OPINION: April showers but we don’t smell flowers

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Each season has signature smells, permeating the air. Summer means bonfires and lake water. Fall is filled with crispness and leaves. Winter is reminiscent of windchill and pine … and then there is spring. Springtime in Manhattan smells like blooming flowers and cow manure, with emphasis on the latter.

There is nothing like the smell of cow manure to remind you that spring has sprung. While I would prefer to smell the blossoming tulips on campus, which can be found between Hale Library and the English and Counseling Services building, the aroma of cow pies reminds me of where I am.

I have lived in the heart of St. Paul, Minnesota my entire life, and I can honestly say that manure is not a common scent. Over the past two years, I have become quite accustomed to the smell and as my understanding of it has grown, my appreciation has for it has too. I have come to realize that manure represents success … the success of K-State.

According to the College of Agriculture, the animal sciences and industry department takes care of 2,000-3,000 cattle every year. These cattle provide research, education and jobs to K-State students. While I am not among the 600-plus undergraduate animal and food science majors, I am enrolled in an animal sciences and industry course this semester. It has truly changed my outlook on food and agriculture.

The curriculum focuses heavily on the dynamic role that agriculture plays in our lives, especially as Kansans. Not only is agriculture responsible for all the foods we eat, but it provides countless jobs as well. The Department of Agriculture reports that in 2013, nearly 17 million jobs in the U.S. were farm and agriculture based. These jobs range from food and beverages, to apparel and textiles. Agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry, and livestock animals and their products are responsible for about 68 percent of the total cash receipts from agricultural commodities in Kansas.

While according to the USDA, Kansas ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. for top agriculture producing states in 2013, the animal sciences and industry department website states that Kansas ranks first nationally in the number of cattle processed. While the cattle at K-State only represent a small percentage of the total revenue cattle produce in Kansas, you cannot put a monetary value on their significance.

The university was not always named Kansas State University. In 1863, we were founded as the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, a land-grant institution. In fact, we were the first land-grant college under the Morrill Act of 1862. Agriculture is rooted in our history as a country, as a state and more importantly, as a school. It is a big reason as to why K-State has thrived the way that it has. Not to mention that agriculture education does not exist at University of Kansas, another example of the K-State advantage.

If you have any electives to spare in your schedule, I highly recommend looking into taking a course in the department of agriculture. They have baking, food, animal, meat and crop sciences, and that is merely scratching the surface of the curriculum available.

The next time that familiar cow “perfume” hits your nose, remind yourself that that scent is the (not-so) sweet smell of success.

Mallory Diekmann is a junior in agricultural communications and journalism.

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