5/4/2013 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Southeastern, Pa. Correspondent
DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — As an agriculture student, Thomas Diffendal wants to absorb as much information as possible.
As a teacher, he plans to share that knowledge to shape future leaders of the industry.
Recently, he got a boost that will help him achieve that goal.
Diffendal, 20, is a freshman at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., where he majors in agriculture education and minors in large animal science. After graduation, he plans to work as an agriculture teacher.
“I like the interaction with students,” he said.
Last Saturday, Diffendal was at the college’s Activities Day — an annual student-organized event that’s open to the public, showcases agricultural displays and raises money for the A-day Scholarship Fund.
A-Day, which started in 1949, is part of the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs.
At the event, Diffendal was awarded the Lancaster Farming Agriculture, Equine Research & Collaboration Center $2,000 scholarship.
He said he didn’t expect to get the award because he was tired when he completed the scholarship application, which required an essay to explain how Lancaster Farming helped him with his studies.
In addition to being a student, Diffendal works as a farm assistant at the college’s dairy barn.
“I was definitely surprised,” he said. “We get up at 3 o’clock in the morning to milk. I had to milk before I turned (the application) in.”
Diffendal’s family raises hay and keeps horses and roughly 80 beef cattle in Westminster, Md. After college, he plans to continue working on the 100-acre farm.
He’s also been active in farming organizations and worked as an intern at the University of Maryland, Carroll County Extension 4-H Youth Development Program.
“I was in 4-H my entire life, and that really shaped who I am today,” he said. “I just love working with youth and teaching agriculture.”
Russell Redding, dean of agriculture and environmental sciences at Delaware Valley College, said Diffendal’s essay focused on using knowledge to make a positive impact on future generations of farmers.
“I thought that was really impressive,” said Redding, a former state secretary of agriculture.
Redding looked across the campus at the flurry of activity, which included a livestock show, games for children, agriculture-related displays and a tour of the campus.
“Even in this day of fun, it’s still all about learning,” Redding said. “That’s part of what A-Day is all about.”
Joe Giacalone, 21, a senior at Delaware Valley and A-Day executive team president, said roughly 70 students helped organize the event, which included about 150 vendors.
“It’s the Farm Show on a much smaller level,” said Giacalone, of Cranbury, N.J.
Doylestown resident Rod Stone was at the event with his grandson, Will Stone, 2.
“We came to lots of A-Days,” Stone said and recalled taking Will’s father, when he was a child, to A-Day.
Rahway, N.J., resident Jennifer Perez and her identical twin sons, Joshua and Samuel, 11, were at A-Day to see Perez’s niece, Rachel Stockl.
Stockl, 18, of Bloomsbury, N.J., is a student in the college’s equine therapy program. After she graduates, she plans to use horses to work with children who have special needs, cancer patients and members of the U.S. military who were wounded in the line of duty.
“And she’ll do it,” Perez said of her niece. “She’s phenomenal.”