University of Wisconsin–Madison

Fun (and Educational) Excursions

and Educational) Excursions:

Alright, I have to admit that my favorite part of classes so far this fall has been the various field trips that we have been on! Do I sound like a first grader? Oops. But you can’t deny that activities such as petting cows and hitting golf balls are a great way to apply classroom knowledge from lectures to the real world. The past couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to go on a variety of excursions: a grass breeding facility (Barenburg), an organic dairy farm (De Groote Voort) that makes Remeker cheese, a water treatment plant (Evides), and a local 27-hole golf course (Golfclub Heelsum).

At Barenbrug, the grass breeding facility, my class and I were able to learn first-hand the difficulties that come with breeding grasses. When we first arrived we had a lecture on the history of the company and some of their projects, before diving deeper into breeding research and development, such as palatability, animal productivity, and climatic factors. Then, it was time to go out and view some of their greenhouses. It was amazing to see the amount of detail that goes into selecting the best traits for various purposes – livestock feed and sport turf grasses, to name a couple. By going out into the fields, we were also able to look at clover mixtures and the effects that different mowing intensities had on certain characteristics. So yes, Bareunbrug proved that grass breeding is actually a bit more interesting than one would expect!

One of my favorite field trips would have to be the family-owned organic dairy farm, De Groote Voort. I may or may not have (DEFINITELY) been influenced by the free cheese samples and lots of cute cows licking my hand. The farm consisted of a herd of 90 jersey cows – all of them just as round-stomached and big-brown-eyed as the next. Much of our day was spent out in the pastures, observing first-hand the quality of the soil, grass, and clover. At one point the farmer even picked up a nice big pile of fresh manure with his bare hands, stuck his hands in our faces, and had us smell it! The farm is 100% organic and the jerseys’ milk is made into Remeker cheese – which has won many top awards throughout the years. After touring the facilities and tasting some cheese, it was, unfortunately, time to leave the place that reminded me so fondly of good ole Wisconsin. Good thing I took a few (hundred) pictures of the cows’ faces while they were cuddling up to me out in the fields – check out my VSCO @bethprochnow to see some!

Last week I traveled with the rest of my morning class – Air Quality – to the city of Rotterdam to visit their water treatment plant, Evides. Here, we began with a lecture as well. The managers of the plant discussed the importance of water (especially in today’s world with its scarcity becoming more apparent) and how it is especially crucial here in the Netherlands. Next, we went out into the various buildings and watched the process of water being transformed into a safe and drinkable end-product. The architecture of the multiple buildings on site was also an added perk – think tall arches and glass walls that somehow reminds you of a Harry Potter movie. After an insightful discussion about water quality and availability, we ended our excursion with catered lunches and a stop at the DCMR on the way home (an organization in Rotterdam that monitors a variety of environmental factors across the country). Overall, it was pretty interesting to see how some environmental concerns are being dealt with here in the Netherlands.

The most recent field trip was to the Golfclub Heelsum, a 27-hole golf course in the next town over. Our lectures in Grassland Science that led up to this trip were focused mainly on turf grasses and their applications in the modern world (i.e. sports fields). When we arrived on the putting green, the first thing the course manager did was have us sit down on the grass and feel how soft it was. As we walked from the first hole towards the maintenance shed to look at mowers, he explained to us the different varieties of turf that the club used and why. Then, after participating in a walking tour of the course, it was time for us to try out the game. Out of my entire class, I was the only one who has golfed before! The rest of my classmates clearly had high expectations, so when they watched me swing a driver they were definitely DISAPPOINTED, to say the least (I obviously only play the sport back home for the social aspect of it). The rest of the afternoon – and part of the evening – was spent in the clubhouse enjoying some drinks. I never expected to be hitting balls at a golf course as part of my college courses, but this excursion proved otherwise!

Altogether, these field trips were an awesome way to see environmental science and its applications in the real world. Not to sound like a nerd, but I’ve tried to talk about it in a way so that you don’t lose interest and stop reading after the first sentence. In reality, there is SOOOOO much more science that goes on behind the scenes! It is all super amazing (and I absolutely do not mean that in a sarcastic way), but for the sakes of all of you non-life-sciences-major readers, I just summarized the main activities of the excursions. My classes at Wageningen University – and specifically the field trips that I have been able to go on as part of my courses – have been very wonderful so far this fall semester!