By SUSAN MYKRANTZ
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a freshman at The Ohio State University, Caroline Weihl was looking for a way to get involved on the campus. She was particularly interested in finding an organization that shared her passion for educating and promoting the agricultural industry.
“That is when I discovered Scarlet and Gray Ag Day,” Weihl said. “They were seeking a few more committee members and I jumped on the opportunity to get involved. Little did I know that three years later, I would have served as a sub-committee chairperson and now co-chair of SGAD.”
SGAD, now in its 15th year, was founded in 1999 by Mrs. Micki Zartman, according to Stephanie Verhoff. Verhoff, an agronomy major, is a member of the SGAD planning committee.
Verhoff said the program is geared towards fourth and fifth graders from elementary schools in Central Ohio. It is designed to teach the students about importance of agriculture through hands-on laboratory activities.
“Less than two percent of the United States population is directly involved in production agriculture,” Verhoff said. SGAD has taken on the great task of sharing the importance of agriculture with students and how this affects their everyday lives.”
Many consumers, (adults and children) may believe milk comes from the grocery store rather than a dairy farm.
“As students in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, I feel it is our responsibility to get involved and embrace the opportunities to educate others about agriculture,” Verhoff said.
“These people are not only some of today’s youngest consumers, but they are our future decision and policy makers, teachers, doctors, and more. They need to understand how agriculture is integrated into our food, fuel and health industries.”
Verhoff said the SGAD Committee has evolved over the last 15 years by first only having one student co-chair to now having four. She said SGAD also started as a project of the Ag Education Society at Ohio State.
“Whereas most of our students on the committee were agricultural education majors, we now recruit students across all majors in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences,” Verhoff said. “We try to source each person’s individual expertise and talents to truly make our event successful.”
Verhoff said that the program has become much more complex.
Not only do they work with almost all the departments in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), but they work with other colleges and organizations across the campus that do not have direct connections with CFAES or agriculture.
“Our sessions have changed throughout the years as well,” Verhoff said. “We try to keep sessions diverse yet address current trends and topics in the agricultural industry.”
This year over 350 students from Brookside Elementary, Baldwin Road Junior High/STEM, Winchester Trail Elementary, Worthington Christian Schools, Clinton Elementary School and Genoa Christian Academy participated.
“SGAD benefits the students by providing a unique learning environment,” Verhoff said. “It uses hands-on sessions to demonstrate how their traditional class subject areas can all be applied to agriculture.”
Global ag experience
Verhoff added that no other field trip provides elementary students with the opportunity to incubate petri plates to study microbial growth and how this affects neonatal care of calves, examine the digestion of forages by a ruminant animal (cow), explore the role of a food scientist by engaging in sensory labs, or recognize that trees play a vital role in developing countries in regards to agroforestry and sustainability.
“Students leave with a better understanding of agriculture’s role in their daily lives and even possible careers in the agricultural industry” said Verhoff.
Weihl added that for the students, this may be their first interaction with the agricultural industry and its impact on the world.
“We hope they can learn more about agriculture, food production and the environment by attending this event,” said Weihl.
An agricultural communication major from Perrysburg, Ohio, Weihl said she has been involved with promoting SGAD to the media and invited guests.
“I work with the promotions side of the event,” she said. “That includes media and dignitaries, website and design, social media and publicity engagements.”
Weihl added that Scarlet and Gray Ag Day has been an integral part in her college career.
“It has helped me understand what I desire to do after graduation,” she said. “I have found my strengths to be in communication and promotions and I hope to attain a position in the agricultural industry where my skills can benefit our industry.”
Verhoff added that SGAD benefits the students in CFAES both through the student planning committee and the event itself.
“The committee brings together a diverse group of hardworking students who learn communication, teamwork, and leadership skills through their various responsibilities,” she said. “Student volunteers during the day of the event benefit by having the avenue to promote agricultural literacy. Often SGAD volunteers leave the day inspired to seek other opportunities to promote agriculture.”
Weihl said they choose the theme and programs based on current topics in agriculture.
“Our programs are chosen based on current topics in agriculture that these students may not know about,” she said. “Since these youth did not grow up to be involved with agriculture, there is a wide range of topics to be taught.”
Weihl added that this year, the theme was AgROUND the World.
“We wanted to focus our ideas on the expansion of global agriculture and how we each need to realize our worldwide contributions to the industry,” she said.
Weihl added that each year, the committee tries to improve the program by making changes to curriculum and themes.
“We have encountered challenges in providing unique but relatable topics that students will understand and utilize in their education,” she said. “However, we feel we have been successful in overcoming these challenges for a great event. The only thing we continually seek to do differently is raise the bar from the previous years. Educators of attending classrooms have high expectations of our program and we hope to set the standard for their students’ education.”