Sunday, March 20, 2022, marked the beginning of National Agriculture Week; the main goal of which is to spread awareness of the agricultural industry and community. Since Virginia Tech began its life as a land-grant university with a heavy agricultural focus, it stands to reason that Kelli Gillespie, a senior double majoring in animal and poultry sciences and dairy science and a student member of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, found it necessary to organize an outreach event in honor of National Agriculture Week.

Kelli grew up in Richmond, VA, and agriculture was all but a foreign concept for her before coming to the university. However, after completing the Introduction to Animal and Poultry Sciences lab during her freshman year, she quickly learned that there was much more to agriculture than she had previously thought.

The main focus of National Agriculture Week is to spread awareness about the importance of agriculture and how it impacts the daily lives of everyone, not just those who work in the agricultural industry. Coming from a suburban area, Kelli realizes the importance of this as much as anyone.

“As someone who doesn’t come from an ag background, I had never thought twice about going to the grocery store, about how much my food costs, or anything like that. It was always just out-of-sight-out-of-mind. But now, as a student, I have learned about the energy and effort that it takes to work in the agricultural industry, with either animals or crops. I am very thankful, because now I’ve seen what happens behind the scenes.”

Kelli wasn’t alone in her mission to spread awareness, however; there were many agricultural clubs and organizations that assisted with setup and outreach. Two of which were the Poultry Club and Alpha Gamma Rho, an agricultural fraternity at the university.

When asked about what agriculture meant to her, Katie Kirkpatrick, a junior in animal and poultry sciences and the current president of the Poultry Club, was passionate.

“Agriculture is pretty much the center of my life, it has a role in everything I do and study, and I hope to be an active member of the agricultural industry in the future.”

Gunnar Jessee, the head of public relations for Alpha Gamma Rho, had a similar story to share.

“I come from a small farm in southwest Virginia and agriculture has been my lifestyle my entire life; for people in my area, agriculture is how you make a living. My family has become pretty big players in the beef cattle industry, and I plan to follow in my dad’s footsteps and continue that.”

When asked what he would like others to know about agriculture, his response mirrored one of Kelli Gillespie’s major concerns.

“I don't think a lot of people realize how much work goes into producing the food that they’re eating. It’s amazing how such a small part of the population can feed an entire population.”

Beyond spreading awareness about the economic impact agriculture has on the country, spreading awareness about animal safety and the environmental impact was also a priority; especially for Katie Kirkpatrick.

“I wish people knew that agriculture doesn’t do as much damage to the environment as everyone believes. I hope people can realize that it (agriculture) is more helpful than harmful.”

Kelli Gillespie had something similar to say.

“I wish people knew how much farmers care. Either about their crops, and therefore the soil they grow crops in and the surrounding environment, or their animals and the health of those animals.”

So, next time you visit a grocery store or buy a steak at a restaurant, be sure to remember just how much work goes into every meal and be sure to thank a farmer.


Article by: Noah Willis, Student Communications Assistant, APSC/DASC