Eight members of the University of Illinois Ag Ed Club and two Agricultural Education Program faculty participated in the club’s professional development trip on April 18-19, 2013. This student-led, student-organized event included tours of agricultural businesses and agricultural education programs in northern Illinois and the Chicago area.
Members had the opportunity to tour the Central-Clifton and the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) high school programs. Mr. Bill Bretzman and Mr. Brett Sorensen at Central-Clifton talked to students about the various activities the FFA chapter is involved in throughout the year, and discussed the sequence of their courses and curriculum. Students also toured the FFA chapter’s greenhouse and cooperative feed store operation. During their visit at CHSAS, students were educated about the vast opportunities available in the program by Mrs. Sheila Fowler and Ms. Dara Robertson, junior class FFA Treasurer and student in the Ag Finance Pathway. Ag Ed Club members toured the animal science, hydroponics, aquaculture, horticulture, mechanics, and land laboratories.
In addition to visiting agricultural education programs, the group also toured several agricultural businesses. Doug Hanson and Randy Wilken provided a tour of Pro Harvest Seeds in Ashkum, Illinois. As a former secondary agriculture teacher, Mr. Hanson provided insight into ways to apply content knowledge into curriculum. Club members also toured The Plant in Chicago. This sustainable food production facility focused on promoting a unique and innovate alternative approach to traditional farming practices.
On Saturday, the Ag Ed Club members participated in a tour at the Chicago Board of Trade. Members learned more about the CME Group and their impact on agriculture and the economy. The group was privileged to also visit Eli’s Cheesecake Company and meet with Marc S. Schulman, President of Eli’s Cheesecake, and Mr. Jeff Anderson, Vice President of Purchasing and Operations. UIUC students discussed the impact the world economy has on the business, and learned about various public relation strategies they use to improve the company. The company puts a great deal of emphasis on maintaining high standards for food safety and quality. After the visit, Mr. Schulman provided a delicious lunch that featured some of the many food and dessert items offered at Eli’s Cheesecake Company. The final stop on the professional development trip was to the Department of Homeland Security at Chicago O’Hare Airport. Mark Grzeszkowiak, Chief Agriculture Specialist with the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Marcella Lyles, CBP Passenger Service Manager, educated members on the various forms of protection provided by this important organization and the regulations enforced to protect agricultural communities and resources.