HAYS, Kan. – It can be difficult preparing for outdoor campus events the last few weeks of a school year, considering busy end-of-semester schedules and fickle spring weather.
The Collegiate Farm Bureau chapter at Fort Hays State University played a trick on Mother Nature this year.
On a sunny, 60-degree day when wind gusts didn’t attempt to match the temperature until later in the afternoon, the FHSU group enjoyed a record-setting day Tuesday in helping educate about and advocate for agriculture.
The event on the Fort Hays State campus originally started as Beef Day back in 2010 and was changed to Ag Day on Campus last year to invoke all types of agriculture.
“Our club is involved in all types of agriculture, including public policy,” said Brianna Stefan, president of FHSU’s Collegiate Farm Bureau. “So we decided to change it to Ag Day so it wasn’t focused on just beef. I thought it was a great turnout.”
Steph Eckroat, coordinator for Ellis County Farm Bureau, agreed.
“We wanted to bring more awareness to agriculture and all the commodities, to showcase what we do in our state,” she said. “We want to educate about agriculture’s impact on the consumers and the economic value of agriculture in Kansas.”
Awareness is the reason Collegiate Farm Bureau was started in Kansas about 15 years ago, Eckroat said.
“We realized we supported these kids in 4-H as youth and in FFA in high school, but there was nothing to keep them connected when they were in college,” she said. “So Farm Bureau started this group so these kids can still have the connection and network with people. We’re really starting to see now that it’s paid off.”
In the past, a couple of agriculture-related tables were set up for the free lunch. Tuesday, more than 20 organizations set up booths, representing entities ranging from water conversation to crops, from pollinators to beef, pork, and dairy and poultry.
Those visiting the area near the Memorial Union got to experience live demonstrations, including cow milking and simulated calf pulling. There was even an old fashioned cotton gin. Potential future FHSU students represented FFA chapters from two area schools.
“I’m really happy the FFA groups came to campus,” said Stefan, a junior animal science major from Minneola. “They see us trying to teach people about what we love, and hopefully it motivates them to do it, too.”
“We are the future generation,” she added, “so it’s up to us to educate people.”
A student attending the event was asked to name one reason why everyone has something to do with farming, no matter where they lived.
“Because everyone eats,” the student replied.
“Yes, whatever you eat came from the farm in some way, shape or form,” Stefan said.
Tuesday, about 450 people ate hamburgers and hot dogs cooked by board members of Ellis County Farm Bureau, a record number from years past.
Among those attending were members of leadership of Kansas Farm Bureau – President Rich Felts from southeast Kansas and CEO Terry Holdren from the Manhattan area. Also on hand Tuesday was Harry Watts, director of the Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation in Manhattan and an FHSU alum.
Numerous county leaders were in attendance as well.
“We have three board members who were involved in Collegiate Farm Bureau at Fort Hays State,” Eckroat said. “Keeping the connection, while in college, is a great way to engage students and encourage them to continue being advocates for agriculture in Kansas."
Stefan said she is proud of the work that the FB organization represents, and she wasn’t talking about Facebook.
She said she thought about attending a community college after high school but changed her mind after visiting Fort Hays State. She got involved in Collegiate Farm Bureau her freshman year.
“I just loved the campus right away,” Stefan said. “It isn’t too big and not too small, but a happy medium. It feels homey and has a sense of community. It’s just right, perfect for me.”
Just like Tuesday’s Ag Day.