University and greater Newark community celebrate Ag Day
EVENTS AND CULTURE EDITOR
On Saturday, the 43rd iteration of the university’s Ag Day took place on the South College grounds. Open to all ages, Ag Day welcomed visitors with local farm animals, various plant species, plenty of food, local environmental interests and farmers, live music and university agricultural organizations. While the attractions and design of Ag Day have changed over the years, according to Mark Rieger, the dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, these changes have helped develop the event by including more interests and members of the community.
“It started up on what they used to call ‘The Mall’ which we now call The Green, by a couple of professors, Paul Sammelwitz and David Frey, and they decided they were going to take some agricultural equipment, some animals and do so some stuff on The Mall and show the people what we do,” Rieger says.
Over time, the arrival of local agricultural organizations, such as 4-H, and participation of university agriculture sororities and fraternities have helped transform the event.
“So it’s grown into this multifaceted thing with more of a festival atmosphere than what it started as originally, which was to educate and outreach to people on what we do in agriculture and why agriculture is important,” Rieger says.
In line with Ag Day’s origins in education, the event has given groups like the Master Gardeners a chance to increase their exposure and help the community in their own way. A nationwide organization focused on teaching gardeners who are experts in their region, the Master Gardeners partner with colleges, like the university, to lecture, conduct research and cultivate gardens within the community.
“We’re trying to save the Monarch Butterfly, as their [migration] to Mexico is in danger,” Ellen Hahn, a local Master Gardener, says. One of Hahn’s colleagues, Ellen Pell, adds “We reach a lot of people here, more people than we would normally, and we’re letting a lot of people know that their flight is endangered.”
The Master Gardeners came to Ag Day with a number of other causes and missions. Information pamphlets, flyers, books and handouts for children littered their tables on subjects ranging seeding, herbs, perennials and birds.
Aside from the literature, Ag Day was full of immersive learning experiences. In particular, live animal shows, most of which were run by students, showed the public how to care for and gave general information about various farm animals, such as pigs, horses, cows, chickens, goats and even bees.
The animals and widespread student engagement and contributions to the event were a highlight to Maya Huchla, a university alumnus and former planning committee member for the event.
“I love seeing all the animals and student groups, either from the College of Ag or from other parts of campus coming together to promote agriculture and kind of show off what they do, all the hard work they put in every year,” Huchla says. “It’s just a really fun day and amazing to see what the college puts out every year.”
Rieger had similar sentiment regarding personal highlights of the event, and to an extent, the value of the event itself.
“I just watch the people, and I watch the body language, the kids who may have never gotten a chance to pet a lamb or a snake or something. Maybe this is a day where they get out, get in touch with nature, with real animals and plants, and learn something about the world around them,” Rieger says. “It’s a way of us giving back to the community and giving them a good day.”