Service Day on the Farm
More than 80 incoming University of Maryland freshmen spent one of their last remaining days of freedom before the fall semester lending a helping hand out on the farm, and researchers with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) are among those reaping the benefits of their hard work.
As part of the annual College Park Scholars Service Day, students volunteered their time at the College of AGNR’s research facility in Upper Marlboro. Whether by extracting stink bugs from plants, pulling weeds, removing trees, measuring corn stalks or picking grapes from a vine, each student had a chance to get his or her hands dirty while communing with nature on a hot and humid August day.
Students were divided into small groups and paired up with AGNR researchers who have active projects at the Upper Marlboro site. It gave the researchers an opportunity to educate the young scholars about their work while enjoying the fruits of their free labor.
“The timing works out great,” said Joe Fiola, an Extension specialist in small fruits and viticulture - the study of grape-growing. “They (the students) get a chance to see the grapes ripen. This is the ultimate time to be in the vineyard.”
“It’s relaxing,” said Skutch Montgomery, a freshman from Ellicott City, MD, as he cut a plump cluster of Pinot Gris grapes from the vine. “It’s kinda cool to see this other side of the industry.”
Although they might not have been able to see the direct influence of their service, the students’ efforts will go a long way towards benefitting farmers all over Maryland.
“It takes a while to get data like this,” explained Herb Reed, Extension Director for Calvert County, who had students help him measure corn stalks for an ongoing pollination study. “I would have had to spend more than an entire day doing it myself.”
For Scholars students from suburban and urban settings, the service day project might have marked their first trip to an actual farm. “While they know their food doesn’t come from Safeway, they’ve never had an opportunity to see (the process) first-hand,” said Becky Archer, director of the Environment, Technology & Economy Program for College Park Scholars. “All those connections are being made real here.”
As he shoveled out a hole for a pole in the apple orchard, Owen Guttadaura of Massachusetts said Maryland’s diverse landscape is one of the main reasons he chose to attend school here. “I like how you don’t need to go far to get to rural (areas) and you don’t need to go far to get to the city,” he said.
Although hard work is its own reward, students were also treated to a taste of homemade ice cream made on the premises by Dave Myers, an Extension specialist who used an antique farm engine to power an old fashioned ice cream maker. “This is how we used to do it on the farm,” he told curious students while explaining the mechanics behind the loud and cumbersome contraption.
This is the second year the University of Maryland College of AGNR has hosted a service day project at its Upper Marlboro facility, which is part of the Central Maryland Research and Education Center.
“This fits perfectly with our land grant mission in demonstrating the relationship of instruction, research and extension,” said Cheng-i Wei, Dean of the College of AGNR, who stopped by to greet students on Service Day and assisted one group tasked with labeling jars of grain.
Since the Service Day tradition began 17 years ago, students in the Scholars Park Scholars program have completed more than 35,000 hours of volunteer service.
For more information, contact Sara Gavin at 301-405-9235 or email@example.com.