Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at 40th Ag Day

Ag Day 2015The relative cold weather in the morning gave way to warmth and sunshine in the afternoon as an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 visitors flocked to the 40th Ag Day at the University of Delaware to see an array of agricultural and natural resource exhibits, enjoy great entertainment and find out the winner of the recipe contest.

Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), welcomed the crowd to Ag Day and explained how the event was started 40 years ago by David Frey, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, who Rieger said is “still on the faculty, still teaching great courses, and still a big part of Ag Day.”

The theme of this year’s Ag Day was “Farm to Table” and Rieger said that concept is “kind of a revolution today in agriculture — it’s really changing the food system.”

Rieger noted that CANR is part of that revolution, with students who work on the campus farm “growing kale and broccoli and lettuce, and things like that,” with most of the food going to the Food Bank of Delaware or restaurants in downtown Newark.

As a result, Rieger said, “We in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are part of the local food movement, as are millions of people across the country, and that’s what we’re going to celebrate today with our theme Farm to Table.”

As part of that Farm to Table mission, the Ag Day planning committee arranged to have a special recipe contest.

The first place winner of the contest was Pamela Braun, whose recipe for a Luscious Spring Green Salad earned her gifts from the UDairy Creamery, honey from the campus apiary, a certificate for mixed vegetable baskets from UD Fresh to You and an additional barrel of fresh tomatoes.

Braun decided to donate all of her prize winnings to the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, which had a booth in the Ag Day Community Tent.

The other winners were Karen Burkett’s Goulash, which came in second place, and Valerie Smirlock’s Crustless Quiche, which came in third place. Both received UDairy Creamery gifts and honey from the campus apiary, and Burkett also received a certificate for a mixed vegetable basket from UD Fresh to You.

Another popular aspect of Ag Day this year was the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) asking attendees to participate in three separate research studies. Those who took part were paid in cash for their participation and by the end of the day CEAE paid out around $6,000 to more than 500 participants.

Two projects investigated consumer preference for oysters with varied information regarding water pollution and nutrient levels in the water. The research team has also collected data from consumers at the 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown, Delaware, Joe’s Famous Tavern in Wilmington and the Speakeasy at the Wright House in Newark. As a part of the oyster studies, research participants had the opportunity to purchase various oysters and have them prepared on the half shell, fried, or in a bag of ice to be brought home.

A third study was conducted on charitable giving as it related to issues of water infrastructure. Participants first earned money by completing a task on the computer, and then were asked if they would like to donate some of this money to either the American Water Works Association or the Conservation Fund. The study helped the researchers better understand how important water infrastructure is to individuals and how they would most like to protect it for future generations.

The Food Bank of Delaware truck was also on hand to collect donations from the community.

In addition, those gathered at the 40th Ag Day were able to take in over 90 exhibits and witness a variety of demonstrations, including a beehive, free-flight bird show and a tree-climbing exhibition. There also were live bands featuring UD faculty and professionals.

Always popular at Ag Day is the plant sale organized by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) and ice cream from the UDairy Creamery. This year the creamery sold treats to around 3,000 patrons.

Those in attendance also had the option of taking a tour of the CANR farm. “I call it a farm tour but it’s much, much more than a farm,” Rieger said. “The name of the college is Agriculture and Natural Resources, and a lot of what we do has to do with keeping the soil from eroding, keeping the water pure and the air clean.”

Rieger noted that the 350-acre farm has croplands, pastures, wetlands, woodlands and streams, almost all of which fall within the city limits of Newark.

“The farm is much more than just a place where we raise animals and grow plants, it’s a place where we have environmental services going on,” said Rieger. “That’s what we do in CANR, a little bit of both — feed the world, protect the planet.

“That’s what our students go out into the world to do, and what’s great is that as they approach graduation, there are two jobs for every graduate that we can produce in the United States. Agriculture and natural resources careers are in some of the highest demand of anything in the country and all of those folks will have wonderful careers.

“They’ll probably have multiple job offers before they even leave here so if you’ve got a nephew, niece, son or daughter or grandson thinking about what they want to do when they go off to college, think about agriculture and natural resources.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Lindsay Yeager

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.