Homecoming breakfast honors farmers

by Joe Carlson

University alumni, students and staff members ate a $7 breakfast Saturday and paid only 50 cents — the price that a farmer would receive for the food in a wholesale market.
More than 350 people attended the Farmer’s Share Breakfast, held at the Terrace Cafe in the St. Paul Student Center and organized by the St. Paul Homecoming Committee. The meal consisted of scrambled eggs, hash browns, muffins and sausages, as well as coffee, milk and juice.
The two main purposes of the breakfast were to educate diners and bring the community together, St. Paul Homecoming Committee member Mary Buschette said.
First, organizers wanted to demonstrate the relatively small return farmers receive from their products’ profits. Most people do not realize “how little goes to the people who produce the food,” St. Paul Homecoming Committee member Doris Mold said.
Normally a farmer will receive about 24 percent of the grocery store price of their food, Mold said. They receive about 21 percent of restaurant prices.
Mark Eggebrecht, a junior in chemical engineering, said he thinks farmers should receive a bigger share of the profit on their food. “They do all the work and only get a fifth of the profit,” he said.
The other purpose of the breakfast was to bring people of different ages and interests together to celebrate Homecoming and build community, Buschette said.
Mold said the breakfast was also an attempt to fuse the tradition of the farmers’ annual fall harvest with the spirit of Homecoming.
“It’s all about connections” — the connections between alumni, students, faculty and staff, Buschette said.
Forty-two local and national organizations donated food and funds to make the breakfast a reality, Mold said. After the meal, the remaining food was donated to the Catholic Charities Family Center.
Mold said that the event would not have been possible without the participation of student volunteers and the Collegiate Agri-Women, a student organization made up of females in agriculture majors. “A lot of the planning was done by students,” who also set up and cleaned up the Terrace Cafe, Mold said.
Various members of the University and agricultural communities, including University President Nils Hasselmo and Minnesota Milk Producers representative Bruce Cottington, volunteered to serve the food.
Although the breakfast was a first, organizers hope it will become an annual celebration.
During the breakfast, the Little Red Oil Can Awards were given out to one representative each from the University’s student body, staff, faculty, alumni and organizations.
The awards were given on the basis of outstanding contribution to the St. Paul campus community, according to the Little Red Oil Can Award Committee.
The winners were: Food Science and Nutrition Professor Linda Brady; alumnus Richard D. Goodrich; staff member Sandee Kelsey; Applied Economics senior Julie Tesch; and the St. Paul Student Center Board of Governors.
The oil can award was created in 1916 and was first given to E.M. Freeman, then-dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics.
Freeman’s colleagues wanted to recognize his contributions to the campus, which was then called the Farm campus. Since he was known for running out of gas in his Ford Model-T, his colleagues gave him the Little Red Oil Can Award as a tongue-in-cheek gesture of affection and appreciation.
The award was given out until 1975, when it was retired. But the tradition was revived last year as part of the Homecoming festivities in St. Paul. This year marked the 61st award ceremony.
Also at the breakfast, Homecoming contributor Mark Allen received the Spirit of Homecoming Award, which was specially created this year to honor his hard work and dedication, Buschette said. “Mark was the person who kept us going,” she said.
During and following the breakfast, a number of other events took place, including the Meet the Deans event in which St. Paul college administration members were available to chat with the public.