk StandâÄù they volunteer at during the Minnesota State Fair.