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Agriculture in the spotlight on spring break tour for CAES students By Clint Thompson

Spotlighting the state’s top industry, a statewide tour of Georgia’s agriculture has been the highlight of spring break for 36 students in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Instead of going to the beach or traveling back to their hometown over spring break, UGA students from the Athens, Griffin and Tifton, Georgia, campuses traveled across the state, learning about the agricultural industry and earning credits toward their degrees. Environmental economics and management major Charles Orgbon, from Dacula, Georgia, saw the trip as an adventure.

“I am proud to be part of a college that invests deeply and authentically in its students’ learning and that has a strong alumni network to help support new generations of students,” said Orgbon, a junior taking classes on the university’s main campus in Athens. “Our state has so much to offer, and I wanted to make sure I knew of these opportunities.”

At each stop, agricultural business leaders shared stories about hardships, opportunities, industry history and outlook.

“When we were establishing the itinerary for this week for our students, there were two goals we wanted to meet: first, the stops that we would make would teach the students something about Georgia agriculture (and) second, they would learn about career opportunities. Every stop has done that,” said Jean Bertrand, assistant dean for academic affairs at UGA CAES.

The students learned about apples at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia; grapes at Wolf Mountain Vineyards in Dahlonega, Georgia; poultry at the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network in Gainesville, Georgia; produce at Jaemor Farms in Alto, Georgia; and ornamental horticulture at McCorkle Nurseries in Dearing, Georgia.

Further south, they visited Sikes Farms, a Vidalia onion farm in Collins, Georgia; saw the daily operations of a dairy firsthand on the UGA Tifton Campus; and toured the college’s energy-efficient Future Farmstead in Tifton.

Sarah Jane Thomsen, a junior animal and dairy science major from Salem, Virginia, viewed the tour as training for her future role in the agriculture industry.

“I believe an experience like the ag tour is valuable for a number of reasons. Between networking, opening our eyes to new parts of agriculture, discovering passions and seeking understanding, this trip will, hopefully, have a lasting impact on everyone,” she said. “This trip enables us to be an advocate for all sectors, which is crucial as we continue to face a growing disconnect between consumers and farmers.”

Many CAES students have never been exposed to the wide variety of agricultural crops grown in Georgia, Bertrand said.

“If they can get out and see for themselves what people are doing and experience the impact agriculture has made, it opens their eyes to new opportunities. It really expands their vision of what agriculture is, which we know is very broad,” Bertrand said.

All stops on the tour had a UGA connection. Some sites were owned or operated by college alumni, or alumni hosted the visit. Some operations worked or were working closely with UGA Cooperative Extension.

“This trip has been beneficial for me to see a lot of areas of Georgia’s agriculture and tour different working operations throughout the state. I still have a year left in college, and it is great to hear about job and internship opportunities in the different sectors of agriculture,” said Megan Powell, a junior from Wrightsville, Georgia, majoring in agricultural education at the UGA Tifton Campus.

Spending their spring break touring some of Georgia’s agricultural operations proves the students are already dedicated to the industry, Bertrand said.

“The students have been very positive,” she said. “To give up their spring break to do this means they have a serious interest in agriculture. It’s a really impressive group of young people.”

For more information about UGA CAES academic programs, see students.caes.uga.edu.

(Clint Thompson is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences based in Tifton.)

Spring break trip
Spring break trip

A group picture of the CAES students at the UGA Tifton Campus. March 9, 2016

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A group picture of the CAES students at the UGA Tifton Campus. March 9, 2016 Download Image
Spring Break trip
Spring Break trip

Joe West, assistant dean on the UGA Tifton Campus, and Jean Bertrand, assistant dean for academic affairs, chat during a stop at the dairy on the UGA Tifton Campus. March 9, 2016

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Spring break trip
Spring break trip

UGA Tifton students Christina Garner and Megan Powell pose for a picture at Rutland Farms during a spring break tour of Georgia agriculture. March 9, 2016

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