When members of an agricultural sorority serve a tasty barbecue lunch to 500 fellow Colorado State University students next week, they also hope to dish out interesting food facts and a dollop of appreciation for the farmers and ranchers who supply our food.
“We want to convey that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store,” said Chelsea Metheny, an animal science major and lead organizer.
The Agricultural Advocacy Barbecue will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 25 on the Lory Student Center Plaza. Hosts will serve pulled-pork sandwiches, chips, drinks and ice cream to CSU students on a first-come, first-served basis. The lunch will be free.
The CSU chapter of Sigma Alpha is planning and hosting the barbecue. The sorority has about 30 members pursuing careers in agriculture. The organization, which does not have a sorority house in Fort Collins, is unique for its focus on career-building and leadership among young women entering agriculture.
The Sigma Alpha barbecue is funded largely with a Presidential Greek Vision Award totaling $1,500. The grant, awarded by the CSU President’s Office, is meant to encourage significant community-service projects among Greek organizations.
When Sigma Alpha applied for the award, the group noted that agriculture needs consumer support to continue providing safe, nutritious and affordable food and to advance as a sustainable industry.
The sorority members also noted the historical connection between agriculture and the top-tier research university they attend today: The university was founded in 1870 as the Colorado Agricultural College, and the College of Agricultural Sciences remains central to CSU’s mission as a land-grant university, even as CSU has evolved into a campus with nearly 30,000 students that attracts more than $300 million in annual research funding.
“We want to encourage support for agriculture and what we bring to the table,” said Jessica Brown, a sophomore studying animal science and agricultural business.
The barbecue will go beyond free food for students. It will feature signs and booths that highlight agriculture and key sectors within the food system.
So as they munch, students might be reminded that:
• About 1 percent of the U.S. population raises 100 percent of the food grown in this country, according to federal data.
• Agriculture contributes an estimated $40 billion annually to the Colorado economy, placing it among the top three industries in the state based on economic contribution and supporting about 173,000 jobs, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
• Hogs raised in Colorado accounted for nearly $195 million in sales in 2010, according to last year’s Colorado Agricultural Statistics report.
• About 65 percent of Colorado winter wheat fields are planted in wheat varieties developed at CSU; wheat is the No. 3 agricultural commodity in the state, behind cattle and corn.
• Colorado potato farming is centered in southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley and generated $156 million in sales in 2010 – making potatoes tops among all fruits and vegetables grown in the state, based on sales.
• Colorado is home to roughly 120,000 dairy cows producing well over 300 million gallons of milk per year.
• Agriculture is more important now than ever before as the industry works to feed a booming global population expected to top 9 billion by 2050 – while also protecting critical environmental resources.
Sigma Alpha event planners said that alongside lunch, they want to convey the value of agriculture and the people who produce the world’s food.
“Agriculture is definitely growing in importance, especially with world food demand growing at exponential rates,” said Kelsey Brazik, who is majoring in animal science and equine science, with a minor in business. “Our barbecue will be fun, and it will also make that point.”
Also contributing to the event are donors JBS, Western Dairy Association and J.R. Simplot Co.