For every non-profit group, there comes a time to raise a little cash in order to support the organization’s goals, and student groups are no different. Combining student creativity with a lot of energy and ambition, several fund-raising projects by student groups in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have become long-standing campus traditions.
Student groups throughout the College participate in fund-raising to support scholarships and other learning activities. In addition to having fun, students say they often learn quite a bit about their chosen field by participating in group fund-raising activities.
Dr. Carmen Parkhurst, poultry science professor, knows first-hand how hard students work to bring their fund-raisers to fruition. As adviser to the Agri-Life Council, an organization of 24 student groups within the College, he works directly with the groups that raise funds to support their causes.
"I think the biggest thing students learn from fund-raisers is getting people to work together. It takes a lot of organizational skill to make these things work," he said. "Most of these projects are very labor-intensive, and the students involved have to learn time management."
Managing a fund-raiser is a lot like running a small business, where marketing and accounting skills are critical to success. Parkhurst calls the experience "capsulated entrepreneurism." And for projects involving food, such as smoked turkey, ice cream and barbecue, students must learn about food safety.
But whether the lessons are old-fashioned business skills or new appreciation for a chosen profession, the tradition of student fundraisers in the College has continued for many years.
Ice cream for connoisseurs
Part of the traditional North Carolina State Fair experience for many is buying ice cream from the N.C. State Food Science Club. In one of the longest lines on the fair midway, ice cream lovers wait for an enormous serving of ice cream processed in N.C. State’s own creamery.
Students serve seven flavors — chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cherry vanilla, mint-chocolate chip, cookies and cream, and buttered almond — in overflowing cups and cones for only $3. Shakes are available for $4.
Jim Lee, of Wilmington, says he has been enjoying Food Science Club ice cream at the State Fair for 31 years. "It is the most and the best, quality and quantity," says Lee, who calls himself an ice cream connoisseur.
Inside the booth, students and faculty work like a well-oiled machine, calling out orders and scooping ice cream furiously. During the 10-day fair run, about 150 to 170 students and faculty will work in the booth serving ice cream from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
On cold days, coffee and hot chocolate are also on the menu. But club members always hope for a sunny State Fair to boost ice cream sales.
"Everyone says it’s their favorite place because our club gives a good amount for a low price. And the money goes for a good cause," says Rebecca Clark, club member in charge of this year’s sale.
The booth will earn about $35,000 to $40,000, which supports club functions, scholarships, professional development for club members and journal subscriptions.
Unique offerings in the arboretum
Not far from the State Fairgrounds, it is 8 a.m. on a Saturday, and a line of people stretches from the gates of the JC Raulston Arboretum at North Carolina State University to the street. This morning they are not here to stroll through the arboretum’s impressive collection of plants: They are on a mission to buy plants at Pi Alpha Xi’s semi-annual plant sale.
Loyal customers line up early and come armed with plant lists, landscape plans, gardening books and wheelbarrows for hauling their precious finds.
Dick Roberts of Durham guards the cart of plants he selected while his wife looks around. They arrived at 7:45 a.m. and, by 8:15, have selected a flying dragon and several small spirea. "We’ve been coming to the plant sale for about three years now," he said. "The prices are fair and everything that we’ve bought has lived."
For 25 years, the student horticulture honor society has been selling plants to raise money for scholarships, special functions and support of the 4-H junior horticulture program. The plant sales were once held behind Kilgore Hall on the N.C. State campus, with a small but loyal campus following. Today’s plant sale, with a mailing list of 2,200, has moved to the arboretum.
Pi Alpha Xi’s following comes largely from offering a selection of plants not commonly found in local nurseries. Instead of Bradford pears, redbuds and Leland cypress, they sell Japanese keria, flying dragon and pagoda dogwood. They try to stock some favorites of the late J.C. Raulston, a horticulture professor at N.C. State and the arboretum’s namesake.
"We pride ourselves in carrying a lot of plants you can’t find everywhere," said Jason Griffin, a doctoral student in horticultural science and president of Pi Alpha Xi.
When the dust settles, the students will have grossed about $40,000 in two days.
‘Udderly’ smitten with cows
A long line of strollers, parents and kids winds through the Jim Graham Building during the 10-day run of the State Fair. The excitement is all about milking a cow.
For 50 cents, the N.C. State Animal Science Club provides a chance to milk a cow the old-fashioned way, with two hands and a bucket. Patient college students from the club sit alongside two dairy cows, held tightly in halters, and show youngsters of all ages the proper technique for milking cows.
