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Ag Adventure: Farm to Plate

March, 10, 2011
by Coleman Cornelius

Sure, bees make honey that's delicious on buttered toast.

Third-graders learn about horses and soil structure during an Ag Adventure program last September. Students in the College of Agricultural Sciences will present another Ag Adventure in the Four Corners area March 17-20. But bees also are critical to production of significant food crops. Large-scale beekeepers transport hives around the country so that bees can exert their pollination powers on, for instance, blueberry crops in Maine, cranberries in Massachusetts, strawberries in Florida and almonds in California.

Ag Adventure visits Cortez

That’s just one of the agricultural nuggets Colorado State University students will pass on to hundreds of elementary children and other visitors at the Four States Ag Expo in Cortez, Colo., March 17-20. For the first time at the annual expo, students from the College of Agricultural Sciences will stage a series of interactive exhibits, known as the CSU Ag Adventure, meant to help people better understand the sources of fiber and food.

“The vision behind this is to help young students become more aware about the food they’re eating, about what they’re wearing, about their agricultural heritage in the region – and to give them that piece of connection in the producer-consumer relationship,” said Elisa Sagehorn, student coordinator for CSU Ag Adventure. “We’re all united through food and our clothes. That’s a pretty strong building point.”

About 350 elementary students from Four Corners schools will pass through more than a dozen exhibits in the Ag Adventure. The Ag Adventure also will be open to general visitors, expected to number nearly 15,000 during the Four States Ag Expo at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.

Education and Ag Adventure 

Visitors will learn about regional geography, history, culture and agriculture; displays will highlight beans, honey, apples, goats, sheep and dairy cattle, among other topics.

The exhibits, while accenting agriculture, also address Colorado educational standards in geography, math, reading and writing, and science, providing Ag Adventure with a solid educational underpinning, said Nancy Irlbeck, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Twelve students in Irlbeck’s agricultural literacy class have worked with Four Corners producers to organize and present the educational event.

Bees buzzing, goats too

Heather Rice, an ag-business major, said she hopes visitors to her honeybee display, featuring live bees, will leave thinking differently about the buzzing insects. “Bees are really important, especially for pollination. They play a huge role in our food system,” Rice said. “We also want to talk about the hive as a community that depends on teamwork.”

Jenna Oxenhandler, leading a goat exhibit, will display both meat and dairy animals – and will show youngsters how to make butter from goat’s milk using marbles and small glass jars. “A lot of people aren’t really aware that goats are a good source of food, especially in other parts of the world, where they fit well with small-scale and subsistence agriculture,” Oxenhandler noted.

Exhibit and clothing

Wool-producing animals, including sheep and alpacas, will be central to an exhibit that tracks fiber production from live animal to fleece and the spinning and weaving of woolen yarn.

“In our society today, people don’t always know where food and clothing come from,” said Camille Vigil, an equine-science major who will lead the sheep exhibit. “We hope to help people see and think about these things and understand more about agriculture in our everyday lives.”    

Ag Adventure at the National Western Stock Show

CSU students provided a similar Ag Adventure program at the National Western Stock Show in Denver in January. The College of Agricultural Sciences is seeking financial and other forms of support to cement the Ag Adventure program as an ongoing outreach offering, Irlbeck said.

“The Ag Adventure is a wonderfully educational and fun way to connect people to our food system,” Irlbeck said. “It’s effective because the displays are interactive, and schoolchildren respond really well to our CSU students.”

Alumni & Friends Events – Durango and Cortez

In conjunction with the Four States Ag Expo, Colorado State University will host two receptions for alumni and friends. Speakers at both events will be Rick Miranda, CSU provost and executive vice president, and Nancy Irlbeck, professor of animal sciences and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Details:

  • 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 17, Doubletree Durango, 501 Camino del Rio in Durango.
  • 5:30-7 p.m. Friday, March 18, Cortez Conference Center, 2121 E. Main St. in Cortez.

Both events are free and will include complimentary appetizers and a cash bar. To register, visit or call (800) 286-2586. For more information about the Four States Ag Expo, visit   

Contact: Jim Beers
Phone: (970) 491-6401