Waterman workshop provides Design Challenge support

How do you gain information about food security? Visit a farm! Better yet, visit Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Laboratory. A group of 27 people recently gathered there for a workshop to help prepare them for this year’s Ohio STEM Learning Network’s Design Challenge on food security.

The day began with a greeting from Jeanne Gogolski, educational liaison for this year’s Design Challenge Partners, the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio Corn & Wheat. She presented information about all the ways food security connects with STEM and agriculture.

Next, participants toured the dairy facility, hearing from manager John Lemmermen about sanitation, diet, breeding, and milking. Interested in technology? Lemmermen said that some milking parlors now use robotic milkers, which are faster and more consistent. Cows can walk in and be milked whenever they choose!

Farm manager Glenn Mills led a tour of the farm and explained some of the research being done there. We learned that Honda’s shipping containers, arriving here full of auto parts, go back to Asia filled with tofu soybeans. Ohio specializes in the growth of these beans which need a cold winter. The soybeans at Waterman are bred with varieties from all over the world, resulting in a diverse genetic background which provides valuable traits. The orchard’s trees are grafted on Russian crabapple root stock, resulting in a shorter tree which makes picking easier.

Mills talked about past predictions of world disaster when the population reached certain levels, as ‘experts’ feared starvation and other crises as a result. However, technology has increased production dramatically, and farmers can now grow two or three times as much food on the same amount of land. He pointed out the interconnectedness of global ag, as crops grown here in America end up all over the world.

Entomologist Chia Lin brought in a bee colony display and talked about pollinators’ role in food production. Then participants produced some food of their own! GrowNextGen leader Doug Grieble presented a food science lesson on emulsions, and everyone turned heavy cream into butter with the help of a marble and a small jar and a lot of vigorous shaking. They could choose to flavor the resulting butter with chives, honey, or cinnamon and enjoy it as a snack with crackers.

Finally, the lesson Hello, My Name is GMO gave workshop attendees a better understanding of genetic modification by leading them through a simulation of trait selection, using Starburst candies!

Not only did these activities provide some interesting topics to consider for the design challenge, participants went away with great contacts for future information and assistance. Want that for yourself? Check out our leader page and find the help you need!