|By DOUG SCHMITZ
AMES, Iowa — A group of 16 Iowa State University (ISU) agriculture students, as strange as it may sound, will visit an Iowa farm for the first time.
That is the mission of the 2006 Agricultural Weekend Experience (AWE), April 7-9.
“More than half of all ISU College of Agriculture students did not grow up on a farm,” said Alicia Clancy, AWE program coordinator and ISU senior graduating this spring in journalism and ag public administration.
“This weekend experience is an opportunity for them to learn about farm management, livestock care, spring planting and more.
“This weekend (also) allows students to see firsthand what an Iowa farm is really like. Students will ask questions about the important decisions Iowa farmers make each day in order to provide food, fiber and energy to the world.”
Established in 1937 and co-sponsored by the ISU College of Agriculture, the AWE program has provided scholarships to more than 800 ISU students during the past nine years through support for student activities and internships, grants for research and demonstration projects, as well as support for other programs that help advance Iowa agriculture.
This spring, AWE students range from Iowa natives in agriculture business, ag systems technology, entomology and pre-veterinary medicine, and a horticulture major from Minnesota, to microbiology and genetics students hailing from Malaysia and South Korea, as well as a food science graduate student from the Philippines.
During next month’s AWE weekend, students will be divided into two groups and paired with host farm families in western Iowa from April 7-9 and northern Iowa from April 8-9, touring local agriculture businesses, such as ethanol plants and dairies, as well as learning about an Iowa farm’s daily operations.
“It provides an opportunity to enhance their skills and perceptions of the agriculture industry,” Clancy said.
“This will help them enter the job market as valuable employees in the agriculture industry.”
In fact, Sioux City, Iowa native Nick Behrens will participate in the AWE program for a second time, in which he requested to be paired again with Mark and Betty Schwery at their Crawford County farm in Vail, Iowa, where he visited last year.
“AWE showed me how hard farmers have to work to make a living,” said the entomology senior about the Schwery’s crop operation in western Iowa.
ISU freshman Evan Lowry said he got into agriculture sort of by accident when he applied to the microbiology program, which is directed by the College of Agriculture.
“I never really knew that there were different colleges for all the various majors,” the Ames, Iowa native said. “The more I learned about microbiology and animal science, the more they seem to go hand-in-hand.
“I happened to hear Dr. Kenealy talk about the animal science program, and then I was hooked. I love animal science and microbiology, so it is great to be able to do both within the College of Agriculture.”
The reason Lowry said he hadn’t visited a farm until now was because he never really had the chance.
“I have never been invited and never had the opportunity to work on a farm,” Lowry said. “I have always lived within the city limits growing up and never really got outside to experience farm life.
“I had spent the night at a friend’s house that lived in the country when I was younger, but I have never had the farm life experience. I jumped at the opportunity to go and experience things that I haven’t before in the field of agriculture and animal science.”
As an engineering student, Jacquelyn Bures, a freshman from Hiawatha, Iowa, said she wasn’t enjoying her classes, so she went to her advisor, who had introduced her to the ag systems technology program and explained what she could do with it as a degree.
“I chose to switch majors and saw (AWE) as an opportunity to see farm life firsthand,” she said.
Lim “Ron” Kok Keong from Selayang Baru Selang, Malaysia, who’s a transfer student in his first semester at ISU, said he’s not surprised this was going to be his first visit to a farm.
“I think I’m lucky enough because since I was in middle school, I was given the chance to visit farms in my country,” said the ISU microbiology sophomore. “I built my interest slowly from there.”
Cherokee, Iowa native Kate Burkhardt said her parents influenced her to get into the field of agriculture when she didn’t know what she wanted to study at ISU.
“With an interest in the science part of agriculture, but wanting to gain knowledge in the field of business, I chose to go into ag business and got the best of both worlds,” said the ISU junior.
Bobbi Jo Reed, an ISU animal science/pre-vet major from Ottumwa, Iowa, said programs like 4-H and FFA should be made more available to non-farm students.
“I think it is phenomenally important that we give all kids a chance to learn about crops and livestock, since it is one of the driving forces behind our state economy,” she said.
This farm news was published in the March 29, 2006 issue of Farm World.