Two Worlds, One State
The echoes of the sound check for Blue and White weekend could be heard clearly in the crisp air, but they were cut short quickly by the loud neigh from the stables. Two very different worlds are not so far apart at Penn State, and most people don’t even realize it. We often we fail to notice significant pieces of this university’s history that are all around us.
Last week I decided to go, along with Onward State photographer Steve Osborn, to the Penn State stables for what I thought would be an afternoon of just petting ponies, but it turned out to be much more than that.
After talking to one of the girls working in the stables across from Beaver Stadium, I learned that if you take a look at the back of the huge Penn State sign outside of Beaver Stadium, you will see that the horses used to pull the limestone to make that sign are the same horses whose lineage is being passed down each year to be auctioned off to help agriculture thrive in Pennsylvania.
For those who don’t know, the College of Agricultural Sciences is the oldest established College at Penn State University. A quick visit to the history page on Penn State’s website clearly mentions the following:
“As Pennsylvania’s only land-grant university, Penn State has a broad mission of teaching, research, and public service. But that mission was not so grandly conceived in 1855, when the Commonwealth chartered it as one of the nation’s first colleges of agricultural science, with a goal to apply scientific principles to farming.”
The College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State was the first in the nation to award baccalaureate degrees in agriculture with 13 graduates in 1861. Old Main wasn’t completed until two years after that using four mules and two horses. The first creamery was established in 1889, with the first dairy short courses being offered that year. Demand was so high for these courses in the following years that men would need to line up to make milk deliveries to satisfy the need for milk. Today, land-grant schools still receive federal support to ensure that universities across the country continue to develop achievements in the field of agriculture sciences.
One of the most interesting things about the College of Agricultural Sciences is the hands-on experience, which is an opportunity for students that is not always guaranteed in different fields of study. From competing in livestock competitions to birthing horses, there is something to be said for the College of Agricultural Sciences student experience.
While most of us are trudging from Willard to Boucke for classes, students in the equine science minor are helping to organize horse auctions that will benefit the college and ensure long-term sustainability. The program mostly works on a rotational basis where horses are born and then sold two years later to the highest bidder, unless they can be sold in a private sale beforehand.
While I was sitting in Italian class that morning, some of these students were washing horses to ensure they would be clean for the competition. They shoveled hay, drove tractors, and probably took a few minutes to watch the recently born colts and foals (ponies) running around in the pasture. There are currently 17 newborn ponies, with one more expected any day.
The students in the equestrian classes will raise these horses until they are ready to be auctioned off at the age of two. If you like looking at pictures of ponies as much as I do, be sure to give the quarter horses Facebook page a like.
Next time you are driving past Beaver Stadium and marveling at the amazing structure, try to take a look the other way and marvel at the history that surrounds Dear Old State right in our own backyard.