On Sunday October 11th I volunteered with the UMD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Anne Arundel County’s Agricultural Education Day at Y Worry Farm in Davidsonville MD. The Capital Gazette published an article about the event here. I would first like to thank Dr. Bill Phillips and Ms. Glori Hyman for their help at the booth and for encouraging me to bring my research poster.
Ag Education day was geared towards families with younger children, but there were many parents, older children, and non-traditional students interested in UMD’s ag programs. There are many great agriculture degree programs (undergraduate and graduate) at UMD, although there is an unfortunate perception that we do not have strong ag programs. It was nice to be able to share the programs and research here with fellow Marylanders.
In addition to working the College of Ag booth, I brought my most current research poster (see picture) and some cover crop seedlings I had planted specifically for the event. I was pleasantly surprised by the interest in my research. From people wanting to know why farmers use cover crops, to gardeners interested in growing Forage Radish in their home gardens, to children who were drawn to the seedlings, I was able to talk about my research at length with many people. It was also great to see younger kids interested in learning what the cover crop seedlings would become. I got a “wow, that’s so cool,” when I explained that the wheat would “grow up” and turn into bread. This event reaffirmed how important it is to get children interested in agriculture; they might be little now, but in 20-30 years they will make political decisions about food and the environment, invent new technologies to improve our food system, and farm in a world with 9 billion people. The more we teach them now, the more well informed they will be when they have to make tough decisions.
Being at Ag Education Day renewed my passion for education and outreach. I hope together as an Agroecology lab we can work towards educating more children and young adults about agriculture and the environment through education and outreach programs.
Last week North Harford High School’s agricultural magnet program came and visited University of Maryland’s Plant Science Department. In an effort to familiarize the students with The Plant Science Department, and teach them about the scientific research process, they asked for two graduate students to speak to them about their research and the research process. I immediately volunteered, as I am a North Harford alumna! I was uneasy about how to present my research because I wasn’t sure of their knowledge about cover crops and allelochemicals, but the students seemed very interested and asked questions about my research at the end! Not only was it good practice speaking in front of an audience, which I was very nervous about, but it was also good practice for conveying my data as a new graduate student.
Coming from a small farming community in Northern Maryland, I also felt it was important to talk to the students to show them that studying agriculture at UMD can improve farming methods and make farming more sustainable; something they could take back to their own farms. The students admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the big city atmosphere of College Park, but I thought it would be reassuring to the students to see someone from their hometown at UMD. Overall, it was a great experience reaching out to high school students about research and the Plant Science Department, and it gave me good practice on how to present my data.
- Briana Otta