For 5-year-old Rebecca Spencer of Raleigh, this is the highlight of the fair experience. Dressed in characteristic overalls, a straw hat and red bandana, Rebecca smiles after completing her turn at the udders. "This is the one thing she wanted to do at the fair today — milk the cow," says her mother, Kathy Spencer.
Club president David Bitka, a second-year student in the Agricultural Institute, says the experience helps teach kids about livestock, since many of them have never been close to a cow. His girlfriend, Spring Patterson, a senior animal science major from Ruffin, says kids ask lots of interesting questions like, "Are all these cows girls?"
The fund-raiser is time-consuming for busy students, who must work four daily shifts in groups of six, in addition to spending each night in the Jim Graham Building to watch over their herd of five. The cows also must be milked twice each day in the on-site milking parlor, since the manual method is not as efficient.
In addition to the milking opportunity, which comes with pre-packaged samples of white or chocolate milk, the students also sell T-shirts for $12. For $3, you can have your photo made milking the cow. The club also joins the N.C. Cattleman’s Association in a State Fair steak sandwich booth, which raises $4,000 to $5,000.
Combined with the cow-milking profits, the money, about $8,000, is used to support student trips to the National Block and Bridle Convention for collegiate animal science clubs across the country.
Though the event is demanding and gives the college students a renewed respect for dairy farmers, Bitka says they wouldn’t give up this 15-year tradition. "It is a lot of fun. I don’t think any of us would be here if we didn’t have fun," he says.
Involving the campus
Some student fund-raisers have become special traditions mainly on the N.C. State campus. At Thanksgiving, for instance, the Poultry Science Club sells turkeys smoked in the food science processing facilities.
About 400 turkeys are soaked in brine, smoked for 12 hours and frozen. Faculty, staff and students from the university pick up the frozen birds the week before Thanksgiving. The $7,500 raised by the club is used to help graduating seniors attend the International Poultry Expo in Atlanta, a job fair for the poultry industry, and to send an N.C. State poultry judging team to national competition, according to club president Robby Mills.
Mills isn’t sure how long the tradition has been around, but says when it started, students had to kill the birds by hand. Today’s birds come to the club "dressed" and ready to smoke.
Another event, the Agricultural Institute Club barbecue, began about 25 years ago when the director of the swine operation encouraged the students to sponsor a pig pickin’ for the club, said Allen Beals, club adviser and lecturer in the agricultural and resource economics department. One year, the club decided to sell about 25 pounds of leftover barbecue to the campus, and the tradition was born.
Each fall, the club cooks about 20 pigs and serves meals, eat-in or take out, in the evening at Weaver Labs.
The barbecue that isn’t sold that day is frozen in one-pound containers and sold to the campus, along with the special secret barbecue sauce. The club raises about $2,000 to $2,500, which is used for scholarships.
A third event occurs around Thanksgiving each year, when devoted customers of the Alpha Zeta Christmas tree sale contact Dr. Katie Perry in Patterson Hall to place their orders. For years, the honorary fraternity for agriculture and forestry majors has used tree and wreath sales at Christmas to raise money for club projects.
This year, club members journeyed to Ashe County on Dec. 3 to the tree farm of a fraternity brother to cut the 90 trees ordered from campus at a cost of $35 to $55. They also picked up about 65 wreaths.
On Dec. 4, those who ordered trees and wreaths came to campus to claim them, according to Barry Jennings, a senior animal science major and Alpha Zeta fund-raising chair. The fraternity hoped to raise $2,000 to $2,500 to support its annual Founders’ Day banquet, which brings together alumni and fraternity brothers.
Another popular fund-raiser in the College, the Horticulture Club’s cider press, was discontinued in 1998 when students became concerned about the possibility of cider contamination. For half a century, students in the club had gathered each fall in the basement of Kilgore Hall to squeeze and bottle the fresh cider to sell. But in 1997, the students decided to pasteurize the cider following reports of illnesses in other parts of the country caused by unpasteurized cider.
The process, carried out down the road in the food science department, was so time-consuming that the students decided the tradition had to end. However, the Horticulture Club has replaced its cider press with a project in which they offer landscaping help for a fee.
Other College student fund-raisers include sales of T-shirts and flowers and even dog washes. But no matter how much money they raise, these student clubs work hard to ensure the success of their fund-raising events. And the funds raised are matched by the fun generated for participants and club members.