Faces of Ag Tour broadens student’s view of Minnesota agriculture

On Saturday, September 22nd nearly 50 students had the opportunity to participate in the “Faces of Agriculture” tour. The tour allowed students to explore diversified aspects of agriculture that they may not have previously been familiar with. This is the 4th year that students in Amy Smith’s AFEE 1001 class have been able to attend, and the 2nd year Fances Homan’s APEC 1001 class has joined them. In the words of Emelia Melson, a freshman studying agricultural communication and marketing, “The Minnesota Faces of Ag Tour expanded my view of Minnesota agriculture from livestock and corn to orchards and bee colonies and maple syrup producers. I realized that Minnesota agriculture can offer me more than pigs, corn, and soybeans.”

The first stop on the tour was the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. Here, students had the chance to explore the farmer’s market and see what it had to offer. The booths sold products ranging from panache and maple syrup to garden produce and kettle corn. Emelia says, “I looked for the most interesting table I could find and had a conversation with the people there.” Her group visited with Mark Christopher at the Maple Leaf Orchard stand. Mark has been selling his maple syrup, honey, and apples at the St. Paul Farmer’s market since 1993. Emelia and her group learned all about how maple is syrup is made and how honey is harvested during their time at the farmer’s market.

Next, the class visited the Wozupi Tribal Gardens in Prior Lake. The farm is home to a variety of agricultural products, including an organic orchard, vegetables, and chickens. The farm also supports honey bees, grows native edible plants, and produces maple syrup. Matt Smaus, the agricultural lead at Wozupi Tribal Gardens guided the farm tour and answered many questions from students throughout the tour. Matt’s outlook on agricultural practices and knowledge of organic farming gave many students a chance to hear from and interact with someone whose perspectives on agriculture may have been different then their own. Emelia says that although she had preconceived notions about organic labeling prior to the tour, she “walked away from the tour with a new perspective on organic labeling and sales.”

The tour concluded with a stop to the Cannon Valley Ranch in Goodhue. Owned by Bruce, LeeAnn, and Taylor Waugh, Cannon Valley Ranch is home to 100 registered black Angus females used for breeding stock. Bruce and LeeAnn shared with the class how they take pride in the conservation practices they use on their farm, such as pasture rotation. Bruce and LeeAnn also inspired the class with the dedication they have to their farm and agriculture as a whole. Although they both work full-time jobs off the farm, it was easy for the students to see how successful they were still able to be on the farm. Emelia says that Bruce and LeeAnn exemplify how hard the agricultural industry can be and the importance of supporting one another within agriculture.

The “Faces of Agriculture” tour exposed students to a wide variety of agricultural practices and opportunities close to campus. Whether students grew up on a farm or did not have a previous connection to agriculture, there was something new for them to discover. Emelia says, “My biggest take away from the tour is that there is always more to learn about the ag industry, no matter how much you think you know.”

By Emily Annexstad

 

Mark Christopher from Spring Valley Wisconsin talks to AFBM student Keegan Zimmerman, and ACM students Kaiya Novacek, Lindsey Bettin, and Val Sauder about the process of making maple syrup at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.