March 03, 2005

College plans first Agriculture Industry Day

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and Saluki football coach Jerry Kill might seem like the odd couple of headliners for a day highlighting agriculture at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, but Gary L. Minish, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, says it makes perfect sense.

"The senator is very interested in enhancing the economy in the southern half of Illinois, and our college, with its emphasis on food, agriculture and natural resources, is best suited to be a major player in that respect," he said.

"Coach Kill will add a little spice to the morning program - and he's got a daughter interested in veterinary medicine," Minish added with a broad smile.

SIUC's first-ever Agriculture Industry Day, set for 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 23, aims to showcase what Minish calls "the broad-based teaching, research and outreach" of his 50-year-old college while giving its faculty, staff and students a chance to connect with industry clients, commodity group representatives, area farmers and alumni. Organizers expect 1,500 guests to attend the free event.

The morning program will feature an update on the state of the college, highlights of research done there and speeches by Illinois Future Farmers of America President Kacy Baugher, Kill and (event planners hope) Obama (who has yet to make a rock-solid commitment).

"We're optimistic that he's going to come, but we'll have a good keynote speaker no matter what," Minish says.

The afternoon programs, held at the Beef Evaluation Station and the Horticulture Research Center, will feature 18 separate faculty and staff presentations ranging in subject from horsemanship to home gardening, from alternative energy to water quality, from soybean rust to public acceptance of genetically modified crops.

"There's something for everyone," Minish said. "And we'll feed them, too - some of the best beef and pork barbecue they'll ever eat."

Minish said the event, which he intends to hold annually, ties in well with one of the goals he set for the college when he became dean last fall.

"We want to strengthen our ties with our industry clients and our alumni by getting them here on campus once a year," he said.

"If we're going to grow the college, we're going to have to start getting reconnected and marketing our program to the people of Illinois.

"I want this to become such a tradition in the state that everybody says, ‘I can't do anything on that Saturday because it's Ag Industry Day at SIUC and I am going there."

Corporate sponsors for the day's programs include Growmark Inc., Farm Credit Services of Illinois, the Illinois Beef Cattle Association, the Illinois Nurseryman's Association, the Illinois Pork Producers Association, the Illinois Soybean Association, Prairie Farms Dairy Inc. and The Maschhoffs Inc.

For more information on Agriculture Industry Day, call 618/453-2469.

Shaping cooperative ventures and celebrating faculty excellence are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.