Student employees at ag research centres are there for the science, but there are also burgers to flip
CARMAN, Man. — The university summer students who work at research centres across Western Canada spend their days in scientific pursuits, whether they be weighing plants, counting weeds or mapping crop plots.
However, they also have duties that are less agronomically focused, such as making and holding parking signs, flipping burgers and hot dogs and wiping down wet seats so farmers on crop tours don’t get wet bums.
“It’s fun, actually,” said Brandon University music education student Emily Hodge as she worked in the University of Manitoba’s research farm kitchen organizing hot dog buns, coleslaw and other barbecue supplies for the dozens of farmers who were arriving for the organic field tour July 15.
“It’s nice being outside.”
Earlier that day, Hodge had been doing biomass weighing and plant counts in the research farm’s hundreds of plots.
Out on the front driveway, third year University of Manitoba agronomy student Zhen Cai from Sichuan, China, held a sign pointing left.
Usually he’s “exploring different options in farming systems and agriculture” with academic researchers, but he becomes a cheery traffic cop when farmers arrive for a crop tour.
“This is just one of my gigs,” he said with a chuckle.
Bailey Rankine, a master’s student in biological sciences at the University of Manitoba, is examining a wide range of environmental impact reactions, including lodging and disease damage, as part of Agriculture Canada’s organic oat studies at the Carman farm.
But on this evening she’s carrying hot dog buns to her fellow summer students working the grills outside.
“It’s busy,” she said.
At the grills, Chase Kendall and Jeremy Wiebe were flipping burgers and hot dogs in clouds of barbecue smoke.
“Today we were preparing for the tour,” Kendall, a second year agronomy student at the U of M, said of the more serious parts of his work as he kept a close eye on the sizzling meat.
Wiebe, a pre-veterinary student at the University of Winnipeg, said he’s loving getting dirt under his fingernails with real crops because he’s from a non-farm background.
“It’s very interesting. I’ve never got to experience a full growing season before,” he said.
What’s a potential veterinarian doing working at a crop research farm?
“The vet schools really (value) the agriculture experience,” said Wiebe.
The students work with both conventional and organic plots, and Hodge said the organic ones take a lot more labour because weeds can’t be sprayed.
“It’s full days of weeding sometimes,” she said.