Future Looks Bright: Ag Field Day
A California FFA student participates in the Poultry Judging competition, one of many activities that make up the annual UC Davis CA&ES Field Day. (Photo by Diane Nelson | UC Davis)
The future of agriculture is in good hands, judging from the pluck and preparedness of the 3,200 high school students who gathered at UC Davis this month for the 39th annual Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Field Day.
“It was nerve-wracking, but fun!” said Jenna Quarnstrom, a freshman from Elk Grove High School whose team took first place in agriscience, which explores the science and technology of agriculture. “This was my first Ag Field Day, and it was awesome. I liked meeting new people, and the competition helped build my confidence.”
The competitors are FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) and 4-H students from high schools in California and beyond. They spend months preparing for one of Ag Field Days’ two dozen contests, in areas like livestock judging, veterinary sciences, milk quality, computer applications, and more. The competition tests practical skills (like welding, wiring, and setting proper tire pressure on a range of farm equipment) as well as critical thinking and public speaking.
“FFA and Ag Field Days are perfect for teaching teamwork and leadership,” said Gabrielle Franke, former California State FFA Secretary now majoring in agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis. “They helped me see the big picture, and the part research and education plays in improving the agriculture industry.”
The students will participate in other agriculture field days at other campuses over the next several weeks, leading to state and national championships this summer. Visiting different campuses is one of the highlights of Ag Field Days, students say.
“I love getting the feel of the different college campuses,” said Caitlyn Cloud from Trinity High School, whose team finished fifth in forestry. “I was sick all week, and it didn’t look like I was going to make it to Davis. But I told my mom, ‘I have to go.’ Davis is my number one school, and I wasn’t going to miss this for anything.”
Sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at UC Davis, Ag Field Day is run and managed largely by UC Davis students who also gain valuable experience in leadership, communication, and teamwork.
“Of all my experiences at UC Davis, managing Ag Field Day was definitely the biggest challenge, and with it came the biggest rewards,” said Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, California, who helped organize Ag Field Day as a student in 1992. “I learned how to manage many moving parts, and I learned that the best way to get things done well is to do it as a team.”
Ultimately, Ag Field Day benefits the entire agricultural industry and everyone who eats food.
“The students learn valuable skills that can translate into many careers and jobs,” said Professor Sue Ebeler, the college’s associate dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs. “I was so impressed with all the students, and their ability to present their thoughts and ideas in multiple ways. The future of agriculture is in good hands.”
You can learn more about the annual event, including contest results by clicking on this link.