"Tofu: the other white meat."
This message, written on a chalkboard, greeted attendants of the first Agriculture Teach-In, held by Action Awareness Wednesday afternoon in the Lory Student Center.
Action Awareness, a student organization dedicated to environmental education, organized a two-day seminar on agriculture's impact on the environment, which will continue to run from noon to 2 p.m. on Thursday in room 230 of the student center.
"We're trying to make (the teach-in) annual," said Mae Pagett, an Action Awareness member and senior sociology major. "I was surprised at the turnout. There seemed to be more students than I thought and more community members than I hoped for."
Greg Litus, a horticulture graduate student who spoke about factory farming, stressed the importance of thinking "outside of society" and considering alternatives to what he described as a meat-focused culture. One of several local volunteer speakers attending the question-and-answer panel, Litus was intent on alerting students to the treatment of farm and food animals in America.
"Our relationship to animals is real," he said. "This is not deadlines for semester presentations or whether or not you're going to have enough money for beer this weekend."
Litus encouraged vegetarianism, saying that even many free-range, organic meat production processes are inhumane by nature of their large-scale production. Factory farms, he said, torture and degrade livestock. He suggested students think about animal treatment in such facilities.
"We just basically have to really reconsider this relationship," Litus said. "When it comes to factory farms, I think the simplest and most dramatic way is to say, 'No, I don't want to eat this chicken.'"
Wednesday's topics included genetically modified organisms, the economic impact of globalization and the affects of factory farming on family farms, animal treatment and workers' rights.
Today's sessions will include presentations on migrant farm workers, sustainable agriculture and the problems created by agricultural technology changes such as insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers, Pagett said.
"(Thursday) is a history of the agricultural situation," she explained. "We kind of don't pay attention to where our food comes from because it's so accessible in the grocery stores."
Seth Mund, a senior horticulture student who spoke at the panel, agreed.
"People should come if they're at all interested in where their food is coming from and their choices in that," Mund said.
Michaela Welch, a community member and CSU alumnus, attended the forum for exactly that reason. After going to a sustainable living fair, Welch became interested in social issues and agricultural problems. Now, she wants to educate herself.
"I want to inform myself so I can be of use in resisting the trends," Welch said.
Litus agreed that understanding agricultural issues and processes is essential to achieving the lifestyle changes he hopes students will consider.
"We're living with the system that was established for us," he said. "The solution is not to tweak the system. The system just has to change dramatically."