LEXINGTON, Ky. — Nearly 2,000 FFA and 4-H members from Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana gathered on a cold April day on the University of Kentucky campus for the 48th annual UK Field Day. Throughout a busy day of competition and networking, they also learned about the many educational opportunities available in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
The field day attracts some of the best and brightest young men and women interested in pursuing agricultural-related careers. They had the chance to participate in the college’s opportunity fair, where they were able to talk to UK students, staff and faculty, and also competed in various 4-H and FFA contests, with the winners receiving prizes and scholarships.
Students assembled under the big tent for an opening ceremony that resembled a pep rally, driven in part by music provided by DJ Warren Peace.
“The atmosphere in our college becomes electric when the students arrive, and I believe it is because we are excited to share the wonderful opportunities our university provides,” said Stacy Vincent, UK associate professor in agricultural education and event organizer. “That electricity is addictive, and it sets the tone for the day.”
The college’s Dean Nancy Cox extended a warm welcome.
“You’re going to meet a lot of our ag family today who have come out to show you all the different majors and all the different things you can do if you’re a student in our college. One of the not-well-kept secrets about the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is we all love our jobs, and we want to prepare you for a career in agriculture, where you’re going to love your jobs. How good is it to love your job every day and have fun?” Cox asked the crowd, who responded with enthusiastic cheers.
Warren Beeler, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, greeted the students on behalf of Gov. Matt Bevin.
“I bring greetings from Gov. Matt Bevin. Gov. Bevin grew up in 4-H, and I myself grew up in 4-H and FFA, and I couldn’t do what I do if it weren’t for those organizations,” Beeler told the crowd. “The most important thing we need in agriculture these days is people. Agriculture basically employs 15 percent of all the people in this country. We don’t just need farmers, we need teachers, we need geneticists, we need scientists, we need researchers, we need environmentalists, we need conservationists; we need you.”
Noah Carter, vice president of Kentucky 4-H, and Martin Williams, president of Kentucky FFA, also said a few welcoming words, and then the students dispersed across the ag campus to compete in any of 20 events. Teens showed off their skills and knowledge in areas that included a quiz bowl, floriculture, agronomy, auctioneering, welding, tractor driving, dairy evaluation, farm management, the equine industry, nurseries, forestry, veterinary science, land and soil, livestock evaluation and meat judging.
“They use this as a springboard for competing at their respective state competitions. It’s a good dry run,” Vincent said.
Brittany Trent, a UK undergraduate majoring in animal sciences, was on hand with the rest of UK’s livestock judging team, to help with the livestock judging competition.
“All classes we have out here today are breeding classes, so they’re all females,” Trent explained, as she watched over students judging sheep, goats, pigs and beef cattle. “I was in 4-H growing up in Maryland. That’s how I got into this,” Trent said.
Inside, more than 30 students waited to take part in a welding competition. Kentucky Welding Institute, one of the event sponsors, was on hand to award each participant a $500 scholarship to their institute, with the first place contestant winning a $2,000 scholarship.
Out by the greenhouses, another group of students competed in nursery evaluation, where they identified plants along a predetermined path.
“This is a unique opportunity for students to come to campus and see the vast number of career possibilities that are open to them,” Vincent said.
At the end of the event, winners were announced, with Locust Trace Agriscience Center in Lexington recognized as the Overall Field Day Winner and Montgomery County High School accepting second place. All competition winners received plaques to hang in their schools or extension offices, and everyone, whether they placed or not, took home memories of an extraordinary experience.
“I hope they leave our college’s event with ownership in the University of Kentucky and the knowledge that UK cares about their well-being, and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is a close-knit, family-friendly place that they may consider as their future home,” Vincent said.
Principal sponsors of the 2018 UK Field Day include the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the UK Student Government Association, Gatormade Trailers, Hinton Mills, Integrity Premium Advertising, Kentucky Welding Institute, Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment, National Association of Agricultural Educators and Whayne Supply.
— Carol Lea Spence, University of Kentucky Ag News
For more news from Kentucky, click here.