DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — As Delaware Valley University students, Sarah Hayes and Mikayla Barnhart are preparing for agricultural careers both on the farm and in the classroom.
The two students received scholarships to support their aspirations on April 22 at A-Day, the school’s Activities Day fair.
Hayes, a freshman ag business major from Elizabethtown, is the first recipient of the Agricultural Scholarship created by The Steinman Foundation and Lancaster Farming.
The scholarship is worth $25,000 spread out over Hayes’ four years at the university.
The scholarship is designed to support students from Lancaster County pursuing agricultural studies who will return to the county to work in agriculture after graduation.
The Steinman Foundation is a charitable organization established by the Steinman family, which owns Lancaster Farming’s parent company.
“These are the checks that I love to write,” said Bill Burgess, president and publisher of Lancaster Farming.
Hayes, the daughter of Maria and Herb Hayes, plans to work as a field rep for a feed company.
“I want to be the person that goes to the farms and sees how the products are working and then takes that information back to the business to better the products for the animals’ health,” she said.
As an ag business major, Hayes will have more marketing and finance classes, and fewer science courses than animal science majors, but she will still get plenty of hands-on experience with animals.
“I like that about DelVal,” she said.
Hayes grew up showing horses and working on nearby farms. She is on DelVal’s Western equestrian team.
Barnhart, an ag education major from Mercersburg, received the $3,000 Agriculture, Equine Research & Collaboration Center Scholarship from Lancaster Farming.
Barnhart’s ag teacher at James Buchanan High School, Herb Hoffeditz, sparked her interest in teaching.
“It’s just really fun to me and it comes naturally,” she said.
Barnhart, a sophomore, has visited several local schools and has taught her first class. She’s looking forward to getting more classroom experience in the next two years.
The daughter of Chad and Kimberly Barnhart, she has experience with beef and dairy cattle, and chickens.
Barnhart’s high school ag classes included a lot of online resources to supplement the textbooks.
The students talked about Lancaster Farming news articles in class, and Barnhart sometimes cited the paper in essays.
Barnhart wants to instill that media savvy in her students by teaching them how to use agricultural news sources and encouraging them to access the newspaper on their phones.
“You know they’re going to have them anyway,” Barnhart said.
She also wants to use news stories to fuel discussion on hot-button agricultural issues.
Her high school classes held debates on topics like organic versus conventional farming to learn both sides of the argument.
“Those are really controversial issues that students need to be able to make an opinion about in agriculture,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart got to put her education skills to use at A-Day. She taught children about farming at a corn shelling station, and she worked the Horticulture Society’s plant sale.
“There’s a lot of learning going on at this event,” said Christopher Tipping, interim dean of the university’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.
Educating the public about agriculture is one of the goals of the Sigma Alpha sorority, said Chrissy Kurnath, a sorority sister from Newville who was working a sheep pen.
“It’s more fun than work,” said Bobbie Seitz, a Sigma Alpha member from Lewistown.
If anything, the sorority’s challenge was an excess of enthusiasm, with members needing to figure out how to split their time between the livestock exhibit and the A-Day dairy show.
Kurnath and Seitz — both animal science majors who grew up raising beef cattle — were happy to tell the public how farmers care for their animals.
“These are our bottle babies. I just love them so much,” Seitz said.
Kurnath likes to dispel concerns about antibiotic use in livestock. It’s against the law for meat to contain antibiotic residues, she said.
Kurnath has a summer internship with Smithfield Foods in North Carolina that she hopes to turn into a job after graduation.
Employers are looking for the skills acquired in college agricultural programs.
“We value the education you’re receiving here,” Brad Hershey, a 1985 DelVal graduate, said during the A-Day opening ceremony.
Hershey, an owner of equipment dealership Hoober Inc., said students will never know who they might meet at college and end up working with later.
The dealership awarded a scholarship to animal science major Brent Weiss.
The learning at A-Day didn’t involve just farm animals.
Rachel Michalczyk was working with Elvis, a head-bobbing, plumage-ruffling umbrella cockatoo.
“He is a total ham,” said Michalczyk, of Philadelphia.
Elvis — along with snakes, a lizard and a ferret — is among the rescued pets that DelVal students care for and use in community presentations.
Cockatoos can live for more than 60 years. People often don’t realize that when they buy the birds as pets, and the animals can become burdens as their owners get older, Michalczyk said.
Elvis is 12, so he could be a DelVal mainstay for decades to come.
Michalczyk, meanwhile, will graduate next month with a degree in conservation and wildlife management.
To see a video and more photos from A-Day, go to bit.ly/Aday2017.