SDSU’s Ag Day focuses on sustainability in the agricultural industry Original

BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)– This year, SDSU’s Ag Day will provide students with the opportunity to gain knowledge on sustainability in the agricultural industry.

On Thursday, Earth Day, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., students will have the opportunity to hear from a panel of agriculturalists Lyle Perman, Brian and Jamie Johnson and Jared Knock about the importance of sustainability, how they implement regenerative agricultural practices into their operations and how those in the industry can shine a light on the benefits of these practices.

This event will take place in the SDSU Volstorff Ballroom as well as be offered as an online Zoom event so that anyone can attend on the PREXY Council Facebook Page.

Abby Mueller, Ag Day Chair for PREXY Council says that when deciding on a topic for this year’s Ag Day, they noticed that sustainability is really coming on the forefront of SDSU’s campus and for them they thought it was something that people don’t really know a lot about.

“Our biggest thing was how can we spread awareness and how can we spread knowledge of this, Mueller said. “So us as an exec team really decided that sustainability would be our central theme this year.”

Ally Ringeisen, Vice President of PREXY Council says sustainability is a really hard term to define.

“It means a different thing to almost everyone you ask,” Ringeisen said. “So to some farmers it might be just implementing variable rate technologies, to other farmers that might be cover cropping and grazing the ground after it has been harvested. So it is really hard to encompass like one set term or definition to the word sustainability.”

Ringeisen says they hope, through this event, they can bring light to what the term sustainability means to different people.

There is a big movement towards very sustainable practices in agriculture, Ringeisen said.

“Whether that is non-GMO, organic and that sort of thing and really just educating farmers on what sustainability really means to them will help them to better advocate for themselves,” Ringeisen said.

Mueller says that the speakers were chosen for this event because of their sustainability efforts and because they are on the forefront of this movement.

“A lot of them have the experience in their farming, whether that be working with businesses that really promote sustainability and those sustainable practices, so they will be talking about their experiences, what they do and kind of their impact,” Mueller said.

They will be opening the panel for discussion because sustainability is such a broad topic, Mueller says. People may have questions that are difficult to ask to someone who might not have the practical experience, so she said by opening this up to questions with these panelists who have this experience, they will be able to promote sustainability and provide the audience with a well-rounded experience of what it is.

By having these panelists, Ringeisen says students will not only get a better understanding about what sustainable practices are, but they may go home and have those conversations with parents about sustainable practices or discuss what the do on their operation.

“It can really have a big ripple effect,” Ringeisen said, “and that’s what we are hoping to see with the students.”

Photo courtesy of the SDSU PREXY Council

This year, the event does look a little different than normal. In the past, there would typically be a meal, but this year with COVID-19 they will just be offering the panel session.

Mary Christensen, program coordinator for agricultural leadership, education, communication and sciences majors at SDSU, says that the event is scaled back from normal, making it a smaller event with a small in-person audience available as well as a virtual option.

However, even with the changes, Christensen says she is excited about what the event will entail.

“I’m excited, we have some awesome panelists coming to campus to discuss the topic of sustainability,” Christensen said. “I think it is really great for students to be able to hear their stories and how they have approached sustainability within their agricultural operations; for students to be able to take those lessons learned and to apply it to their own interests in agriculture.”

Sustainability is an important topic in the industry, Christensen says.

“Our agriculture producers care about the land and making sustainable choices in their operation and it really pulls together all of the topics in our college as well in terms of agriculture, food and environmental sciences,” Christensen said.

Celebrating Ag Day on Earth Day is something new this year. Christensen said with the topic being sustainability, they thought that having the event on that day would be a good pairing. SDSU has been celebrating their Ag Day since 2011.

This year, instead of offering a meal and a new t-shirt to students, they were able to re-focus their fundraising efforts to apply the funds to creating an endowment for the PREXY Council, Christensen said. This helps them to be able to sustain events like Ag Day, as well as supporting clubs and organizations.

Donations and gifts to support Prexy Council and Ag Literacy on campus can be made to the SDSU Foundation with a memo for Prexy Council/Ag Day.

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