Bringing the farm to University of Minnesota underclassmen

(Lauren Biegler with her husband, Bryan, on their Lake Wilson farm)

Last week nearly 200 University of Minnesota underclassmen attended their introductory nutrition course for a lesson they may not have expected when enrolling in the class. Lauren Biegler, who is a CommonGround Minnesota volunteer, represented the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) by joining others from agriculture on a panel about modern farming.

While the ins and outs of today’s farm operations may not have a clear connection to the education of aspiring dietitians, Renee Korczak, who teaches the course titled “Principles of Nutrition,” organized the panel to change misconceptions about agriculture and the nation’s food supply.

“We cover basic topics like food sustainability in our textbook, so we felt it was a great opportunity to bring someone from the outside in,” Korczak said. “The students get so much more when they hear from farmers who live in this world every day.”

Biegler, who farms with her husband and MCGA board member Bryan Biegler in Lake Wilson, sat on the panel along with representatives from other sectors in agriculture. From her perspective, she enjoyed the opportunity to tell her story as a farmer and serve as an example of a family-run farm operation.

“I think it is important to show people who may not have a connection to agriculture that we aren’t a corporation running a large farm,” Biegler said. “We are families with kids, and I think that is one of the first things we need to establish.”

Biegler also spoke about the goals of her farm, which include employing practices that promote environmental responsibility and protect their land for future generations.

After each panelist had an opportunity to tell their story, students and Korczak were able to ask questions. Korczak said questions focused on a wide range of topics, including sustainability, the use of steroids and antibiotics in livestock, world food supply challenges and GMOs.

Korczak stressed the value in having background on food production for her students.

“I think many of my students aren’t exposed to farming and farmers, so I encourage all of them to get out on a farm and see the process for building our food supply and the challenges that come with it,” she said.

Overall, the panel was a great opportunity to tell the stories behind Minnesota agriculture to a group who may not have any connection to a farm. Korczak said she anticipates having the panel again in future semesters of the class, and MCGA will continue to work with her to be a part of it.


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