Micki Zartman’s passion to share the world of agriculture infects nearly everyone she meets, and that likely won’t stop even after she officially retires this year from her role as chair of Ohio State University’s Scarlet and Gray Ag Day.
The annual event, Zartman’s brainchild, was renamed “Micki Zartman Scarlet and Gray Ag Day” in 2007.
This year, Zartman is assisting new chair Leslie Risch, a native of Oak Harbor, to plan for a record 590 school students—urban, rural, suburban, private, and public — converging on the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences campus May 15.
Guided by 160 volunteer college students, participants will visit stations staffed by college faculty and staff to learn about agriculture’s role in everything from food and clothing to wildlife and biodiesel fuels.
The idea behind the event started years ago, when Zartman accompanied her husband David, who was chair of the then-Department of Dairy Science, to an annual dairy science meeting. One of the speakers challenged participants to share their stories: “The speaker said, ‘You talk to each other, but you don’t talk to the rest of the world.’ And I felt like she was looking directly at me,” Zartman said.
It wasn’t long before she was leading tours of the Waterman Dairy Center for local schools. The program was a huge success, but one year, the science director at Worthington High School asked about other aspects of agriculture. The seed was planted, and Zartman worked with the teacher to plan the first Scarlet and Gray Ag Day in 1999.
The event goes beyond the average field trip. Organizers make sure the offerings link up with schools’ content standards. Teachers attend a pre-event workshop, and ag education students visit classrooms to conduct enrichment classes. This year, students from the College of Education and Human Ecology will also participate, making school visits and volunteering at the event.
The program is popular, with a waiting list of schools wanting to participate. Zartman credits her student co-chairs and volunteers from throughout the college. “Every year, I challenge the student co-chairs to expand the academic rigor and impact of the program,” she said.
Zartman says her passion lies in the feedback she gets from Ag Day participants. Among the comments: “You come knowing little about ag, and leave knowing amazing things.” “It is the best thing I have ever been to.” “I am never going to forget it.” “It made me want to go to college.”
In addition, she remains deeply grateful for the support Ag Day has received from faculty, staff and administration, and industry and commodity leaders.
Risch, who is also a program assistant for Farm Science Review, said Zartman’s passion for agriculture is contagious and inspiring, adding, “I hope she wants to remain part of Scarlet and Gray Ag Day for a long time.”
Oak Harbor native Leslie Risch (right), will succeed Micki Zartman as the chair of Ohio State University’s popular Scarlet and Gray Ag Day.