By: Seena Hornarvar, Joyce Kuo, Monika Grabowska, Lucia Lu, and Alison Bryant
The third week has begun at the Virginia Governor’s school for Agriculture, and the students are now taking courses in their various majors: Plant Science, Animal Science, Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Economics, and Food Science.
In Food Science, students learned about food processing, packaging, and how to correctly cook hamburgers to eliminate any risks of obtaining food poisoning. In fact, the optimal
temperature for fully-cooked hamburger meat is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Students also had a chance to eat MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, that are given to U.S. soldiers in the field. These unassuming brown bags actually carry a full meal, encompassing side dishes, a main course, beverages, and snacks such as skittles or beef jerky. These meals have a shelf-life of four years due to the use of preservatives and salt to maintain freshness. Although these meals come unheated, they provide you with a heating pouch that contains chemicals inside that react with water. By simply pouring a little water in the plastic pouch, heat is created, and soldiers can place the pouches containing their main course meals into the heated pouch and “microwave” their food. Thanks to food science, soldiers can enjoy a hot meal anywhere in the world.
Students in Plant Science learned that plants are the foundation of agriculture. Everything from the crops in the field to the sustainability of livestock boils down to the growth of plants. Plant science is the basis for which makes all agriculture possible and the topic has never been more important than now, as the human population continues to grow exponentially. Plant science is dedicated to finding new and efficient ways to produce more nutritious crops, more efficiently. Students also learned that plant growth is affected by a multitude of factors including: climate, disease, land availability, etc. And only by studying their growth patterns and understanding how plants are propagated can farmers overcome these obstacles.
Seena’s major is Agricultural Economics. Or better said, everything that’s not economics yet is economics. For example, in the economics class today a great discussion, or argument that is, erupted when someone slightly mentioned pay gaps for women and men. Suddenly, all the women in the class were fighting about women’s rights, a concept not quite in most economics curriculum. However, despite veering far off track, the discussion illustrated key points in society’s structure today, with respect to the differences in economic paths of men and women.
Not only did the economics class veer into gender roles, but earlier the class even discussed the collapse of 2008. Quickly, the students moved from simple supply and demand to the complex workings of the economy with its subprime loans, securities, and stock crashes. But even despite quickly varying topics with different implications, Dr. Mike Ellerbrock handled the topics with excellence and related them back to economics. Economics definitely is everywhere.
In Engineering, students visited the nearby Stroubles Creek to learn about Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) at
Virginia Tech. The BSE team is currently researching the sources and consequences of water pollution at the stream, which is not the cleanest. Students gained a better understanding of how water quality is determined and how it can be improved, learning about Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control water pollution and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) to calculate the maximum amount of pollution that can enter a body of water before it is declared impaired. Today, the students were able to take water samples from the stream to test for microbes, as well as to measure dissolved oxygen concentrations in the stream. They also helped plant a tree close to the stream to act as a buffer against runoff and erosion. Tomorrow, they will analyze the results from these tests.
This week in Animal Science has been a blast! everyone in the major has had the opportunity to get up close and (very) personal with the horses and cattle that are located on Virginia Tech’s campus. The first day everyone was able to have a chance to get an in depth look into the reproductive system of a cow and sow. After, we were able to get a look at what the rest of
the week had in store for us! The next day we made our way to the horse ranch and gathered up in the loft of the barn to watch the handlers collect a stallion. We were able to watch how they teased the mare and stallion and the process that they used to safely collect the stallion without injuring him or the handlers. The process went by quick and easy, and within a few minutes one of the handlers set up a slide from the collection and we were able to take turns looking into the microscope. Wednesday, everyone went over to the beef cattle farm and certain volunteers from the group had the opportunity to try and herd one of the steers away from the herd. A couple of other volunteers were able to check the temperature and the heart rate of one of the steers that was herded into the chute. On Thursday, the group went back to the beef cattle farm and were taught how to identify different body types of the steers they had and we also had the chance to watch an ultrasound be performed on a steer. The whole process that they did was incredibly interesting and we could see exactly how big or small the rib-eye would be on that certain steer.
Overall, the Animal Science major by far has had the most fun and hands on experiences with the livestock at VT. Everyone was interested and excited the whole time, and some were even able to document their visits with the animals by taking pictures with them. Animal Science is the major to be in for sure.