Ag Awareness Week Re-Sprouts in the Brickyard

Alpha Zeta brothers pose in the Bridkyard

“There are cows in the Brickyard!” one NC State student’s tweet read recently. And indeed there were cows … and goats, chickens, and even a miniature horse. It was the unexpected but profoundly welcomed return of Ag Awareness Week on NC State’s campus. 

Spotlighting NC Agriculture

Alpha Zeta, NC State’s agricultural honors fraternity, has hosted the week-long celebration of North Carolina agriculture for decades. The week coincides with the Presidentially recognized National Ag Day in late March.

“We try to show people on campus how important agriculture is to NC, how it is important in our everyday lives, and what really goes into producing the food and fiber for our state,” Alpha Zeta brother Roshni Panwala said. “One of Alpha Zeta’s missions is to promote service and understanding of the agriculture industry. Ag Awareness Week is one of the best ways we showcase that.”

two cows fenced in the NC State Brickyard

Return of the Ruminants

This year’s Ag Awareness Week was the first NC State event to be held in the venerated Brickyard since COVID quarantine began in 2020. The event was completely canceled last year.

“We had to do a few things differently this year, but for the freshmen and sophomores on campus who’ve missed so many events in the past year, we really wanted to make this happen,” Roshni said. “I was really happy to see students out there enjoying some part of what NC State has to offer. Even if you’re not in CALS [College of Agriculture and Life Sciences] it’s a tradition that everyone enjoys. And the reactions were great – people couldn’t believe it was happening.”

In past years, the week included a variety of agricultural animals and row crops hosted in the brickyard for the full week. AZ brothers historically took turns camping out on campus with the animals to ensure good care. This year they had to move animals in and out daily, requiring bleary 4:30 a.m. mornings to meet trailers and unload animals.

a group of students pose with a tractor on the NC State Brickyard

Reaching Across Colleges

The event was slow to get noticed because only a fraction of students is on campus this semester. But Roshni noted that word seemed to get out by noon each day that a new animal was on campus. “Traffic definitely picked up in the afternoon as word spread about what was in the Brickyard, and social media inertia took over.”

Bob Patterson is an AZ alumnus and outreach superfan, “Alpha Zeta’s truly splendid AAW initiative has really gotten the attention of all students who frequent the Brickyard during this very special week. This AZ “eye-opener” always helps our students in colleges other than CALS gain a much fuller appreciation for the role CALS plays in meeting all our food, feed, fiber, and specialty crop needs.”

group poses with miniature horse on NC sTate Brickyard

The Department of Crop and Soil Science’s David Crouse is Alpha Zeta’s organizational advisor. “Alpha Zeta involves the very best students pursuing a four-year degree related to agriculture. Whether a student is from a rural community or urban environment, whether they are in a plant science major, one focused on animals, or working to become the next great high school ag teacher, it doesn’t matter. All of the brothers are equally passionate about agriculture and maintaining North Carolina’s rank near the top of the leaderboard.”

Giving Pack

Other activities for Ag Awareness Week included a livestream forum on NC hemp production that was hosted by an expert panel of NC State faculty. AZ traded their usual Ag Olympics fundraiser for an online silent auction which boasted unique items like NC State cornhole boards and handmade custom pawprint mugs donated by the NC Corn Growers Association.

“We raised over $1,600 through the auction which will be donated to the campus Feed the Pack food pantry. We are so thankful to all of our donors and buyers who made this possible. It was so much fun to watch the bidding get competitive in the last few days!”

This is such an important visibility event for both our college and NC agriculture.

The week concluded with the annual AZ alumni dinner for current and former AZ brothers. For social distancing purposes, the meal was held outdoors at the new Fike Crop Garden location off Lake Wheeler Road. “We were so thankful to Dr. Amy Johnson for helping us get that setup. We weren’t sure if we would be able to host the dinner at all.” The event itself was tentative until about a month beforehand when all the permits and approvals lined up. 

“Having the opportunity to introduce our younger AZ members to what Ag Awareness Week is all about was a true honor and privilege for me,” Roshni reflected. “This is such an important visibility event for both our college and NC agriculture. It’s tradition! And hopefully, next year will be even bigger and better!”

Can You See Yourself in Crop and Soil Sciences? 

If you are looking for an academic path that leads to impact, consider Crop and Soil Sciences. Our students learn from expert professors and enjoy hands-on adventures every day.  Discover more about student degree pathways including deep dives into our soil science and turfgrass programs. Then sign up for an undergraduate’s guided email tour of our Crop & Soil Sciences Department.  

Connecting students with growing careers is just part of how we are growing the future.