U of M Ag Ed Club hosts Ag Awareness Day

ST. PAUL - An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 students, staff and professors at the University of Minnesota experienced a little bit of agriculture during the third annual Agriculture Awareness Day April 17.

ST. PAUL - An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 students, staff and professors at the University of Minnesota experienced a little bit of agriculture during the third annual Agriculture Awareness Day April 17.

Held on a pedestrian only portion of Church Street for the second year in a row, the event is surrounded by classroom buildings.

Freshmen Xinzhu Ai and Natalia Bagriy saw a llama through a window in their classroom and came to marvel at it after class. It was the first time either had seen a llama in person.

They took pictures and touched Tootsy the 11-month-old llama held by Lisa Roker, a U of M freshman from Bird Island. Tootsy stood there for three hours, sucking up the attention of passers-by and being photographed, said her owner, Rick Carlson, of Carlson's Llovable Lllamas.

Carlson's Llovable Llamas of Waconia brought two animals to the awareness event. Their display also included wool and yard, a bucket of feed and llama facts.


Tootsy is no stranger to being in public. Last summer, she and her dam visited a nursing home in Waconia. Tootsy rode the elevator and made room-calls on all three floors.

Llamas are friendly and personable, he said, and they tend to draw people in.

"Every place we go with them, it's kind of a traffic jam," Carlson said.

A second llama, Starfyer, also nearly a year old, stood in the pen sheltered from the sun by a tent. The day had started with a light frost at 5 a.m. when the volunteers began setting up, but warmed nicely by afternoon.

Each display was sheltered by a tent. Exhibitors included AURI, the U of M College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, Midwest Dairy Association, Migrant Farm Workers Student Group, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center, Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Buffalo Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Grown, Youth Lamb and Wool Group, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and Cornucopia, Minnesota Pork Board, Minnesota Turkey, University of Minnesota Extension and 4-H.

The tents are a major expenditure for the U of M Ag Ed Club, which hosts the annual event, said student organizer Theresa Twohey of Stewartville, a U of M junior. They have a $10,000 annual budget for the one-day affair.

Sponsors this year included CHS, Coca-Cola, Minnesota Pork Board, Midwest Dairy Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Gold n' Plump, Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council and the CFANS Student Board. They also received a U of M Student Services Fees Grant.

The purpose of Agriculture Awareness Day is to bring awareness of agriculture to non-ag students, Twohey said. It gives them an opportunity to interact with farm animals and ask questions of knowledgeable students.


Cinnamon the Red and White Holstein seemed to enjoy the interaction.

"He's been enjoying lots of fingers," said U of M student Emily Krekelberg of Le Sueur, who stood watch over the calf that was one month old the day of the event, according to a sign in front of its calf hutch.

Visitors were also able to sample snack bars made with soy, turkey sandwiches and take home a tomato plant.

"It's on the Minneapolis campus for a reason," said Glen Schmidt, MFU education director. "Most of these students don't have much exposure to agriculture."

Schmidt said at least 200 people stopped by the Farmers Union tent to spin the wheel and answer an ag-trivia question. He asked questions about production agriculture and the farmer's share of the retail dollar.

MFU comes to the Agriculture Awareness Day to educate consumers about the farmer's share of the food dollar and to tell people what Farmers Union is about.

Jessica Boyum and her brother, John, spent the day holding two steers in halters in a pen. The steers came from their home farm, Homefront Cattle Co., in Chatfield. Jessica is a U of M student and John farms full time.

He left home at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at the site by 8:45 a.m., just in time for the 9 a.m. opening. The event concluded at 3 p.m.


The steers had been photographed tons of times and they received several compliments on their eyelashes, John said. Visitors also commented on the softness of the steer's hair. Many wanted to know if they were dairy cows. The beef steers were a Sim-Angus and Sim-Maine Anjou.

Chickens and lambs were also present, courtesy of the Marquette family of Wright County.

New this year, a group of 40 3- to 5-year-olds from university child care came through the event. They read a book about agriculture, made a plant pal and visited animals.

The Ag Ed Club will start preparing for next year's event right away, Twohey said. They conduct surveys of what to change for next year and in September select a date and put in an event application.

A lot of paperwork and planning is involved, Twohey said.

What To Read Next
Get Local