May 3, 2016
Hundreds of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students mingled with a Holstein cow and calf, a fistulated steer, and learned about corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat production in late April. It might sound like a field trip to a local farm, but it took place at UNL's City Campus for Husker Food Connection 2016.
POPULAR ATTRACTION: The fifth annual Husker Food Connection drew hundreds of students to UNL's City Campus Union, where they mingled with livestock and learned about crop production. Volunteers gave away just under 2,000 tee-shirts, and fed around 600 people.
"The goal is to bring together City Campus and East Campus students. We want to reach a wide variety of students – not just those with a background in agriculture," explains Rachel Fuxa, Husker Food Connection 2016 chief coordinator, who's also a member of the Collegiate Farm Bureau and an intern at the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN). "We also encourage an open dialogue among students. I believe no misconception can be addressed without an open dialogue."
At Husker Food Connection, city campus students get the chance see livestock like this Holstein cow, taken directly from the herd at Prairieland Dairy.
The event is sponsored by Prairieland Dairy, Aurora Cooperative, Agrow, Inc. Union Farms, Brett Kriefels, Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Skeeter Barnes,Nebraska commodity boards; including the Nebraska Soybean Board, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Wheat Board, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Midwest Dairy, Nebraska Soybean Association, Nebraska Beef Council as well as the Nebraska Farm Bureau, Lancaster County Farm Bureau and many more County Farm Bureau’s, UNL Collegiate Farm Bureau, AFAN, the UNL Agronomy Club, the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab, and the UNL Mobile Beef Lab and the UNL Animal Science Department. "This is such a well-sponsored event," Fuxa says. "I know I couldn't bring all of this together by myself."
UNL sophomore Ben Rice (left) and a Holstein calf from his family's Prairieland Dairy draw a crowd at Husker Food Connection. The event allows city campus students to have a dialogue with ag students like Rice while interacting with farm animals.
Students are often said to be some of the best ag ambassadors, and the event provides a chance for students with ag backgrounds to tell their story and field questions from their urban peers.
"You've got ag students that can connect with consumer students who may end up making decisions that impact food production practices later in life," says Emily Skillett, livestock development coordinator at AFAN who helped organize the event. "A lot of times consumers hear misconceptions through the internet or social media. This is a good opportunity for both sides of the spectrum to talk about food production and clear up any misconceptions."
UNL's Agronomy Team, front row, from left to right: Kristen Albrecht, Aliesha Dethlefs, Amanda Vodvarka, Katie Harrell, and Samantha Teten. Back row: Brad Meusch, Charlie Blowers, Cody McClellan, and Cody Kuester.
"With this whole generation on social media, information travels like wildfire," Skillett adds. "When you have one student talking to a dairy farmer about how he raises his cows, and she shares that with 1,000 of her Facebook friends, I think it's amazing how fast it spreads."
Emily Thornburg and Boone McAfee (right) with the Nebraska Corn Board provide visitors with information on Nebraska corn and ethanol production.
Students left with free HFC t-shirts sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board and chowed down on barbeque catered by Skeeter Barnes. Volunteers gave away just under 2,000 t-shirts, and fed around 2,600 people. "I think there was a lot of learning on both sides of the spectrum," says Skillett. "The students that came in to visit and see the animals learned a lot, and the students volunteering had really good conversations with the students visiting as well."
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