Event puts spotlight on agriculture, related issues in fun way

Kelly Pfeifer (left), a sophomore from Madison, receives instructions from Alex Jessen, a sophomore from Bloomfield, before trying out the precision agriculture sprayer simulator during the Northeast Agstravaganza last week.

It would be difficult to find a more fitting name for the “Northeast Agstravaganza” that took place last week as part of National Agriculture Week.

Part agriculture and part extravaganza, the event featured Northeast ag students presenting and displaying the research they have conducted in booths for the public.

The third annual Agstravaganza took place last week in the lower level of Union 73, providing an opportunity for nonagricultural majors and faculty to learn about farm-related issues and advances in agriculture.

Courtney Nelson, Northeast precision agriculture trainer, said students involved in the five Northeast agricultural clubs were invited to participate. The clubs are diversified ag, horticulture, ag business, vet tech and Collegiate Farm Bureau, which is a branch of the greater organization that advocates for ag issues.

“We have different booths here today to showcase different sectors or pieces of agriculture,” Nelson said. “My first year working at the college was the first year of this event, so I jumped right in with being involved with it.”

With the precision agriculture booth, for example, students could sit in a simulator that had them drive through a field and spray. The simulator had large monitors all around to check out as they made their way to the field, similar to how it would be driving that type of equipment.

The vet tech club had students show where the proper place would be to inject a needle into a steer’s neck, with other activities to showcase that. The head and neck of a steer was part of a life-size model that made it realistic. Students were given a syringe with water to inject in the neck, trying to get it in the proper place.

Cheyenne Keil, a sophomore from Allen, said the proper part of the neck depends on such factors as whether the vet is seeking to draw blood or give medicine.

The horticulture club explored different types of ice melt and discussed the consequences for grass, depending on the type of ice melt, especially if it was over-applied.

The natural resources booth used a Jenga game model to demonstrate if water, topsoil, air space or other things in soil aren’t available, it can topple the soil.

The ag business club used a grocery store simulator. Students had a variety of food and products presented, such as a 2-liter cola bottle and cereal. The students broke down how much of every dollar went to such categories as marketing, transportation, production and more.

Natalie Brabec, a sophomore from Clarkson, said based on research from the USDA farm dollar, only 7.9 cents on average goes to the farmer.

“It’s interesting because (when prices go up), a lot of people think it is going to the farmer, when in reality, it is only 7.9 cents of every dollar, so it is just a small fraction of it,” Brabec said. “It does change from year to year. The food dollar we are using (for this activity) is from the year 2022.”

Another booth had food sampling, such as corn-fed versus grass-fed beef, or genetically modified grain products versus those that were natural. Those participating were asked to tell the difference.

Nelson said this event provides a showcase for students to display all that they have learned in the classroom so far this semester. Another benefit is that it helps students interact with others and learn to talk and answer questions about what they know.

“The grocery store simulator is fun for them to think about because we all go to the grocery store. We all shop, so to think about where that money goes is important,” Nelson said.

The event happens each year during National Agricultural Week, which was March 17-23 this year. The Northeast event was sponsored by the CHS Foundation.

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