Live farm animals and booths represented by agriculture professionals lined Church Street Tuesday for the third annual Agriculture Awareness Day.
It’s part of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences’ attempt to bridge the gap between consumer and farmer, and also an opportunity to promote agricultural programs at the University of Minnesota.
The activities are hosted by the Agricultural Education Club — a group dedicated to connecting the community with agriculture, said Kristen Wingert, the club’s president.
Agricultural organizations from around the state of Minnesota were present during Tuesday’s festivities.
“It’s important for the residents of Minnesota to start making connections between the field and the dinner table,” said Anne Marie Sellenrick, a representative from the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Ag Awareness Day is designed to bring interest to Minnesota’s local products, but Sellenrick said it’s important to recognize that agriculture is a nationwide partnership.
The Twin Cities and Crookston campuses are the only ones to offer agricultural programs in the University system.
When the University was reopened 1867, after being closed due to financial problems, it was designed to be a land-grant University meaning the primary focus is on practical teaching in agriculture, science and engineering.
The majority of students on the Twin Cities campus are enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts or the College of Science and Engineering.
“While other colleges thrive at the University it is important to recognize that without the rise of agriculture our society would not have the ability to settle in the arts and sciences,” said Jay Bell, associate dean for CFANS.
Less than two percent of the campus community is involved with agriculture, said Theresa Twohey, an organizer for Ag Awareness Day.
“Yet we all wear clothes, eat food, and buy fuel,” she said. “It’s our goal as a student organization to work on drawing new light to agriculture.”
According to spring 2012 data from the Office of Institutional Research, 6.5 percent of students are in the CFANS undergraduate program.
The college has 14 different majors including nutrition and environmental sciences so an even smaller percentage of University undergraduates are studying agriculture directly.
The college has actually seen an increase over the past five years in overall enrollment and student credit hours, Bell said.
He and other administrators and faculty are now in the process of proposing two new majors to be added to the college.
The first will revolve around the organic food systems and include a more thorough analysis of the food cycle from start to finish while the other proposed major will consolidate plant science programs across the college.
The idea of involving faculty across majors in one program, offering an all encompassing education was how they got the idea for the two proposed majors, Bell said.