Ag students attend annual watermelon feed, clubs invite new members

A volunteer slices watermelon at the College of Agriculture's annual Watermelon Feed, a longstanding back-to-school tradition.

No one is certain what year the watermelon feed began, even the Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture, Christine Wilson. She estimates that it dates back nearly 50 years. Even without a clear beginning, the annual watermelon feed, which is held on the second Tuesday of every fall semester, has become a back to school staple for the students in the College of Agriculture.

Weber Hall’s lawn was the site of last night’s event. Nearly 40 agriculture clubs set up information tables to attract students who might enjoy being involved in their clubs and activities. To allow for easy communication, tables were set in two circles in a donut shape: a small circle inclosed by another, creating a path for students to mingle. Members from Alpha Zeta, a national agricultural fraternity, cut and stacked watermelon prior to the start of the event, making it easily accessible and consumable for event-goers.

Years ago, the watermelons were provided directly by Harder Farms, where they were grown, but sadly, years of drought have changed this tradition. The farm no longer donates their homegrown melons, but they continue to sponsor the event’s slices through a monetary donation.

Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) was among the organizations recruiting members. During the 2012-2013 school year, the group celebrated its tenth year at K-State.

Abigail Stedry, sophomore in animal sciences and industry and pre-vet, was among the representatives for MANRRS. Stedry was accompanied by her two dogs, Hime and Haru. Stedry said Hime attended the watermelon feed with her last year and “fell in love with the watermelon.” Now both dogs enjoy the summer fruit. The watermelon eatin’ dogs offered Stedry a conversation starter to help raise awareness for MANRRS.

“We are trying to create a more diverse workforce in agriculture,” Stedry said. “We have had company representatives from Monsanto, Cargill and ConocoPhillips on campus to speak to our members.”

Fellow sophomore, Brishna Flores, who is majoring in bakery science and management, attended with Stedry on behalf of MANRRS.

“We are trying to recruit more members outside of minorities and agriculture majors,” Flores said. “MANRRS has had students from engineering to business majors attend events. It is a great group for everyone.”

Casey Johnson, sophomore in animal sciences and industry and pre-vet, said the numerous guest speakers that MANRRS brought in allowed him to communicate with people outside of campus, within the industry.

“The networking and the job prep is very helpful,” Johnson said.

Another organization in attendance was the Wheat State Agronomy Club. Though agronomy, a branch of agriculture dealing with field crop production and soil management, may be a foreign concept to most students on campus, the club has over 100 members consistently involved in their activities.

Students from the Sweet Solutions Bakery (K-State Bakery Science Club) had fresh baked cookies to give to students as well. In fact, at the beginning of the event, there were still students back at the bakery creating batches of cookies for both the students at the watermelon feed and their weekly bake sale.

The College of Agriculture’s Student Council organized the event. Public Relations Director for the council, Briana Jacobus, sophomore in agriculture communications and journalism, said that the event offered an opportunity for students, specifically freshmen and transfer students, to find their place within the college.

“Every ag club has a booth,” Jacobus said. “Every major [within the College of Agriculture] has their own club, but there is also a broad range of other clubs to help students get involved.”

In addition to her position on the Ag Student Council, Jacobus is also involved in the ambassador program for the college and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow.

Both Jacobus and Jordan Hildebrand, President of Ag Council, last year’s Public Relations Director and senior in agriculture communication and journalism, said that they were working to improve the organization’s exposure through social media outlets. The Ag Council has both a Facebook page and Twitter.

“We [the council] are working closely with the College of Ag to get word out,” Hildebrand said. “Developing a communication strategy to draw in agriculture students, especially our target audience of freshmen and transfers.”

John Floros, Dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, opened the event with a welcome speech stating, “It is a great time to be a Wildcat, and it is a great time to be a College of Agriculture student.”