December 2015
Homeplace & Community

Ag Adventures

  Children and adults got to play in the “corn crib.”  (Credit: Caleb Hicks)

Annual event bridges the gap between farmers and the public.

The fourth annual Ag Discovery Adventure had 1,907 people, a record number, attend to learn more about the agriculture industry. The event, held on October 10, focused on teaching the public about agriculture through hands-on activities and presentations. ADA is hosted at E.V. Smith Research Center by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Auburn University’s College of Agriculture. It functions through the hard work of professors, Extension personnel and student volunteers.

This year’s event included attractions such as corn shelling, apple cider, a corn maze, a livestock barn – full of expected and unexpected animals, a large fisheries exhibit, wildlife, cotton ginning, unmanned aerial vehicles, sweet potato picking, tractors, bad bugs, wagon tours, pumpkin painting and a crowd favorite, Aubie. One of the favorite events of all attendees, young and young-at-heart, was the "corn crib." This was a sandbox people could play in that was filled with corn kernels; everyone walked away from it smiling! The importance of all of the attractions at this event was to educate the public about agriculture, along with being fun and entertaining.

Aubie prepares to fly the drone. (Credit: Caleb Hicks)  

"It’s an event where we give families the opportunity to reconnect with agriculture. It reminds them of the College of Agriculture’s mission and the future needs in agriculture," said Paul Patterson, associate dean of instruction at Auburn University.

One of the new attractions this year was Chef David Bancroft from Acre. Acre is a restaurant featuring fresh, locally-sourced foods that offers farm-to-table Southern cuisine. Bancroft cooked three separate Alabama dishes at the main stage, but before serving them he shared where each dish came from. People these days are extremely curious about where their food comes from, and Bancroft shared this with them. One of the dishes Bancroft cooked was oysters that were farm-raised in the Gulf. He also shared that the oysters were brought up from the Gulf the day before; that is the definition of fresh food. Bancroft also cooked delicious chicken and an entire hog.

Also new this year was a pond raceway and a focus on aquaponics. Stan Arington from Auburn High School brought some of his aquaponics students, who made a fisheries area. This helped highlight a growing industry, not only in Alabama but in the nation as well.

The event had a strong wildlife presence featuring multiple snakes, rabbits, bees and fire ants. This offered a unique outlook on how agriculture is more than just cows, plows and sows.

  Attendees were allowed to climb on all of the large equipment at this year’s event. (Credits: Caleb Hicks)

One goal this year was to portray how agriculture has embraced technology through precision agriculture. Christian Broadbeck, a research engineer, helped make this possible by flying an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone multiple times this year.

Three different organizations arrange this event, but everyone involved agreed that it was made possible by Auburn University student volunteers.

"I want students to realize they can make an impact because of their knowledge. I also want the students to realize that we cannot do Ag Discovery Adventure without them," said Dr. Lisa Kriese-Anderson, Extension specialist and associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences.

Professors and Extension personnel worked hard beforehand and students worked hard that day to make the event possible.

"One aspect of the event I find most reassuring and inspiring was the can-do spirit of our student volunteers. Students are a big part of the success of the event," Patterson said.

Students agreed that the event this year was a big success.

"My favorite part of Ag Discovery Adventure this year was leading the wagon tours. We provided the riders with a lot of factual information, but I really just enjoyed interacting with all of the different attendees. I enjoyed seeing their perspective of agriculture change throughout the day," said John Allen Nichols.

Nichols, a senior in poultry science, has attended Ag Discovery Adventure since its beginning in 2012.

The main purpose of ADA is to educate the public about the truth about the agriculture industry.

"I want the public to be impacted by the non-biased information they can receive by attending Ag Discovery Adventure. I certainly want them to have fun – but I want them to realize that producing food and fiber is not scary or harmful. What is portrayed at EV Smith is a legitimate, factual snapshot of agriculture in the United States," Kriese-Anderson said.

These days most people are four generations removed from a farm, so the place they turn for their information about farming is the Internet. Ag Discovery Adventure provides the public with a different option; it helps bridge the gap between farmers and the public. The public enjoyed the event and learned a lot of information.

An attendee told Broadbeck, "Thank you for this event. This is the favorite thing we do each year."

Each year this event has grown in attendance, stations and in information provided to the public and everyone looks forward to seeing that growth continue.

Michelle Bufkin is is a freelance writer from Auburn.