March 11, 2008

New day, new features highlight Ag Industry Day

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Springfield, and WGN radio's "Voice of Illinois Agriculture" Orion Samuelson will help make Southern Illinois University Carbondale's fourth Agriculture Industry Day, scheduled for Friday, April 18, at the University Farm's Rowden Road site, the biggest and best yet, says College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Gary L. Minish.

"We have really stepped it up this year," Minish noted.

"We have about twice as many industry exhibits so there will be a lot more to see, we have the most appealing set of workshops we've ever offered and they're in a different format so people can shop around. We've also switched the day from Saturday to Friday to make it easier for young folks in high school and people from the campus to attend. We've already seen twice as much interest. I'm betting we'll be serving between a thousand and 1,500 complimentary lunches."

The event's organizers decided on the move to Friday in response to queries from high school teachers.

"They told us they could bring their students if we held it Friday, and once we did that, we decided to add a recruitment focus," Minish said.

The day will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a 4-H and FFA livestock judging contest conducted by recognized officials. The morning program will include a presentation by Jenna R. Wicks, a sophomore in agriculture education from Ancona, on what it's like to be an SIUC student and one by two-degree graduate Lucas D. Maxwell, from Farmer City, who served as the college's first full-time coordinator of recruitment, retention and placement and is now a doctoral student at the University of Florida. He will talk about what made SIUC the right choice for him. Samuelson also will speak, followed by Durbin, who will talk about energy and climate change.

"Right now, we have to say that Sen. Durbin's an 'invited guest' as we haven't had a confirmation from his office, " Minish said.

"But when (Sen. Barack) Obama was scheduled for our first Ag-Industry Day, we didn't know for sure he'd be there till he walked in the door, so we think the chances are good."

Afternoon sessions will run from 1 to 3 p.m. and feature, among other topics, weekend landscape project ideas, geocaching (scavenger hunt by GPS), care for cats and dogs, wine tasting, recipes, cooking tips and a visit with Smokey Bear.

"There's a carry-home message from just about all of them," Minish noted.

"We've set it up like an agriculture fair, where you can come and go as you want and move at your own pace. You don't have to sit down and listen for 30 minutes."

With the expected visitors volume, organizers are paying particular attention to parking logistics.

"They probably won't be there all at one time, and we do have a lot of land back there, so if it's dry, it shouldn't be a problem,"Minish mused.

"If it rains, we have a challenge — we'll just have to improvise."